The award-winning film Saving Private Ryan influenced several levels in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, and the new Allied Assault expansion pack, Spearhead, also draws inspiration from that movie, as well as from the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. However, in what might be a first in the history of computer gaming, Spearhead is almost shorter than the film that inspired it. The single-player campaign is dense, exciting, and only three-and-a-half hours long. So if you were thinking about picking up the game, you may have to decide whether or not a few hours of great single-player gaming and some new but not earth-shattering multiplayer features are worth 30 bucks.
Spearhead's opening scene could have come right out of the HBO series Band of Brothers.
Spearhead begins with a scene that could have been taken straight out of Band of Brothers: It's D-Day, and you're on a transport plane that will soon drop you into Normandy. As explosions rock the aircraft, you stand up, perform an equipment check, and then take your turn jumping out of the plane. Once outside, you descend 3,000 feet through a chaotic sky full of other paratroopers, AA tracers, planes, and bursting shells, finally crashing through the roof of a barn crawling with Nazis. The entire episode is presented seamlessly, and it's one of the most impressive opening scenes ever created for a first-person shooter.
What follows are nine levels spread across three missions in France, Belgium, and Germany. Like Allied Assault, Spearhead doesn't offer much in terms of plot, opting for straightforward missions that aren't interrupted by a great deal of pointless exposition. Most of Allied Assault's gameplay highlights are revisited with new environments and a few tweaks. For instance, in one level, you drive a Russian T-34 tank through the destroyed streets of Berlin. However, the tank controls have been changed a little since Allied Assault--you can now operate the machine gun mounted on the turret, as well as the main cannon. In another example, instead of having you run from cover to cover at Omaha beach, Spearhead features a level in which you scramble between foxholes as a forest in Ardennes explodes around you.
Though you'll still have to breach enemy cities, entrenched snipers aren't as much of a problem.
Spearhead offers the same successful mix of fast-paced squad-level combat and eventful, heavily scripted levels that characterized Allied Assault, though a few of Allied Assault's less successful elements have been removed or fixed. For instance, there are only a few sections of Spearhead in which you're without some sort of computer-controlled squadmates. The deadly accuracy of enemy snipers has also been toned down to the point that they're no longer extremely frustrating, as they were in the original game. You can also lean to the side in the single-player campaign, which makes dealing with snipers even less of a frustrating problem.
Spearhead doesn't noticeably improve on Allied Assault's visuals, but the graphics that looked great 10 months ago are still just as impressive. The expansion does add a few brand-new and intriguing environmental effects, such as trees that snap in half as you pound them with mounted guns. The sound effects and the original's excellent music have likewise been left unimproved and were likewise not in need of much improvement.
Allied Assault's multiplayer component is already very popular. But if you're not a fan of it yet, there isn't anything in the expansion that will change your mind. Spearhead features 12 new maps (13, if you include the Malta map that's currently available only in the playable demo but may be imported into the full game with a future patch), one new game type, some relatively inconsequential new weapons, and a bunch of small adjustments to both its interface and gameplay.