- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 4, 2002

Here's a look at some new software:
Medal of Honor: Frontline by Electronic Arts for PlayStation 2, rated T: Content suitable for ages 13 and older, $49.99. Steven Spielberg's opening scene in "Saving Private Ryan" gave movie audiences a glimpse of the horrors of war by landing them right on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, during the D-Day invasion. Electronic Arts' newest World War II simulation does the same, but a video-game player must control his own fate under the same unbelievable conditions.
This first-person game, the latest addition to the acclaimed Medal of Honor franchise, plunges the player into an unsettling adventure combining real film footage, quality graphics and enormous firepower in six varied missions on 19 levels of action.
The story involves the harrowing adventures of James Patterson, a 24-year-old lieutenant who accepts an assignment to penetrate the Germans' defenses and steal the HO-IX Flying Wing, an experimental aircraft that could turn the tide of the war. Lt. Patterson must quickly learn well beyond his training to engage in hand-to-hand combat, demolitions, stealth infiltration and sniper-quality marksmanship to wipe out as many of the enemy as possible.
The player may have to defuse charges set under the Nijmegen Bridge over the Waal River (a key access point to the Allies' success) or wreak havoc aboard an enemy submarine in Holland to protect a fellow soldier named Cpl. Barnes as he tries to eliminate a Panzer tank division.
I found many levels extremely difficult, even at the easy setting, with too much to worry about and not enough time to react. This organized chaos had me tossing grenades down streets infested with Nazis, crossing a minefield to take control of a MG-42 machine gun, unloading a clip into a Gestapo agent who had just executed a GI and even stealing an officer's uniform in an attempt to board a train.
Yes, this is just a spiffy first-person shooter, from finding health packs to survive to picking up ammo rounds to continue the fight, but the history pouring from the screen leveled against the intensity of watching what could have been part of World War II makes the stakes much higher.
Electronic Arts handles the levels of violence appropriately, with no blood but plenty of too-realistic firearms effects and groaning as the targeted individual goes down. I, however, found the death and destruction a bit overwhelming and would have preferred more sneakiness with less shooting.
Other features of Frontline that really impressed me include an original score from composer Michael Giacchino, plenty of authentic weapons and uniforms and, I have to come back to it again, that dizzying beachhead landing that gave me cold sweats.
Medal of Honor: Frontline deserves a medal for its intense action and depiction of the world's most trying hours.

Pearl Harbor Vista Series by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, $39.99. I have never seen such a spectacular digital-video-disc homage to such a mediocre movie.
Michael Bay tried to transfer his "Armageddon" style of directing to the date that will live in infamy, and audiences paid a heavy price. The movie's back story which "Beverly Hills 90210" probably would not touch shifts the focus from the United States' entry into World War II to the point where I couldn't tell whether Mr. Bay was paying respect to the horrific events or just seeking out the entertainment value. It seemed as if actors Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck and Cuba Gooding Jr. could not figure out how to play the schlock dialogue.
So, with that kind of glowing review, why plop down the cash for the DVD? The film connoisseur and historian will have more than 12 hours of reasons.
The packaging, designed to look like a soldier's war journal, contains a 24-page color booklet outlining some history and the discs' contents, four "call to arms" postcards featuring the actors, a faux-parchment piece of paper with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's address to Congress, and a sealed cardboard pouch holding the discs.
The first two discs contain the 183-minute epic along with three commentary tracks revealing the insights of numerous talents, including producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director of photography John Schwartzman, actor Josh Hartnett, Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Affleck and an interesting pairing of Mr. Bay with his film professor, Jeanine Basinger.
The third disc pummels the visual and aural senses with 10 production vignettes delving into topics such as Mr. Bay setting up and executing a six-ship explosion, a hand-held look at the actors preparing for their roles at an Army Ranger boot camp and the most relevant part of the package two 50-minute documentaries from the History Channel incorporating firsthand accounts of the real events with actual footage and tons of insight.
Disc four looks more intensely at the movie's battle sequences and gives viewers a chance to view the attack in several angles or follow multiple paths to the visual effects, beginning with a conversation between Mr. Bay and Industrial Light and Magic magician Eric Brevig.
An in-depth time-line presentation explores the cultural and political habits of the United States and Japan from 1846 to 1941 that led them down the path of war.
About the only features lacking from the package are those to satisfy the computer user. The few Web links only make a mockery rather than highlight the potential of the DVD medium.
The Pearl Harbor Vista Series experience makes the perfect case for how even the most prepared and well-researched cinematic effort can sink if those in charge forget the importance of an intelligent script, but it demonstrates how much the DVD can enhance a fan's understanding of the filmmaking process.


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