If the most casual gamer around knows about a non-Nintendo series, it’s probably either Grand Theft Auto or Medal of Honor. Where those games are concerned, though, the reasons for their familiarity are quite different. One is a controversial genre-buster, the other is an addictive WWII shooter. You’re smart; you can guess which one Medal of Honor is.
The most recent version of the successful Medal of Honor series, MoH: Rising Sun, takes gamers through the Pearl Harbor attack and straight into the heart of Japan. Saying the game starts with a bang is an incredible understatement. As soon as you load the game, you’re awakened from your slumber below deck during the Day of Infamy by an explosion above deck. Your objective is to make it to (relative) safety by extinguishing fires, avoiding obstacles and rescuing injured crewmen.
Once you reach the upper deck, it’s time to man a machine gun and fend off kamikazes. But just as you think you’re done, Japanese fighters sink your battleship, sending you into the water looking for a mobile gunboat to pick you up. Once it does, you need to provide cover fire as the surviving battleships escape from the Harbor. And that’s just the first level. It’s truly one of the best openings ever in a game, and the rest of the game keeps that energy alive. Suffice it to say, fans of the MoH series will not be disappointed.
In spite of the gunboat in the first level, the majority of MoH: Rising Sun is played primarily on foot, much like the previous MoH games. Given the new Japanese locations, you’ll find yourself walking through new non-European terrain, which provides both a nice graphical change and some new gameplay-affecting structures. For example, jungles, cliffs and hills make good sniping grounds. Of course, those same locations are good for the enemy, too, so it’s important to keep to the ground in those areas.
Take away the new landscape veneer, though, and the level design is as linear as previous MoH games. While it’s refreshing to get away from the same old “kill the Nazis” routine, you’ll still find yourself chasing enemies from point A to point B without question. Each mission also has distinct objectives, which almost always place you behind enemy lines tasked with such challenges as disabling artillery, infiltrating a secret Axis meeting or sinking a Japanese carrier. Unfortunately, many of the objectives can be completed by simply pressing the “A” button at the right location, and on some of the larger levels, where you run back and forth to achieve said objectives, the repetition can be painful. At least you won’t get lost.
The enemy AI doesn’t help matters, either, because that’s where MoH: Rising Sun falls surprisingly short. This is particularly ironic, because some aspects of the AI are more advanced than previous MoH games. For example, the Japanese soldiers in MoH: Rising Sun tend to rush and hide more than soldiers in previous installments. They even manage to throw an occasional incoming grenade back in your direction. But if you find a tactic that works on a few soldiers once, you can pretty much use it on them every time. On some levels, in fact, you can simply run straight past enemies and shoot them in the back.
And that, dear readers, is where the multiplayer aspects come in handy, because human opponents aren’t nearly as dumb. MoH: Rising Sun includes a great co-op mode for joint action, and it also features split-screen and network play for head-to-head play. Where the Xbox version is concerned, though, that’s all you get, because there’s no Xbox Live support. With a game that has multiplayer this fun, it’s a true shame to only support online play on the PS2. Here’s hoping the next installment in the MoH series will support Xbox Live.
Such online support across all platforms would’ve also extended the life of the title, because without it, the split-screen and network play can only hold your attention for so long. True, the main game will devour 15 to 30 hours of your time, depending upon your skills, but once you beat it, MoH: Rising Sun will probably sit on your shelf collecting dust. With that said, the opening and final missions are simply breathtaking, so you’ll probably find yourself drawn to at least those two levels more than once.
MoH: Rising Sun also revels in occasional breathtaking graphics, although five minutes later you’ll inexplicably come across repetitive textures and dated character models. They’re not necessarily terrible, but they’re also not an improvement upon previous installments. It’s somewhat bizarre that some locations have tremendously realistic details while others just look bland. The best way to describe the graphical inconsistency is to equate it to watching a full-color movie that occasionally goes into black-and-white. Sure, “The Wizard of Oz” pulled it off, but who would argue that the movie wasn’t better when the yellow brick road was more than a lighter shade of gray?
Where MoH: Rising Sun truly shines is in its sound effects, which are particularly dramatic in the opening and closing levels. The effects are only accentuated by the fact that entire game is presented in THX surround sound. It simply rocked my world. From the amazing musical score to the huge variety of background noises, the sound makes this game come to life. You feel truly like you’re in the game. The sound department at EA went all out for this, and they did a great job.
MoH: Rising Sun will undoubtedly provide an enjoyable experience for hardcore gamers and first-person-shooter fans, and its outstanding audio and presentation will even provide a good experience for casual gamers who have just “heard of” the Medal of Honor series. If you’re pining for a good online shooter, PS2 owners are the only ones who can reap EA’s online benefits, but the single-player campaign will probably inspire at least a good rental, if not a purchase, but owners of the other platforms.
- Gameplay: 9
- Graphics: 7.9
- Sound: 10
- Replay: 6
- Overall: 8.1
- Another decent installment in the famed series.
— Sylvia Gallardo