Medal of Honor: Rising Sun
Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past 5 years has probably heard of Medal of Honor before. No, I’m not referring to that small piece of metal Forest Gump and some other war heroes have hanging around their neck, I’m talking about thé Medal of Honor, the best single player first person shooter I ever played on consoles. This Playstation game started EA’s whole Medal of Honor franchise, which has led to the recent Rising Sun game for Playstation 2, XBOX and Gamecube. Let’s see if the sun really rises in this latest MoH game.
Unlike other Medal of Honor games, Rising Sun doesn’t take place in European locations during World War II. This time you’re Private Joseph Griffin, sitting in his quarters aboard a cruiser navigating somewhere around Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Indeed, the game kicks off with the infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The player immediately assumes control of the character and rushes to the deck, where Joseph gets blown off the ship into the water. Fortunately you’re picked up by a small boat from where you need to take down incoming enemy planes. Simply put, The opening mission is just stunning, leaving you with the feeling that the rest of the game can’t possibly be any better. And you’re right, it isn’t better, on the contrary.
The single player campaign offers 9 missions, taking you from Pearl Harbor to The Philipinnes, Guadalcanal, a bridge on the river Kwai and a final mission aboard a Japanese aircraft carrier. Although the first mission was very entertaining, I instantly felt the need for a short tutorial, just to familiarise with the rather sluggish controls. Thinking “now where’s that jump button” while witnessing one of history’s biggest war moments quite spoils the whole atmosphere. A tutorial mission could also have lengthened the game a bit, which wouldn’t be bad since I completed it in no more than 8 hours.
I remember finishing its predecessor, Frontline, in something like 10 hours as well, but there was one difference. Frontline offered 10 hours of pure fun, each mission just as stunning as the previous. Don’t get me wrong, Rising Sun isn’t a boring game and it does offer some of the greatest moments in Medal of Honor history (like the one where you have to derail a train), but most of the jungle missions couldn’t really beguile me. I doubt if leaving the European theatre really was a wise decision. Without offense towards these people, it’s just way more fun to shoot German soldiers than Japanese, since they don’t suicidally run at you with their swords or suddenly pop out of a hole, shooting you in the back.
If you like a good-looking game, you won’t find it in Rising Sun either. Most textures are just too undetailled, especially from up close, and the engine just seems outdated, often having difficulties rendering some of the larger environments which resulted in disturbing frame drops. I even encountered a bug once where suddenly another half of the map wasn’t loaded correctly and I had to replay the mission. On the other side, although they don’t look that great, all locations are historically accurate, just like all weapons and uniforms. For each mission you’ll carry at least two weapons, ranging from a plain rifle to a shotgun, (sub)machinegun, silenced pistol and the good old “kiss your ass goodbye” panzerfaust. Each weapon has its use for a given situation and it proved effective to change weapons from time to time.
One of the aspects of previous MoH games that always appealed to me, was the marvelous sound. Not only was the main theme terrific, the ingame classical music suited the levels perfectly. Rising Sun offers the same ear-candy, although I quite missed the original theme in this installment. As always, the sound effects are great too.
The AI on the other hand lacks both workmanship and intelligence. Enemy soldiers hide behind crates and try to shoot you off from a safe distance in stead of running towards you, but at the same time some of them run around in circles, stand behind a wall half-exposed or even don’t react at all.
An improvement however is the placement of several savepoints during a level. This way you can save your progress, without having to replay an entire level when you get killed (which could be extremely annoying in previous MoH games).
Finally, for those of you already owning an online kit for your Playstation 2, get it up and running since Rising Sun offers basic online play. The only 2 available modes are deathmatch and team deathmatch (it’s quake time again !), but they are quite entertaining nonetheless, mostly because of the nice maps. My favourite map is a small baseball stadion, pumped up with boxes and with tunnels dug underneath. Deathmatch can also be played offline with up to 4 players on these maps. But the main offline mode is the co-op mode, where you can walk through the single player campaign with a friend by your side. Of course the screen is split up in 2 halves and the game runs even less fluidly, but it remains a great experience.
In conclusion: It’s hard to phrase some final words on Medal of Honor: Rising Sun. You can still clearly recognise the “MoH-factor” in the game (for instance, from the very moment you even touch a machine gun sentry, several enemy soldiers will just pop up and run in your direction), but EA didn’t quite succeed in fitting it into a pacific theatre. Some scenes are just great, while other ones will leave you disappointed. The visuals sure could use some more spice, and the controls are often too dilatory and imprecise at the same time. The multiplayer modes give the game a surplus value, but giving Rising Sun a 75+ rating would just be … unjust.