Gamestyle Archive Intro: Medal of Honour had a few ups and downs during its initial years. After an initial burst of interest those scripted events and on-rails-feeling torpedoed any long lasting gameplay. This review is from JJ and 2003.
Once Medal of Honour had ravaged Europe, the logical next chapter on its pilgrimage of destruction was the Far East. And so Medal of Honour: Rising Sun arrived, promising more of the same but with enhanced features and online support for Playstation 2 owners. However is this one release too far?
This time you take the role of (yet another) All-American white hero. The pride and joy of his hometown, this young soldier finds himself thrust into the fierce conflict, and soon begins to shine. Introductions aside, as ever this marks the beginning of several levels conveniently scattered across the conflict timetable. Medal of Honour releases are predominantly known for their knockout first level, and Rising Sun is no different. Taking place at Pearl Harbour the opening salvo is a roller coaster ride of emotions and locked doors. However on reflection Gamestyle soon realises that it is a piece of magnificent trickery and deception.
The previous incumbent (Frontline) despite the widespread acclaim was home to several fundamental gameplay issues, which Gamestyle could not overlook. The preference for linear levels and Hollywood glitz (this time featuring the THX logo) over any real game play were the most damming of all. The cynics may claim that it was enjoyable, but in retrospect how many have returned?
Unfortunately things have not improved with the next instalment – as any glimpse of creativity is soon taken out and shot at dawn in favour of a concrete release date. Electronic Arts may pride itself on hitting its targets in terms of release dates, but surely any project management must allow for ideas to improve the package? If you set out to create a bog-standard first person shooter, then that is all you will produce, and no amount of glitz can distil such a fact.
Pearl Harbour is the ideal example of how badly this series is relying on old habits, and failing gamers. It is as linear as a one-way street in a car with no reverse gear; once experienced there is no need to return. Again and again the player must do as the developer commands to trigger the next event. Take for instance the sequence in a baseball stadium. This could have been a fine set piece as you crawled through seating areas taking out guards and sniping distant targets. Instead Gamestyle took out its targets in gung-ho fashion, and then nothing. Backtracking through the level did not reveal any solution. Unfortunately one sniper remained unnoticed in the stadium, and only when he was dispatched did this trigger the next sequence. Soon enough enemy troops appeared from nowhere (amazing how Japanese soldiers can teleport themselves) complete with poorly scripted AI, and then the doors opened.
Oh, how EA has tried to butter up this game with various bonuses for good performance and hidden extras. The medal system has been used previously in the genre to reward great play, not as an excuse to “beef-up” a shallow and unbelievably short £40 release. Unfortunately the levels are indicative of the problems prevalent throughout the whole of this release. The game feels rushed, the graphics in many places are substandard, and make the jungle levels in Turok Evolution seem positively Halo-like in comparison. At times Rising Sun can get messy, really messy (think pop-up, poor textures, slow down, blocky graphics etc) and it’s hard not to think that it was rushed out for the Christmas market.
The emphasis on realism has been retained but now the game feels decidedly unbalanced. Many of the weapons handle badly, but combine this with the poor implementation of control and you realise why your opponents resort to banzai charges; sometimes it’s the only way to hit the target. Rising Sun is also dowsed in sentimentalism, which Gamestyle believes oversteps the mark. This isn’t a tribute or appreciation society, rather a cheap ploy to earn a few dollars more. This time around Medal of Honour has gone too far.
Surely a commercial release such as this must contain some positive aspects? Well, its certainly not the loading which is the longest yet on the Playstation 2, and frighteningly so. Few releases have allowed Gamestyle to obtain a brew during loading and return with time to spare. However the music and accompanying effects are superbly replicated on the soundtrack, continuing the solid work in Frontline.
Casting aside all this negativity leaves only the co-operative, multiplayer and online modes. Thankfully these manage to deliver entertainment if you have a multi-tap or online connection. The offline multi-player mode is enjoyable fare, despite those ugly textures and too many pickups. The online aspect is even more entertaining, as Rising Sun provides several well implemented maps and voice support. Admittedly the actual online experience is basic with only a few servers and players available, but Gamestyle experienced intense combat, consistent victory and little lag. This could all change if Rogue Soul goes online, so Gamestyle will enjoy victory while it lasts.
Humour aside there is nothing worthwhile about Medal of Honour: Rising Sun, as it marks the lowest point in the series. Time has finally caught up with the old fashioned game dynamics, limited ambition, compromises and the release date has proved its undoing. Electronic Arts are proudly driving up sales and profits, but in the case of Rising Sun at the expense of the game and consumer. Whether this release has caused long term damage remains to be seen, but do not even consider it as a worthwhile purchase.
Gamestyle Score: 4/10