|I hadn't read a lot about
Metal of Honor before actually playing it, so I wasn't at all sure what to expect. All I
knew was that it's a first person shooter set behind German lines during the height of
WWII. I didn't know quite how to feel about the idea of a "historical shooter."
Sure, I enjoy shooting human-hating aliens, undead zombies, and the occasional evil sprit;
but people? That's a little hardcore for me. OK I'll admit it, I really enjoyed shooting
people in Mission Impossible, Golden Eye, and Die Hard. But those were stunt doubles. What
I mean is, those games were based on movies, not the real thing. In Medal of Honor the
missions are based on fact. On one of the first missions you try to destroy a giant rail
gun- just like the one the Nazis had in real life. The sense of realism is enhanced by the
FMV's explaining your missions. They're a cross between a History Channel documentary and
a high school film strip. A little too much fact and not enough fun if you ask me. But
they are definitely not something I've seen on the PlayStation before, and they do add a
certain ambiance to the game.
Once I actually got into a game I didn't find it too hard to lose my morals and start shooting those pesky Nazis (hey, they shot at me first). I just kept reminding myself that they were like the Nazis in the Indiana Jones movies, pure evil. Really, aside from the FMVs there isn't much that makes Medal of Honor time specific. The Nazis speak German, the arsenal is pretty authentic, and there is the occasional room all decked out in Nazi regalia. I mean it is a little more authentic than the last first person, 3D WWII game I can think of, Wolfenstein 3D. Games really have come a long way since then, and Medal of Honor is leading the way with solid graphics, good writing, and great game design.
The story is pretty standard. You play Jimmy Patterson, a young lieutenant in the Air Transport Corps. Jimmy does some pretty impressive stuff the night before D-day, saving the day and winning a Congressional Medal of Honor. As a reward for his heroics Jimmy doesnt get to go home; rather he is invited to join the OSS. The OSS was the Army's sabotage, search and rescue, and subversion branch, specializing in all that was sneaky or underhanded. Of course Jimmy accepts and you, playing as him, are off on many a secret mission. You don't have many options in gameplay- you do the mission you are given. You can replay any missions you've completed, striving for the excellent rating. But, there is usually only one way to get through each level, although not all the objectives have to be met in order.
Medal of Honor has a high replayablity factor, and reminds me a lot of Goldeneye in that respect. There are seven missions, each mission has three or four levels, and each level has around five objectives. It's a whole lot of stuff, and getting through once can take quite awhile. At the end of each level you are given a rating of one to three stars. One star means you finished the level, two stars indicate that you managed to kill 95% of the enemies, a three star or excellent rating meaning you killed at least 95% of the enemies and ended the level with at least 75% of you health. It's pretty tough to do, but if you get mostly excellent ratings on the levels in a mission you will be rewarded with a medal. Ohh, a medal you say- well it is pretty cool looking, but you really need to shoot for getting an excellent rating on all of the levels in a mission. Getting all excellents unlocks a code that can be used in the game. The first one unlocks special power-ups in the multi-player game. There are also other ways to get codes. They can be found in the game itself and unlocked in the password mode, and on the internet (in real life).
While, I really like the gameplay (stories, missions, and arrangement) I have some reservations about the graphics; overall they're not bad. Grass looks like grass, trees like trees, Nazis like Nazis. But there is an unforgivable clipping problem. I'm talking a big problem resulting in unwritten areas where you can accidentally slip into all kinds of problems. The clipping doesn't mearly upset the game's aesthetic; it makes playing the game difficult. Soldiers in the distance flicker in and out of visibility, and things get worse when you're using the sniper scope. It doesnt make the game unplayable, but it did make me frustrated at least once every ten minutes of play until I gave up trying to be so sneaky. Its a shame when a good game gets rushed and loses its polish. Now that I'm done with my little rant, on to my rave.
The sound on Medal of Honor deserves an award for the music and effects. The sound track is epic and very dramatic. When I was playing the game I would suddenly get all nervous and tense for no good reason, and it took me a while to figure it out but it was all the score. The score is better than most movie soundtracks, but it doesnt quite sync to the action in the game. The sounds are as good as the score. They enhanced the gameplay by indicating the direction and distance of enemies. The theet-thud of the bullets flying by and hitting the nearby wall is subtly different than the sound of bullets hitting you. All the sound in augmented by the vibration of the dual shock; you feel the bullets hit you, you feel the recoil of the heavy weapons. All told the sound and vibration make up for what's missing in the graphics.
As with all first person shooters having absolute control is the only way to win. The control on Medal of Honor is good. You are kind of sluggish but the Nazis are too. Thank god for the controller options. Without easy aim and fast zoom on the game feels like it's running in slow motion. Along with the other options there are five different control configurations to pick from. I think the default is serviceable but it has its disadvantages- the strafe right and the crosshair buttons are R1 and R2. I found that both buttons were a little much to handle up there during the heat of battle. I also found myself crawling when I really meant to aim (a pretty deadly mistake), but after a few hours of playing I trained myself out of flailing on the ground. A good way to sharpen your reflexes is in a multi-player game.
The multi-player mode is only one of the extras in Medal of Honor; there is also a gallery and loads of stats. The multi-player game isn't quite as good as the one in Goldeneye; only two people can play and there is a limited amount of games to play. There are mainly two two-player modes- kills and timed mode. There are a total of seven pretty interesting arenas and lots of Nazis and Allies to choose from. What makes it most interesting is the array of arsenals. The question is which player can use which arsenal more effectively. Overall, I'd rather play by myself or boot up another game than play the two player mode; it's not bad but it's not great either. I have to say I really enjoy all the stats, for each level or for the entire game. I always want to go back and redo a level to raise my stats. I'm always an armslinger, winging the enemy's arms, so I guess that means I'm cruel. The last and least important extra is the gallery. In the gallery you can rewatch the FMVs or look at some production art for the missions you've completed. The art may be good for one look, but no one can make me watch those FMVs again.
I never totally got over feeling bad for shooting all those poor German boys. I felt especially bad when I just winged them (something I'm very good at) and they rolled around on the ground suffering. I also felt bad every time I shot a guy that wasn't looking- it didn't help that every time someone watched me play they'd have to say something like "Cold!" or comment on how they didn't think of me as the killer type. I felt like someone was going to tell on me. Reality isn't quite what I'm looking for in a shooter. At least Medal of Honor doesn't try to tackle any of the tough subjects of WWII. Well I don't know, maybe they should have, or maybe it should be more like an action movie. Anyway, I'm not comfortable reenacting the horrors of WWII all for the sake of a little fun, or maybe for education (and that's one thing this game is not, educational). All in all though, it is an excellent and highly addictive game. All the extras make it a game to own and not one to rent. Medal of Honor must be played even if it is just to listen to the score.