Review: Medal of Honor (Playstation)

In this review, we find out how the fight continues in the Playstation game Medal of Honor. We get to see how well this first person Shooter plays.

This game was released in 1999 and would be the game to start a large franchise that extended, at least, all the way up to 2012.

One thing of note is that I was told this was one of the franchises to play. In fact, some of the reaction I got when I said that I had, up to now, neither played Medal of Honor of Call of Duty was complete disbelief. I was then told that this was one of the greatest FPS games ever made. It gave me the impression that this was the Goldeneye 007 of the Playstation. Considering some people believe the Playstation was better than the N64 (a belief I disagree with), I decided to try this game with great interest.

The storyline is that you play a person by the name of Jimmy Patterson. You are a former pilot enlisted into the OSS. You decide to accept a series of secret and dangerous missions throughout World War II. Some missions take you to France, but a lot of them will take place in Germany. You are to perform a series of tasks that will aid the allies in stopping the Nazi’s.

In each mission, you are given a set of objectives. Some objectives involve diffusing bombs or collecting keys, but most involve sabotage or stealing important documents. Ideally, you complete these objectives before finding and passing through the level’s exit. What happens if you complete a mission without completing all objectives was unclear for us given that ended up never happening.

Along the way, you’ll encounter a small variety of enemies. Most of these enemies are Nazi guards or patrol units. Many of them use rifles and machine guns to stop you in their tracks. In later parts of the game, they’ll begin lobbing stick grenades at you. Being mindful of the rattling of these grenades along the ground can be critical to your survival. Late in the game, you’ll also encounter guards that fire bazooka weapons at you. Annoyingly, many of these shots instantly kill you, so a quick trigger finger can be crucial.

You start the game with a rifle. As you work your way around the first level, you’ll quickly realize that this game is all about stealth. While it is more than possible to fire your weapon without aiming, accuracy can be really bad. So, you will focus a lot of your time trying to make enemies simply appear at the far reaches of the games limited draw system. Often, this is close enough for you to see them, but far enough for enemies not to see you.

Along the way, you’ll find other weapons you can try. Sometimes, these weapons are pistols. Other times, you’ll find sniper rifles and sub-machine guns. You can even pick up a bazooka or a shotgun along the way. In addition, you’ll also have the opportunity to pick up grenades. There are different types of grenades you can get your hands on including stick grenades and regular grenades.

At first, the implementation of grenades seem like a huge thing. Indeed, in many other games, grenade-like weapons can be a huge factor in your success. In this game, not so much. If you lob a grenade without aiming, it will fall barely 3 feet in front of you. While you can aim higher to get better distance, getting decent accuracy with them is, at best, a gamble.

One interesting feature with these weapons is the fixed machine gun mounts. There are a lot of advantages to these things. One advantage is that they are powerful and can mow down a large number of enemies without a problem. Another advantage is the fact that you have unlimited ammo. Finally, these turrets are typically mounted in a way to grant you extra shielding from return fire. The major downside is that they cannot move. Once you finish mowing down the enemies, the weapon becomes useless to you. Another disadvantage is the fact that you can only move so far left or right. If an enemy is firing at you too far off to the side, that enemy is impossible to kill with the machine gun. A number of these mounts will spawn a number of enemies once you use it. Other times, they are just there if you happen to sneak into an area and are able to take down the two or three in the area. Because of this, it’s hard to say that this feature was well implemented because it was a bit clunky. An interesting feature that breaks up the levels a little, but not a huge factor in the game overall.

As you would expect, you are going to take damage in this game. Your health meter is located in a circle around a compass on the HUD (Heads Up Display). As you take damage, the colored portions vanish. An interesting feature in this is that the compass will also tell you from what direction you are taking damage from. It is possible to replenish this health in each level. The only way to fully replenish this health every time is to complete the level. Advancing to the next level will always recharge your health to full.

The more practical way to regenerate your health is through health pickups. The most common health pickups are the medicinal canteen. Sometimes, they are dropped by enemies, but other times, they are simply found in various nooks and crannies. They replenish about 10% of your health. While not a lot, it is better than nothing at all. A medical kit, however, can replenish about a quarter of your health. While they are less plentiful, there are still plenty of them sitting around if you know where to look. Finally, there is the field surgeon kit. These green kits are not that common, but replenish the most health out of all of the medical pick ups. Field surgeon kits will replenish half of your health.

At the end of each level, you’ll be given an assessment based on how well you did. This is a document that shows how many hits you take as well as how many shots you fired on the enemy. You’ll get an accuracy rating as well as where you shot your enemies. The enemy hits are basically divided into 5 sections: head, abdomen, groin, arms, and legs. You’ll get a gunnery assessment based on which area you hit your enemies the most. There are multiple different names you can get based on each region, so the names aren’t all the same. One interesting glitch revolves around the shotgun. It seems that if you fire your shotgun, it counts as a single shot. However, since the weapon fires multiple shots at the same time, you can hit the enemy multiple times. Each hit is counted separately. So, it is more than possible to get 100% accuracy and have the number of hits exceed the number of shots you’ve fired. Finally, you’ll get an assessment based on 3 stars. What factors into these three stars is still unclear to me (is it time taken? Accuracy? Kills? Items collected? How little damage you’ve taken? A combination of these? I really don’t know). If you complete every level with three stars, you’ll get a medal at the end of your mission.

While there are plenty of levels to go through, they are grouped into a series of missions. In total, there are 7 missions, but each mission has a set of levels. The average mission contains about 3 or 4 levels. If you do particularly well in a mission, you’ll not only earn a medal, but also a password to unlock a multiplayer character.

The first thing I can say after playing this game is that it’s not mind blowing by any means. It turns out, some of the developers took some inspiration from Goldeneye 007 which was released two years earlier. Knowing this, it’s easy what parts of the game were inspired by the game. To be fair, this game did take inspiration from a great game. The downside is that, with the exception of the turret guns, there’s almost no ground broken that wasn’t already broken by the time we got to Goleneye 007 in the first place.

With respect to the objectives in this game, they end up being quite repetitive. So many of them get you to find the box outline of where you place the bomb in order to blow it up. Goldeneye, meanwhile, had you place tracking devices, hacking computer terminals, stealing documents, photographing screens, recovering recorders, getting into contact with other people, and a whole lot more. The narrow scope in this game makes me think this game is already a step back in overall gameplay.

The level design itself is also seemingly a step back. Already on the market were games like Turok 2 – Seeds of Evil, Quake II, and Duke Nukem 64 to name three games. Comparatively speaking, the level design in this game leaves a lot to be desired. There’s hardly any locked doors, switches, or other lesser objectives throughout the game. The only leg up this game has are two levels that have you running around undercover. You can show your ID to soldiers to sneak into secure installations. Even with that, the game doesn’t take this much further other than having chunks of gameplay without firefights. An interesting feature, but a bit on the primitive side for my tastes.

Besides the limited problem solving capabilities, the general level design is rather limited – especially in the earlier levels. Large portions of the levels involve you running down long hallways or narrow outdoor paths. There is the occasional secret path or room, but play ends up being fairly linear. It isn’t until the later levels where levels finally start being more interesting with larger open area’s and multiple ways of moving around in the level. It’s as if the level designer was new to things and built the levels chronologically. As the levels went on, the design got better, yet hardly any effort was put in to going back and sprucing up the earlier levels. You’d think that some of the better levels in the game would be the first few you encounter, not tucked away towards the end of the game. As a result, it takes a while for you to get to the good stuff which might be a bit off putting to some players.

The controls are generally clunky. The grenades are virtually unusable – especially when it comes to breakables. If a grenade touches a breakable, the grenade goes off instantly – likely killing you in the process. The sniper rifle is only half usable with default settings. It zooms in as you aim until you are at maximum zoom. Even with zooming, the game doesn’t draw anything extra. Instead, the game lightens some of the more distant textures, rendering the sniper rifle borderline useless. Also, looking up or down can only be done with aiming. So, sniping from the rooftops with the sniper rifle is borderline useless. You are better off using a regular rifle or even a handgun. The fact that the game forces you to aim in almost every firefighting circumstance makes for some clunky play at times. This problem is especially pronounced when you are fighting against enemies down a hill or a set of stares. Even when they are right in front of you, you still have to rake the time to aim, then move the gun down just to fire. By that time, the enemy has probably hit you three, four, five, or six times.

Another major weakness in this game is the complete lack of difficulty settings. There is only one difficulty setting. In spite of this, the game does have a good difficulty curve where it allows you to get used to how things work while challenging you towards the end. Still, especially given that various difficulty settings have become commonplace by now in FPS games, it probably would have been better to have different difficulties in place as well as rewards for completion on those settings. Because there is no additional difficulty settings, once you complete the game, that is it. You are only stuck with human player only multiplayer after. At best, you are replaying missions just to get more medals.

while the different elements can be weak, there is the general broader view of how it all works together. This was definitely one of the strengths in this game. The variety of different elements in the game does keep things interesting from beginning to end. The different elements, by themselves, are generally weak. However, when they are all brought together, everything works quite cohesively. If you manage to beat the game, it’s very easy to say that it is a satisfying play.

Another strength that I’m sure many will point out is the level of authenticity this game portrays. I definitely agree with this assessment. Between the war footage, environments, and weaponry found throughout the game, the game really does make you feel you are in a World War II era setting. One thing to bear in mind is the fact that this is far from the first game that has you pitted up against Nazi’s. Wolfenstein 3D also pitted you against Nazi’s in an FPS game 5 years earlier. So, far from the first game to do this, but it still did a very good job of this.

Generally speaking, this game was not the massive amazing FPS game I was led to believe. That does not necessarily make this a bad game by any means. The different elements found in the game, on their own, are several steps behind other games that were on the market that year and even 3+ years earlier. This includes level design, mission objective variety, lack of difficulty control, and controls. Very little ground has been broken with this game. The way everything congeals together by the time you make it to the end of the game actually works out better than you would expect. The variety in the game from a general perspective works out. In addition to this, the game also nails the authenticity feel overall quite well even if this is far from the first game that pits you against the Nazi’s. Overall, a decent play, but far form mind-blowing.

One of the elements that garnered a lot of praise from others was the graphical detail. What I’ve heard often repeated was that this game’s detail was impressive for a game of its time. Having played this game, I seriously wonder if I’ve played the game game as them. This game was so far behind the pack in terms of graphics, it even affected gameplay. The draw distance was so short, it made Turok – Dinosaur Hunter seem like a graphical marvel (Turok is frequently criticized by critics as having a short draw distance). You can easily see where the game struggles to draw in the level just a short distance away. The fact that the sniper rifle doesn’t increase this at full zoom only makes this far more apparent. The enemy weapons look like three silver pencils glued together. The only thing positive worth mentioning is the fact that enemies and weapons rely on 3D models as opposed to 2D sprites. There’s still 2D sprites abound, but they aren’t that apparent. Even if one were to contend that this was great graphics for a Playstation game, I would say even Playstation games at the time beat the snot out of this game. This includes Gran Turismo 2, Twisted Metal 4, Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit, and Rage Racer. The graphics were a massive weakness for this game.

Audio was an interesting element. The music, by itself, was actually quite good. If you listen to it separately, it’s actually quite interesting. Unfortunately, when it is playing in the game, it serves to do little more than break up some of the silence found in the game. Part of this is because there is a disconnect between the levels and the music. You have levels that involve sneaking around with big booming orchestral sounds while other missions involve tense firefighting with creepy low key music. I’m not sure if the music was well coordinated with the levels themselves. Meanwhile, the folly sounds picked up some of the audio slack. The German voices throughout the levels worked wonders in adding to that authentic feel to the game. The sounds you hear when collecting weapons were also nicely done. So many games have one or two sounds when picking up ammo. In this game, there are several sounds that have the type of ammo being picked up in mind. This is especially true when you pick up a bazooka shell. The voices of the soldiers themselves worked quite well. The sound effects were a huge part of what makes this game a success in my books. Sad that music couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain.

Overall, this game is far from the masterpiece I’ve heard it was supposed to be. It’s not a terrible game, but not something I classify as amazing by any means. The individual elements like level design, control, variety in mission objectives, and even a non-existent difficulty setting, all worked against the game. Even though the elements individually served the game poorly, the way the pieces fell together in overall play worked out better than I thought it would. In the end, you are in for a satisfying play if you are able to make it to the end. The graphics were pretty bad – even to the point where gameplay itself was affected by the pitifully short draw distance. The music wasn’t the greatest once placed into the game environment itself, but the sound effects used definitely makes up for the slack left behind. So, a decent play all around in the end, but hardly worth playing after you beat the game.

Furthest point in game: Launched the missile (beat the game).

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 4/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 64%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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