Review: Medal of Honor – Rising Sun (Playstation 2)

In this review, we take on another front in the Playstation 2 game Medal of Honor – Rising Sun. We find out how well this FPS (First Person Shooter) plays.

This game was released in 2003. It is the 7th release in the series (counting expansion packs).

We are already quite familiar with the Medal of Honor franchise. First, we reviewed the original game, Medal of Honor. That game was rather mediocre thanks largely to its dated graphics and simplistic gameplay. We then tried Medal of Honor: Underground. While an improvement, it was still a rather mediocre play.

Next came Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. That game managed to earn a pretty good score. The next review was the expansion pack, Medal of Honor – Allied Assault: Spearhead. This game also managed to score pretty well, thus starting to build momentum. We then reviewed the other expansion pack, Medal of Honor – Allied Assault: Breakthrough. That game seemed to start falling back a little, but still nevertheless got a pretty decent score. Finally, we reviewed Medal of Honor – Frontline. While a step back for the series on the console, it still manages to score fairly well. So, it is with interest we try this next entry into the franchise, thinking it might take things to the next level finally.

We went into this game excited because the game takes place in a whole new setting. So, we thought that this might liven up or, at least, refresh the series.

This game finally goes back to a sense of originality as you play a whole new character. In this case, you play Joseph Griffin. You start off as a member of the marines stationed at Pearl Harbor. As real life history indicates, Pearl Harbor was hit with a massive surprise attack. Dazed from the aerial assault, you scramble to go top side to see the entire harbor in the midst of bombardment. You scramble to do what you can to defend the area. As the events take place in the earlier parts of World War II, the OSS (Operations of Strategic Services) only forms part way through the game. You are drafted and deployed immediately to take on various missions in various countries around Asia.

The initial two levels would have you believe that this game is certainly taking things to a whole new level. You find yourself dowsing fires with fire extinguishers and firing at as many airplanes as possible. The second mission takes you on the second half of the Pearl Harbor levels as you effectively take on a rail shooter challenge. The difficulty is certainly up there on that level and it may very well take multiple attempts just to survive it.

By the third mission, what you already know about Medal of Honor takes a stronger hold. You have a number of weapons that have appeared in previous games. You can get the rifle, sniper rifle, pistol, silences pistol, shotgun, and assault rifle. There is a silenced assault rifle which seems to be new, but that is largely where the weapon innovation ends. Grenades also makes a return, though they are relegated to a different button function.

Tools also make a return in this game, but they largely take a back seat more so than previous games. In fact, they are almost pointless as everything is simply relegated to pressing the action button (to which you are prompted for). This is generally a feature rollback compared to previous games.

Health has remained largely the same. Canteens restore 25% health. Medical kits restore 50% health. Field surgeon packs restore 75% of health. Food is where the minor improvements take place. While all food replenishes 10% of health, they take the form of soup and natural fruit. Before, it was just pieces of bread. Now, there is a slightly larger variety to be had.

There are a number of enemies to be found in this game. Many are more or less returning enemies such as the soldiers with pistols, rifles, machine guns, and the ones at machine gun placements. There is, however, a few new enemies. There are the various enemies that carry melee weapons. Most carry swords, but some carry shovels. A few kamikaze soldiers carry what appear to be explosives at the end of poles. Another new enemy is the ones buried just below ground. They surprise you when you get close. The mortar cannons are somewhat modified to be fixed grenade launchers.

Boats aren’t the only things you ride for rail shooter missions. You also have a plane sequence and even a riding elephant sequence. It might not be as epic as the riding mount you get in Turok 2 – Seeds of Evil, but it is something.

One new feature is the readjustment of how one earns medals. Before, it was all about having a certain amount of health while mowing down a certain percentage of enemies. This has been left behind in favor of bonus objectives. You don’t necessarily know what these objectives are, but if you happen to complete a part of it, they will appear in your objectives list when you pause the game. Some objectives are unknown until you complete them as they only have one part. Trying to complete them can be very touch and go.

This game garnered a wide variety of complaints from other critics. One of those complaints is the fact that the game doesn’t really innovate much at all. This is something I agree with. Not only does it not really offer anything new to the table, but it also rolls back some minor features. Because of this, getting excited for this game can be a challenge. It is actually quite surprising that this game offers so little considering it takes place in a whole new setting. As a result, that might be part of the reason why gameplay can be disappointing.

Another complaint others levied against the game is the fact that the game is short. This is another complaint I can’t disagree with. At only 9 missions (well, 8 because the length of the first two missions could be long enough for a single mission), gameplay is almost cut in half compared to previous games. Some say you can complete this game in a day. The amount of time I spent on this game, I probably could have done the same (I started later in the evening and finished it the following evening). Being such a short game does roll back the enjoyment a fair bit. The fact that it happened on a franchise that was developing a reputation for decent game lengths, that’s even more surprising.

A third complaint people laid out is the fact that the AI left a lot to be desired. While this complaint is valid in my view, some people exaggerate how bad the AI is. One went so far as to argue that you could stand out in the open and pick off everything that moved without getting hit. This may be more or less true for mission 3 and 4, but it becomes less so as the game progresses. You do have to exercise some form of strategy by using cover in the later missions. Enemies are gradually better at hitting you as you work your way through the game. For the record, I also played the game on Medium, so it was the same difficulty as many other reviewers.

That said, the AI is far from perfect. Buddies do sometimes run around aimlessly in circles in the middle of a fire fight. On the upside, they seem to have unlimited health, so all you have to worry about is your own health. Still, it does look ridiculous. Yes, there are enemies that just aim endlessly at you without firing a shot, but they only sporadically appear.

Another complaint is the fact that, once again, there are no checkpoints. This was a major problem in the previous game. In this game, it is still a problem, but there are somewhat concealed “save points” where you can save your mission part way through. Sometimes, they are so well hidden, you can easily miss them. Still, a mild improvement even if this system is far from perfect.

One thing worth mentioning is the fact that health and weapons supplies seem to be largely abundant. As a result of this (plus the occasionally bad enemy AI), the difficulty is actually eased off more so than previous games. If you are low on health, it is certainly possible under most circumstances to backtrack and pick up a health kit that you previously skipped. You can also blast open the grey crates to see if you can get lucky and snag some additional ammo as well. Some grey crates contain health, though I only found that to happen towards the end of the game. While this can help make this game more accessible to new players, it may be a little off-putting to more experienced players. This game still offers challenge, but it is lighter on the difficulty.

Generally speaking, this game offers more negatives than positives. While the premise and the first mission offers a lot of promise for players, it quickly spirals into a generic FPS game. After the first two missions, the game only picks up at the last mission. Beyond that, there is only a glimmer of decent level design here and there. Though some complaints about this game are exaggerated, most of them are quite valid. The short gameplay, lack of innovation, weak AI, and dull level design throughout the middle of the game diminishes the enjoyment factor by quite a bit. All in all, it was rather disappointing.

Graphically speaking, this game follows the pattern of enjoyment through each level. The visuals of the first two and last levels are pretty good. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the remainder of the levels. There are a few areas that are visually interesting, but they come and go in the ocean of bland colors and lifeless settings. It doesn’t offer anything not already present in games in previous years. Though OK, nothing spectacular.

The audio has always been a mixed bag for this series. This game is no exception. The voice acting was decent enough and the sound effects were OK. Nothing huge for a game of its time. The music continues the tradition to be orchestral. It adds some flavor of traditional Asian instruments with authentic string and woodwind instruments. Still, it doesn’t exactly offer anything beyond providing a mood for this game. Nothing too memorable.

Overall, this game offered plenty of promise with both the premise and the first two missions. Unfortunately, the game stalls in virtually every way possible shortly after, only picking up on the final mission. Not only are features largely unchanged, but some are even rolled back somewhat. With small footsteps forward, this game takes some pretty big steps back as far as the series is concerned. The graphics also follow along the pattern of being great in the first two levels and last level while being bland everywhere else. The audio is nothing huge beyond providing some atmosphere. An overall disappointing game to say the least.

Overall

Furthest point in game: Sunk the carrier (completed the game) on Medium difficulty.

General gameplay: 16/25
Replay value: 5/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 60%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.



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