Review by friendlydude
"Can an old first-person war shooter remain fresh years after release? You bet it can."
Ah, time to take you back to the late 90's when the Playstation One was the most popular gaming console in town. Back when so many revolutionary things were happening that would change gaming forever. If you were lucky enough to remember that time period, and be a part of it, you'll recall just how special it was. Back when we were still deciding if we wanted 2D or 3D to rule our gaming worlds. Back when never-before-seen graphics and gameplay were being developed. Back when some seriously impressive games were being made. Back when Medal of Honor was just beginning.
In my opinion, Medal of Honor is brilliant for combining war strategy and first-person shooters together. It's the best of both worlds. You see, back in 1999 we didn't have that many war strategy games to sort through- we only had a couple. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the Medal of Honor series helped influence the genre. Also keep in mind the Playstation One didn't have that many memorable first-person shooters either. A console lacking decent first-person shooters and war games, so what happened? Someone had to come along and fix this little problem. Here comes DreamWorks and the Medal of Honor series, stepping up to deliver something beyond incredible for Sony fans in 1999, and boy did they ever deliver a memorable experience!
How many Medal of Honor's have there been so far? Let's just say, I can't keep track of them all. Many of them have been extremely successful over the years, but for some reason, the very first one is no longer getting any recognition whatsoever. It's almost hard to believe just how *much* it has been ignored over the last several years. Maybe it has something to do with peoples belief that Playstation One games are no longer worth playing because the PS2 has been on the market for over seven years now and the games on that console feature bigger, prettier, and more strategically challenging first-person shooters. Or maybe just the fact there's too many Medal of Honor games out there is putting a bad taste in peoples mouth. Whatever the reason, this game does NOT deserve to be ignored. It deserves all sorts of credit.
Alright, so far we've established the interesting thing back in 1999 was how Medal of Honor was one of the very first wartime strategy games on the Playstation One, and also tagged as a first-person shooter. The game succeeds on both counts. If you want to survive and complete the game, you better believe you're going to have to learn how to deal with soldiers and find strategies on the best ways to kill them, and move along. Otherwise you won't get very far. Let me give you an example:
Let's say you're moving forward, just walking along the path and you see two guards up ahead. One of them has a rocket launcher and the other has a machine gun. Considering one direct hit from a rocket will kill you immediately, you'll want to take out that guard first. If it's your first time playing the game, you probably won't know which guard has the rocket until you see it heading in your direction. This gives the game TONS of replay value because you'll probably die a few times, but will want to come back and figure out who the guilty rocket-shooter was so you can end his life just as viciously as he ended yours. The first time a rocket hit me directly and killed me I nearly jumped straight up in the air! It felt so real!
The game is challenging, but not overwhelmingly so. It's more like a perfect increase in challenge as you move from level to level. With each mission you complete, the challenge gradually builds and builds, and you eventually will have to go through 24 different stages. You better believe the difficulty goes up significantly once you reach stage 12. By that point, you should be required to know exactly what you're doing in order to succeed. You should have the controller buttons figured out. You'll need to be alert in order to complete this game. No doubt about it.
By the way, the buttons are laid out nicely. L1 and R1 strafes back and forth, R2 is the aim button, and L2 allows you to lay down and crawl. Triangle jumps, Circle changes weapons, X shoots, and Square reloads. The "Up" button on the directional pad moves you forward, whereas left and right changes the direction you're facing.
The game is designed so you're one man going on all sorts of dangerous missions by yourself. There isn't any help from other sources coming along and giving you a chance to relax as they do all the work. Oh no, nothing like that. You have to do all the shooting and stage completing by yourself. Oh sure, you have people helping you before each mission, but in the heat of battle it's you and you all alone.
My favorite thing about the original Medal of Honor is how once you complete a stage, you are more than welcomed to go back and play it again as many times as you'd like. You will receive more medals at the end of each mission the more you thoroughly explore the stages and eliminate the soldiers. Also, if you want to earn a perfect 3 star rating, you need to eliminate over 95% of the guards in each stage and make it to the exit with at least 75% health. It's pretty easy for the first half of the game, but it gets much harder when you arrive halfway through.
The atmosphere is so much like a real war zone it's almost hard to believe you're actually playing a game on the Playstation One. It feels closer to something on the Playstation Two. The soundtrack absolutely blows my mind. It just sounds really realistic and intense as you go through all the missions, never once becoming annoying or overbearing or anything. Always perfectly listenable. It's moody one minute, and heart-pumping the next. Perfect battle zone music.
The soldiers you encounter are the best thing about the game. When you see one (and trust me, you'll see hundreds of them) there's no telling WHAT they'll do. They might stop right in their tracks and shoot, or they might run behind a wall and shoot back at you. They might throw a grenade. Heck, you might throw a grenade, and they'll throw it back! Just remember- make sure you kill them before they kill you because they might have grenades, rocket launchers, or machine guns. You don't wanna face a maniac holding those weapons right? Of course not! Simply put- the soldiers are incredibly smart. In the later levels they can spot you before you are able to spot them. Luckily you won't die in cheap ways as a result, but you still have to stay focused at ALL times and prepare yourself for anything.
In the beginning of the game the soldiers sort of take it easy on you with just rifles and pistols that only knock off a *little* bit of damage. However, as I said in the above paragraph, later on they will have grenades, machine guns, and the ever-impressive rocket launcher at their disposal (that last one will kill you in one hit, so you know!) and that makes the difficulty jump through the roof. It's beatable though, with plenty of practice and an ability to memorize where each of the soldiers are located. It's actually not that hard of a game once you know what you're doing, and where the danger's lurking. I consider myself an average gamer at best but I managed to beat the game several times.
The soldiers also have extremely impressive and realistic animations, which is one of the things many people remember the game for. In fact, it's the first thing people note while playing the game. When you shoot a guard in the arm, he'll react exactly how a real soldier would react to getting shot in the arm. The same thing happens when shooting at their legs, their head, or their back. If you shoot at their feet they'll hop around. Shoot at their head and they'll fall over immediately. It's almost disturbing to me on a personal level how REAL it looks to shoot these guards on one of their body parts and watch them react accurately to it. The designers obviously paid close attention to realism in war films.
The stages vary. You have forest stages that take place at night where you have to search through bushes and trees to find paths that lead to the end of the level (and killing soldiers along the way) and you have stages taking place along snowy paths. Every single stage has danger lurking in really high numbers, with soldiers always plentiful and ready to attack. You really have to keep this in mind if you wanna stay alive. Sometimes even when you think the coast is clear, it's not always. A guard might be hiding to the left or right of you, maybe even way up high in the air on a cliff and you have to search for them. Or maybe even behind you one might be approaching far off in the distance, and you have to stick around and wait for them to appear on screen (or move closer- it's your call). You have to stay alert in this game ALL the time. I can't stress that enough.
There's also an element of mystery along with the suspense and enjoyment of shooting. Sometimes you're put in intense situations where you can't afford to hesitate, and the mystery come into play when you're not completely certain if you eliminated a dangerous guard. You approach him slowly, ready to either dodge bullets or attack immediately. You can't just ignore him either, because when you turn your back he might come after you and shoot. Yes that's right- once a guard spots you, you really have no choice but to eliminate him, otherwise he might keep following you. What a great, realistic feeling for a video game dealing with war. It's especially amazing how an old PS1 game had the technology for this kind of realism and intelligence.
You know, there's one way to tell if you're about to approach a soldier up ahead. The game momentarily slows down whenever more than one guard is approaching, which some people really have a problem with. Some people hate slowdown in video games. But the slowdown doesn't really slow down *that* much. It's more like it takes a split second to load the guards up ahead before the normal pace returns. Luckily you don't have to deal with more than three soldiers at once, because any more than that and the game would probably crash.
I also want to share with you an easy way to take out the dangerous guards in the later, more difficult levels. Whenever you arrive to the end of a hallway, instead of turning and possibly leaving yourself wide open to getting shot, pretend like you're going to turn, only to back out to the hallway you were just in and wait. Usually the guards will know you're there and will follow you, which opens up a great opportunity to easily wipe them out with a machine gun or whatever. It's a really good trick. I'd say it works over 90% of the time.
My favorite thing about the game is the arcade style gameplay, which is sorely lacking in todays world of gaming. I love arcade games, and to me this game has that arcade feel mixed in with a first-person style. I love it.
I have some really good news that will make many people out there happy- there are NO annoying jumps in this game. Not a single one *anywhere*. That always helps! I hate awkward jumps myself. Luckily you can't ever fall to your death in this game. All the jumping you do is to just move over small areas and whatnot. Nothing major.
The strategy aspect is the very best thing. Okay, in each stage you start out with a certain number of bullets and guns. It's absolutely incredibly fun figuring out which weapons would be best to use depending on the situation. If you face three guards at once, the machine gun would be the weapon of choice because you want to wipe them all out instantly. But for one or two guards you can take out the pistol and take your time if you wish. It's good *not* to just use the same weapon all the time in case you run out of bullets. Luckily they're extremely generous with bullets in this game, and you can pick up more bullets lying on the ground from the soldiers you just killed.
Overall, playing this game was truly one of the best experiences of my life. It changed the way I think about shooting enemies in video games. I had to be smart and alert in order to succeed. I almost cried lots of time because of the never-ending intensity. My arms and legs were shaking BIG time in some instances. Now I love and have more respect for first-person shooters. The learning curve is brilliant, the amount of overall shooting action is very satisfying, and the arcade style gameplay brings me back every time. A perfect 10 in my book. An example where the original deserves to be remembered forever.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 11/19/07
Game Release: Medal of Honor (US, 10/31/99)
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