Review by GMitchell

"Medal of Honor duo = Playstation's crowning achievement"

The two Medal of Honor WWII shooters for Playstation have many, many things going for them. But above all, the one thing that really strikes with great significance is that they both perfectly and beautifully create Atmosphere. If only every game made had such crystal clear focus on getting the player involved in the game's universe, gaming would be a lot better off than it is.

The original Medal of Honor set the tone for a landmark first person shooting adventure. Its combination of graphics, sound effects, music, control, voice overs, perfect use of the dual shock controller, level design, enemy artificial intelligence, and ability to manipulate landscape to the player's advantage all came together wonderfully.

The sequel continues to do all of those things right, and never loses the rhythm or pacing of the epic first adventure. While I've heard it argued that the last couple of levels of Underground undermine the gritty reality of MOH (they involve weird occult situations that are closer to Sci-Fi channel than History channel...), I personally found those levels entertaining, challenging, fun and highly amusing. I think it's nice to see programmers and producers take a chance and let their creativity win out, possibly in celebration for a couple of projects done so well.

In any case, there are some differences in Underground versus its predecessor that I'll make note of.

The graphics wind up actually taking a slight hit in the sequel, due to a greater number of enemies, vehicles and gunfire on screen at a time. I don't think any changes for the negative have actually been made to the graphics engine, but the situations presented simply don't look as purty all the time. This never bothered me since I respect the upgrade in intensity of the levels (many more wide-open gunfire fests in Underground, lots of riding fast motorized vehicles for white-knuckle fun), but I can understand how some might be disappointed in it slightly.

There's a lot more use of disguise and stealth in Underground. The original MOH had a little bit of stealth, but a lot of situations were confined to one-on-one, so that even if you blew it, you'd only have to take out an enemy or two. In Underground, the stakes are much higher. Lots of chain guns waiting to rip you up if you break cover at the wrong time or step into the wrong clearing. Also, quite entertainingly, you get to go undercover as a photographer. When you approach a Nazi, often they'll strike a hilarious ''studly'' pose and you generally must appease them by snapping a pic. Lots of times, if you're quick and there's no one around, you can quickly switch to a pistol and take them out while they're flexing their muscles.

There also seem to be a lot more in the way of armored vehicles to take out in Underground. There's a whole lot of really precise bazooka use and grenade use involved, and it can get quite hairy. On the one hand it can be more frustrating at first than MOH was, but at the same time it's more satisfying to complete a level knowing you've taken out scores of enemies and a tank or two all by your lonesome.

There basically are only two things that I could refer to as truly negative about Underground. One is that no matter how good the sequel is, when it's this similar to the original game, it just doesn't quite have the same initial pizazz the second time around. This isn't the fault of any designer, it's just the nature of the beast. Secondly, in an odd lack of detail, completing the bonus missions at the end of the game results in....nothing. No ending, no congratulatory speech, Nada. An odd omission for such a wonderfully crafted and detailed game, to say the least - especially given the extreme difficulty of the bonus missions, I felt pretty ripped off.

But those are definitely nits to pick. Underground is a fantastic sequel to a fantastic game, pure and simple. MOH and Underground comprise my two favorite Playstation games, and with good reason. Dreamworks has crafted the most believable, involving atmostphere in a video game in many years, and as gamers we get to reap the benefits. I know I'll be playing the MOH games over and over for many years to come, and loving every minute of it.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 04/23/02, Updated 04/23/02

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