Review by Dogg

"I'm shutterbugged..."

Medal of Honor; a war game set in the WW2 era—live with it.

For the most part I’m not a big World War 2 game fan. All of the games that are based in this era that started in the late 1930’s and ended in the middle of the 1940’s have been well rather a cheap way to cash in on a license. Let’s see… Wolfenstein—gave game fans a chance to killing (gasp!) Hitler in a castle—and then there are the crappy war simulation titles—cheap-ass titles that, in most times, rather confuse players then entertain them for hour on end. Nonetheless, DreamWorks Interactive (yes it is related to the movie company of the same name) released Medal of Honor in late 98 in the U.S. While I myself have never played this game, I did however hear many opinions on how this game in every way reinvented the war-themed first-person shooter genre. Half of the opinions I didn’t believe, but nevertheless a sequel was released called Medal of Honor: Underground. And unlike the original, I actually gave this game a purchase; and yes it was a great purchase.

In Underground you play the part of Manon, a French protestor of sorts. In fact, Underground focuses a lot on France in the early portions of this game. This is because France was one of the first allies (along with Europe) to go put a stop against further aggression by the Nazis. However, Nazi Germany invaded the country and in a matter of weeks after the war began when Adolph Hitler invaded Poland, France had surrendered; leaving the French totally out of the war at all costs which is kind of sad because they only lasted in the war for only a couple of weeks. Nonetheless, Manon joins a Resistance group in France to thwart Nazi attacks, and soon Manon becomes a recruit at the OSS, which tries to thwart Germany in whole. However, this quest and storytelling of Manon’s won’t be an easy thing; and five bucks says you already knew that.

Anyway, Medal of Honor, as you see, is true to the subject of World War 2. It even makes the game look the way with all of the authentic movies and areas; which include not only France, but also Africa, Greece, and some more remaining territories. And as mentioned there are authentic movies and screenings which should put a smile to any war buff; and which should (gasp) actually teach you some stuff that you probably never knew about the war before (hell it told me more about Heinrich Himmler then I ever wanted to know). Hell there is even authentic weapons that should damn well impress almost anybody (Steilhandgranate Stick grenades… anyone?)

While there’s plenty of authenticity to pass along, this game is more focused on its own gameplay merits; rather then just showing off a bunch of old TV rails with war combat. As said before this game is a first-person shooter and as part of that genre this game in every way succeeds many other FPS war games (by a lot really). Here you must complete missions in the specific area you are in; and these missions are all excellent and each one tends to be different then the other (as long as you take away those annoying photographing missions—which I’ll go into detail later on in this review). Of course you will have enemies to stop you. And these enemies are (surprise!) the Nazis; sorry no alien future-like bosses in this game though you should wait if you still want to see a half-naked alien with a Swastika outfit (hey!). Nazis move around by foot carrying German oriented weapons; assault rifles, silenced pistols, sniper rifles, and stick grenades are all included. Not all Nazis move around their feet; though. Some German Nazis will bombard you with lead; from the submachine gun included in motorcades that some Nazis tend to ride on. Other Nazis will onslaught you with heavy fire missiles; which comes from tanks—the dubious, but still worthwhile effort at making this game a bit more of a challenge.

Other then carrying pistols and consecutively running around with tanks, some Nazis will take you down by hiding in their specific terrain. Some soldiers will even hide behind walls and will fire when you are not looking at them; and almost all Nazis do this making it sort of an annoyance. Nonetheless, the smartness of these soldiers is sort of on an all-time low. While German Nazis will shoot you once they spot you or hear your sporadic gunfire, other soldiers will do nothing but ponder and just wait to be shot. Hell there were times when I shot a Nazi with my sniper rifle and he didn’t do anything to fight back—or even worse a siren goes on telling enemies about my presence and these armed Nazis still don’t do anything. Still this might be a good thing to some who want easier sort of difficulty, but still there should be some challenge here and there (especially since I was playing this game on Normal difficulty; the 3 difficulties which you can choose from are Easy, Normal, and Hard).

While enemy soldiers may not be so focused on their intelligence; they are however carefully brought over to the brink of realism and this not from their authentic military clothes they wear, but from their every action that they do and that you witness once a bullet hits them in a specific body part. By hitting them in the hand, for example, the soldier will start moving his hands due to the fact that a bullet went right through it; and this right here gives you a point of attack due to the soldier being focused on the well being of his hand. The same thing happens when you give them a body shot; except this time they might fall to the floor struggling in every way to get back up. More impressive stuff happens when you hit them in the head; either their full-plated helmet falls off, or the soldier immediately and instantaneously falls to the floor… dead. It’s all very impressive; and shows just how far DreamWorks wanted to take this title to being very high-quality—after all its release date was in 2000, the final peak of the once successful PlayStation.

There are 24 missions for you to complete and fully accomplish in this game; and as said each one is different and some may even scare the living crap out of you—but chances of that happening are minimal. And as also said, there is a lot of variety in this game; friends help you, and Disguise Mode goes into full practice as well. Disguise Mode goes into being when you are in a North Africa mission; you supposedly steal a camera and credentials of an honored Nazi civilian—not to mention that you lock the photographer up in his own room. SO, in Disguise Mode you carry a camera and you are allowed to enter prohibited areas by fooling enemy soldiers. Not all enemy soldiers are idiots; though. Some Nazis will approach you and ask to see your credentials as a photographer; half the times they’ll be easily fooled, but not always (I did say ‘half’ did I not?). Sometimes they’ll uncover you and take out their rifles and shoot right away; while other times they’ll hit an alarm, which will then send out Nazis at full force and health on your way. Not a pretty sight at all.

However, this variety doesn’t last though all the missions; as most are just basic ‘shoot-the-enemy and complete objective’ sort of grouping that many have come to known throughout these kind of games. That’s not of course to dismay you into not giving this game a try—all I’m saying is that you shouldn’t expect back-up all the time, nor should you expect to be in the camera guise as well. Oh, well help won’t come to you forever, I guess

Now to talk about your character’s, Manon’s, weapons. At first you are equipped with a Colt 1911A1 Pistol; useful weapon but it only carries up to 7 pieces of ammo and then you must reload. At first you are also equipped with Petrol Bombs; poor, sappy, and pathetic explosives that will occasionally damage you, not the enemy. Nonetheless, as you progress you will eventually get your hands on automatics—like the Sturmgewehr 44 Assault Rifle and the Sten SMG. And soon a sniper rifle will be in your hands—not to mention stick grenades and the devastating Panzerfaust robot.

As you complete missions you will get one of three specific ratings; ratings include average for poor treatment of the level—because you had lost a lot of health and didn’t kill a lot of Nazi soldiers—then there is good for more beneficial exposure to the level, and then there is the excellent rating which tells you that you covered the level completely and thoroughly. In fact by getting the Excellent rating in well over 3 to 4 missions you will then receive a medal. There are over ten medals for you to collect in this game; medals don’t serve too much of a purpose, but they tell you just how well you have progressed in this game.

The main reason I had bought this game was for its two-player mode. While I was left sort of disappointed, I still however got a kick out of the whole thing. In two-player mode you and your opponent go against each other, head-to-head, using a different variety of weapons. While many will get a pleasure from playing this game against a friend, I for one didn’t. Sides you have to really advance in this game so you can finally get things going; don’t expect to be fully enjoying it right away since many things, as said, have to be unlocked.

Before moving on to the graphics and sound there is still one more point that I have to bring up; and this point justifies the whole inept purchase of this game. And this point is the game’s darkness. I, for one, have a T.V. that is compatible with both bright and dark colors; and when I put this game on I had the settings put on for the dark colors. Bad mistake. A T.V. with dark colors makes it impossible to look where you are going; especially since the first few levels have a dark sort of scenery (which is used to count down the amount of polygons used). So I adjusted the setting to the brightest of levels and then I finally started to play this game. This kind of pissed me off because for the first few days I was left with a dark unplayable shooter that horribly dismayed any of my future tastes for these kinds of games in the future. Also, there’s another small problem. Almost every time I come upon a swarm of enemies a huge lag takes place making you move very slowly, which might also disappoint some. Nonetheless, these are just some of the minor problems that I have experienced and have seen within this game.

As far as the game’s visuals are concerned, don’t fret—because they’re pretty damn good for a PlayStation game. There’s some great lighting effects done by DreamWorks, and also every Nazi and ally of yours are carefully detailed; hell when I was fighting Nazi knights in the Valhalla levels you can see how much detail was put in—everything from a Swastika symbol on their arms, to full plated metal covering their body, not to mention a helmet that cracks open once you hit it with an automatic submachine gun. This is a bold example of pure and untainted artistry; in fact the only ones who will probably be displeased are those PlayStation 2 owners sick of seeing sprites (which some PS2 games do have).

As for the audio; well let me just say that one will probably never be displeased with the natural and rather sad tunes, not to mention the impressive sound effects and the thumping of enemy footsteps coming down a hall just telling you that enemy forces are coming your way. The composer and producer of the music in this game is Michael Giacchino; the same person responsible for the audio in the first game, as far as I have heard of course. The audio is, in a way, the factor that brings one in to such a game. It is very melancholy, but that just fits right in with what the game is all about. Also, the French accent from your character is great, not to mention the weird German phrases that some Nazis yell at you several times. I’m surprised a soundtrack of sorts was never made since I’m sure that if one was made, I’ll be the first to buy it.

Overall, Medal of Honor: Underground is a great first-person shooter that unpleasantly dismayed me at first. After I got things straight, though, this game has been great; in fact this is one of the few good first-person shooters on the PlayStation. It has a level of challenge that will excite and please some, not to mention a great story that adds in to the original World War 2 story line about France and other accolades. All I’m saying is that you should give this game a try; if you don’t like it, then well… you don’t, but if you like it, then you can fully enjoy a rather sensational and astounding experience from beginning to end.

Gameplay: 8
Presentation: 10
Graphics: 9
Audio: 10
Multi-player: 7
Lasting Appeal: 7
Replay: 7
Final Score: 8

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/20/02, Updated 09/03/02

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