Video games are meant to grab a player immediately, draw them in, and then keep them there. That’s what the Medal of Honor series has always done well, offering staggering accounts of real World War II events in game form. It’s always incredible, and the opening level of MOH: Frontline, still stands as a masterpiece of game aesthetics. That’s still true for Rising Sun, opening with the brutal, hard to even watch telling of Pearl Harbor. After that, this is the same game it’s been since 1999.
It’s immediately apparent that this is the same engine running under game. For those opening moments, taking down Japanese Zero’s in an intense, T-rated firefight, it’s a miraculous achievement in making players ignore the problems. It’s just unforgettable, and this is far more immersive (though not as brutal) as any Hollywood production. It’s when you’re back on land, beginning the assault on Japanese land, that everything falls apart.
For a game that seems to strive for so much realism, it just sticks out when you blast an adversary point blank in the head, only to have him get back up and keep firing. From a distance, it’s even worse, filling people with rounds, only for them to still put up a tough struggle. Hit detection is spotty, poorly programmed, and it kills any sense of being there. The controls are fine, using everything the controller has to offer. They’re adequate, and yet there are rare moments where they do become a little confusing.
Mission structure is still the same, playing a lone soldier trekking through various locales to find people/things, and then get out. This is all frustrating, as not only is it linear as it could possibly be, items are located in ridiculous places, and it’s hard at times to see what you’re looking for. Textures are muddy, sloppy, and just plain ugly. This hasn’t been optimized for the Xbox at all.
If there’s one thing the series has always done well, it’s audio. This is a THX certified product, and that means you’ll never hear better audio in a current generation game. It’s not just about explosions and fancy surround sound. It’s the clarity of guns being fired. It’s done so you can actually tell the difference between firing indoors and out. That doesn’t mean the thrills of being in a war zone (being fired at from all directions) is lessened at all though.
This game seems more tuned to be a demo. Give players the Pearl Harbor experience to lure them into buying the full game. It would work as a business strategy, but consumers won’t be happy after blowing $50 when the demo gave them what they needed. With the competition it faces now, this series needs a complete overhaul before it ever stands another chance.