EA's Medal of Honor series has been established as the most popular World War II first person shooters on consoles since the release of the first game on the series on the Playstation, with all Medal of Honor titles selling more than a million units worldwide. The latest entry in the series, Medal of Honor: Rising Sun, is the first trip into the Pacific Theatre for the series, not to mention the first time it has debuted simultaneously across all three home console formats.
December 7th, 1941
A day that will forever go down in infamy in history. Japanese fighters launched a sneak attack on the US Naval base of Pearl Harbor, crippling the fleet and taking the lives of 2,400 Americans in the process. This attack awoke the sleeping giant, the USA, and forced them to dismiss their isolationist policy, and get involved in World War II, both in the European and Pacific theatres. You play as Marine Corporal Joseph Griffin, and must assist the US forces in their attempts to stop Japanese forces from gaining control of the Pacific Theatre.
Fighting in the Pacific
Rising Sun follows the formula of its predecessor, Frontline, to a T - it even includes all of Frontline's flaws and bugs too. Essentially, if you've played any other lazy EA update in the last 5 years, then you should know what to expect. We find it hard to believe that the worst of the flaws in Frontline are still present after 18 months. Rising Sun just feels clunky and dated - right down to the horribly loose control method, complete absence of anything resembling AI and over-reliance on scripted events. EA has left a vital component out of their game that's the major requirement of a good sequel - progression.
The single player game is broken up into 10 short, linear missions. Griffin starts out on the USS California during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and has to make it to the deck of the ship. This opening sequence, while fairly exciting, really lacks the punch that the Omaha Beach landing had in Frontline. Once you've gotten to the deck, you get stuck in a rail shooter-style sequence where you are placed on a small boat, and must shoot down hordes of mindless Japanese planes that don't fire back too often. Once the initial stage is passed, the excitement quickly fades away as the missions break down into standardized, linear FPS missions. These missions are filled with all of the typical WWII game sequences you're familiar with, from roaming through streets, to sitting on the back of trucks, to manning machine guns, and finally, riding elephants with machine guns tied to their backs. It's nice to see that EA felt the need to rewrite history. Scattered throughout these exercises in mediocrity are hordes of utterly mindless Japanese soldiers. I don't know if EA was trying to make a point here, but we've never seen such mindless AI before. Arguably the most laughable display of this lack of AI comes when Griffin gets behind a machine gun emplacement, and waves of Japanese soldiers run at the machine gun, not firing back, just begging to be mowed down. Somehow, I just don't think that was the way it happened. EA have also forgotten to add reliable hit zones to their characters, as you will find that sometimes bullets just seem to have absolutely no effect on the enemy. I don't recall ever hearing that the Japanese were impervious to lead.
EA have added several multiplayer features to Rising Sun, including a standardized deathmatch game as well as a two player co-operative campaign. While co-operative modes in first person shooters are usually a saving grace, they rely on the game beneath actually being enjoyable, and Rising Sun fails in that department. If you're lucky enough to have a Playstation 2 and the online peripheral, you might be happy to know that Rising Sun offers online play, but as we mentioned, its completely stock-standard, so don't expect brilliance, and you won't be disappointed.
Rising Sun's campaign is inexplicably short, lasting a player of average skill no more than 10 hours. There are a few other interesting materials on the disc, including "Letters from Home" which are letters from Griffin's sister, various war documentaries, and interviews with soldiers who fought in the Pacific Theatre. While it may not have been EA's intention, these documentaries are actually more interesting than the game itself.
War Ain't Pretty
Neither is Rising Sun. In fact, there hasn't been any form of upgrade made, so Rising Sun looks almost the same as Frontline. The problem is that Frontline looked positively mediocre last June, and we're now 18 months into the future, and Rising Sun looks horribly dated, much like a Playstation 2 launch title. Rising Sun features all the elements of an ugly title - poor modelling, lack of detail on those models, stiff and clunky animation, murky and blurry textures, and a horribly inconsistent framerate. As per usual, EA do not offer 60 Hz or widescreen display modes.
There is actually one part of the Rising Sun experience that is highly positive, and that's the sound. There's nothing to really set it apart from other WWII games' sound, but it still comes together well. The orchestral soundtrack is great and changes dynamically to suit the situation. Voice acting is good with the exception of one or two actors. The best part of the experience is the sound effects, as they really help the player to become immersed, especially if they have surround sound at their disposal, as Rising Sun joins the line of new EA titles that feature THX certification.
Better than the Affleck film - just
Medal of Honor: Rising Sun is a painful experience. You know that EA could do better, but they just slapped together a game that doesn't improve on its predecessor at all and in fact retains all the flaws of its prequel. It's also a linear experience that will be finished in a short period of time. Even more painful is the knowledge that casual gaming fans are going to lap this up, thus continuing EA's domination of the market place. Do yourself a favour, and give this one a miss.