reviews\ Nov 21, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Medal of Honor Rising Sun - PS2 - Review

Bombs falling from above.  Bullets flying in all directions.  Giant ships sinking like they were nothing more than scrap metal.  As if you couldn't tell by the description, another chapter in the Medal of Honor series has arrived.  PC gamers have been treated to a couple of Allied Assault upgrades and an all-new title that will be released early next year.  This, however, is the first time console gamers have gotten the chance to play through a new Medal of Honor game since Frontline was released in May of 2002.  The subtitle, "Rising Sun," was taken from your new enemy – Japan.  It's Pearl Harbor all over again, and this time you have a chance to see and interact with it in polygonal form.

Rising Sun begins with less freedom than the previous game.  Objectively the game is a bit too straightforward.  I think everyone knows what happened on Pearl Harbor, so it's not a spoiler to say that you cannot win the first battle.  You can survive it, and your characters will unrealistically cheer after it's over (your captain quickly stops the cheering by reminding you of what just happened).

The brief introduction (with the main character listening to the radio and hearing the DJ say what a wonderful day it's going to be) is interrupted by the loud, horrifying sounds of bombs falling from the sky.  Even worse is the sound that follows a hit.  Gamers who are hooked up to a subwoofer will get the most of out of this, though anyone with a decent set of speakers should be fine.  Players are required to swing into action almost immediately after the bombing starts, but the game pauses briefly to intensify the moment.  The camera can be moved around at this point, bringing back memories of Frontline's creepy intro.

The explosions set the ship on fire, temporarily preventing the men from retaliating (or retreating).  At this point the game's graphics are good, though not to the point where it'll make your jaw drop.

It didn't have as big of an impact on me as I expected, but what I found outside of the ship was quite a sight.  Ignore the backgrounds and keep your eyes on the sky.  Dozens of ships continually fly by and do the only thing they can do –bomb Americans with everything they've got.  Being stuck on a ship makes the game feel cramped, but that can't even compare to how it must have felt to have actually been there.  "Cramped" wouldn't have been enough to describe it.  Giving the player any amount of freedom during this battle would have taken away from its authenticity.

Unfortunately, by not giving the player any freedom, it comes across as being a scripted, interactive event.  You shoot down a few planes and then the game moves to another segment.  The new segment has you do the same thing, only with a more powerful weapon.  It's exciting, but it's the video game equivalent of a popcorn flick; you sit, play and will likely want some snacks.  That's a far cry from the sleep-stealing masterpiece released last year.

The Pearl Harbor stage is emotional, but not to the extent that I was expecting.  One could assume that it was toned down because EA didn't want people to think they were insensitive.  I for one wouldn't have wanted it to be more horrifying than it is, but at the same time I'm curious to know how far they could have gone.

In reality, America didn't put an end to the war for four years.  I'm not very knowledgeable of the events that took place in between those years, but it seems like the game is a fictional representation of what really went on.  That's cool with me since I'd prefer to experience a fictional war with fictional characters (reality is too sad).

To retaliate, you and your men head to Asia to complete a series of objectives that also feel like scripted events.  There's a little more freedom in these levels but that's only because of the way they're designed.  These cities (one of which is a partial clone of a level in Frontline) are in ruins and have small cracks that can be crawled through, and there are a couple of ways you can go about dealing with a situation.  In general the game feels very linear though.

What happened to Frontline's great AI?  Disappointingly, these enemies are stupid.  They pull the same tricks that other, inferior first-person shooters use.  Rising Sun's enemies fail to hear footsteps; they aim poorly; and if you don't make it really easy for them, they might not even bother shooting!  At one point I cornered an enemy into a wall and he disappeared.  I searched the whole area and could not find him.  It makes no sense!  It's almost as baffling as the ending to The Matrix Revolutions.  Artificial Intelligence is not easy to program, but games should never move in the opposite direction.  Computer-controlled opponents are supposed to get smarter, not dumber.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 7.9
Medal of Honor: Rising Sun is like Thanksgiving dinner with a turkey.  You've got the stuffing, tasty sweet potatoes, and plenty of delicious pumpkin pie for desert.  But the substance – the thing that holds it all together – is nowhere to be found.


In general not much has changed.  The controls are virtually the same, the graphics are really impressive at times, and there's always a moving target to shoot at.  For one reason or other, the game never captures the essence of Frontline.


The linear gameplay would have been satisfying if every moment consisted of exciting, intelligent gameplay.  The game can be very exciting, but it's rarely intelligent.  Frontline's enemies were sophisticated.  They knew when to run, when to hide, and when to attack.  Rising Sun's enemies don't know anything!  Half the time they can't even aim properly.  It's sad.  It's like watching the villains of Black Hawk Down.  They couldn't aim if their life depended on it (and it did).  That made it safer for our troops, but this is a game.  In a game you want the enemy to be smart.

Graphics: 8
A lot can change in 18 months.  Frontline's graphics were advanced for its time and still look really good.  Rising Sun is most impressive during the Pearl Harbor battles.  Other than that the game is a little dated.  The game looks washed out at times, lacking the color vibrancy and texture detail of other EA games.  Look at Need for Speed: Underground.  Visually that game breaks new ground.  Rising Sun should have done the same.

Sound: 8.7
A new composer means a new style of sound.  The faster songs seem to be aimed at increasing the game’s intensity.  Although I can’t say they did that for me, I still enjoyed the soundtrack, especially its emotion-heavy tracks.  The sound effects are worthy of being heard through a high-tech speaker system.  

Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Not the challenge I was expecting.  At times there is no challenge!  If all you want to do is kick back and watch, that's great.  But the levels are long, and the save feature is limited to specific spots.  So if you die, you've got to start all over again.

Concept: 7
Rising Sun is an inferior version of Frontline.  Some of the stages are different, but others seem way too familiar.

Multiplayer: 7
Online multiplayer for broadband users – split-screen multiplayer for everyone else.

Overall: 7.5
Medal of Honor: Rising Sun a victim of the series' success.  If Frontline had stunk, we wouldn't have expected Rising Sun to be a masterpiece.  It's a shame to see a game that could have been spectacular turn out to be just a little bit above average. 


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