Medal of Honor: Rising Sun
EA's Honor series of hard-hitting, historically accurate (well, more or less) first-person shooters sails across the clear blue Pacific.
HOW WAS IT?
From scrambling through the USS California's burning holds to grabbing a turret and tearing into Japanese Zeros, Rising Sun's Pearl Harbor opening level packed even more of a punch than the last Honor's Normandy invasion--definitely a good sign.
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It may be called Rising Sun, but I'd say the sun's starting to set on the Medal of Honor series. The game does have its moments: Escaping from the bowels of a Pearl Harbor carrier, infiltrating a secret meeting of the enemy command, riding shotgun on a gunboat or in the back of a truck--most of Rising Sun's gameplay is solid-but-predictable first-person shooting, but each mission has a special event or two that stands out. As for replay, alterations to levels for the two-player co-op mode is reason enough to pick the game back up after the seven or so hours it will take you to finish the first time through. The problems--and they are big problems--are with the A.I. and graphics. The vast burned-out cities and dense jungle levels are ambitious in design, but in execution they look drab and simplistic. Convincing outdoor environments are always tough to pull off, but the big green walls, angular trees, and blurry textures in Rising Sun don't come close. As for enemy behavior, it's so embarrassingly bad at times, it's hard not to laugh. Japanese soldiers don't react to gunshots whizzing by, can often be found inexplicably staring at walls, and slowly spin in a circle when they miss with bayonet attacks, searching for a new target like a broken robot. It's not enough to completely ruin the game, but this kind of lazy execution makes me wonder how much life this franchise has left in it.
Aside from a few moments of forgivable melodrama, Rising Sun handles its Pacific theater setting surprisingly well. From Pearl Harbor to the Philippines to a dense Burmese jungle, the player's progress through the game follows the Allies' path to victory, which is quite cool. Otherwise, Rising Sun is a mediocre affair. Flat backdrops, jagged vegetation, and contrived obstacles destroy any sense of historical immersion. Characters don't even face you when they're talking to you--they turn to a predetermined direction and recite their lines whether you're nearby or not. And the enemy is entirely predictable, so even the firefights quickly become rote. This tour of duty is fit for serious war buffs only.
Rising Sun's depiction of Pearl Harbor and America's part in the war to follow is on par with a Hollywood feature. Unfortunately, it's also as much a victim of bad acting as most summer blockbusters. When a soldier, either friend or foe, isn't saying something stupid, he's often doing something stupid. No matter how stunning the set, it takes only a few missed cues to taint a shot, and here it seems like the A.I. forgot to read the script. Rising Sun's bang-to-buck ratio is high, but the epic presentation sometimes overshadows the gameplay. Some 35 percent of the action clamps you to rails and turrets in scripted sequences where every enemy seems determined to run or fly directly into your line of fire. Even so, I couldn't put this game down, if only to witness the next astonishing level.
Electronic Arts swears Rising Sun isn't just last year's Frontline with a new coat of Japanese war paint. For one, players will need to adapt to guerrilla-war tactics-- stalking Japanese soldiers in the green hell of island jungle terrain will be a world apart from marching through the shell-ravaged city blocks of the Western Front. And while these screens don't look so hot right now, EA promises it'll outshine previous MOH games when it's done. Also worth noting: You'll play as Marine Corporal Joseph Griffin in Rising Sun, but you'll act as his brother in the sequel.
Matching Frontline's D-Day invasion pound for explosive pound, Rising Sun has its momentous start at Pearl Harbor. You'll fire antiaircraft turrets, perforating the Zero-filled sky with hot flak, and then witness the fateful sinking of the Pacific Fleet from the safety of a PT boat. Other series firsts include splitscreen cooperative play and branching paths that add replayability to the tightly scripted skirmishes. And although we court-martialed the last Medars Nazis for being dimwits, the producers insist that once the new A.I. graduates from boot camp, they'll definitely induce post-traumatic stress disorder.