Reviewed on: PS1
Steven Spielberg is considered by many men and women to be a creative visionary and a genius. Whilst I’m not sure if he deserves the title of genius he certainly proved that walking the fine line between madness and genius can pay off big time. How I hear you asked? Well it all started with Saving Private Ryan. Saving Private Ryan is a classic piece of WW2 based fiction, its epic but captures intimate emotions, action packed but believable, features one of the most memorable opening sequences of all time, has an incredibly emotional soundtrack and Tom Hanks.
Anyway, the film was a huge success and Spielberg came up with a mad idea. Why not make a game that does what the film did? Whilst this was a crazy idea Sony, in their desperation to have their own FPS that could be their Goldeneye took the idea on and DreamWorks Interactive released Medal of Honor for the PS1 and popularised what would soon become the most over saturated and tired genre in the world. The WW2 themed FPS. But that’s another story.
Medal of Honor has you play as Lieutenant Patterson as part of the OSS and features a number of missions for you to carry out your Official Secret Shenanigans* in and gun down plenty of Nazis. The missions range from action packed Nazi hunting affairs in small French towns to secret infiltrations of train stations to storming a top secret and ludicrously fortified missile base. The game blends action with stealth and features a pretty cool if now rather cliche story of Second World War espionage penned by Spielberg himself.
Each mission starts with a briefing before you are dumped into the world to fulfill a group of objectives. You can finish the mission without having done the objectives but beware this will count as a mission failure. At the end of each mission you are evaluated on your performance and packed off to the next point in your journey across Europe. Like I said the story is good enough but it is a bit bog standard. To be honest though, despite wanting to be gaming’s Saving Private Ryan, Medal of Honor is all about gameplay, not story.
You are given a set of authentic WW2 weapons and some missions feature all guns blazing action whilst others feature stealth. Sometimes you even have to disguise yourself as a Nazi officer and flash identity papers to gain access to new areas. Through the course of the game you’ll locate downed planes, infiltrate submarines, plant explosives on cutting edge artillery and hunt groups of Gestapo officers. The level design is consistently superb and the missions are varied and paced in such a way that mean the game never gets boring. There is a fair amount of challenge but the game never has you against something that is unfair, you are always given the tools you need so the game is not a cake walk but isn't exactly Dark Souls either.
Outside of the story there is also a split screen two player death match mode which, although lacking the depth and customisation of the game’s most notable competitor (Goldeneye) is still great fun and adds some good value to this already excellent package.
On a technical level the gameplay is also rather bloody brilliant. The only thing I would say is that the default controller set up is painfully old school, fortunately you can change it to one that is more friendly to modern gamer’s. Other than this hiccup though the game is a blast to play. The control set up is intuitive after you tweak it a little bit, the player movement is tight, the enemy AI is bad for our time but pretty good for back then and the fact that enemies react realistically to being shot in the leg, having grenades thrown at them and when they die is a really nice touch. In fact this game is full of little touches like that with my favourite being that you can shoot off an enemies’ helmet to get the perfect headshot. There are many modern games that don't have that sort of attention to detail so this is really amazing stuff.
In terms of sound and graphics this game is also excellent. The soundtrack and sound effects to this are second to none. The guns sound great, the sound of a bullet hitting a helmet is spot on and that drum roll type thing you hear when you select something on the start menu is bizarrely iconic. The graphics don't quite match up to these high standards due to the poor draw distance but the character and gun models are solid and like i said the little pieces of detail make for very nice touches. Also I found it pretty impressive that the frame rate manages to stay consistent even when you are in crazy heated gun battles. This is something that games have always struggled with and its a pleasant surprise to see an older game do it so well.
Whilst the game doesn't manage to surpass Goldeneye as Sony had hoped it has become such a classic in its own right and managed to bring such popularity to this awesome genre that the comparison seems pointless. Sure you can play games that are better technically, have better stories and far superior multiplayer but if you want an awesome WW2 experience then look no further because although this game didn't invent the genre it did mark its peak and I doubt any WW2 FPS will ever be as good as this. Is Spielberg a genius for this game? No. But that doesn't meant the game isn't any less iconic.
This is a true classic and is a must have for any fan of FPS games or even just games in general.
*Not what OSS stands for.