|Medal of Honor Collection (2007)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available for: PlayStation 2
I think it’s safe to say that I have now officially had my fill of “Medal of Honor” games for a good long time. Having actually never played any of the titles in the series, I was suddenly hit with the one-two punch of “Medal of Honor: Vanguard” and this collection. My only question is how many damn ways can you serve up World War II in a first person shooter game and have it remain interesting? The answer is you can’t, but apparently there are enough hardcore fans of this series out there that warrants keeping it on life support for an indefinite period of time.
The “Medal of Honor Collection” includes three hit titles. You get the thrills and spills of “Frontline;” the anti-Japan fest that was “Rising Sun;” and the whole British take on the shebang known as “European Assault.” Each game is a dose of WWII history as acted out in classic battles and scenarios filtered through the PS2. Each also follows a familiar pattern of being an “average joe” Marine, lucky to get out alive of the opening moments and continue through to the end with glory and honor stuck to his shoe like toilet paper. There are tons of cut scenes built on black-and-white footage, while the game’s hero narrates over the top, talking about how tough the war was. Yeah, it’s all a bit formulaic, especially when you play these beasts back to back.
That’s not to say each title doesn’t have its moments. Indeed, the opening beach-storming battle of “Frontline” is a bit bewildering. You get thrown into the action immediately, with shit blowing up all around you and bullets whizzing over your head as you attempt to lay down some ground fire for stranded soldiers. Likewise, the opening attack on Pearl Harbor in “Rising Sun” gets impressive when Our Hero is working the guns on a small boat, and a huge Japanese fighter plane flies overhead (which must be shot down). The problem is, taken as a whole, all of these games are pretty much the same thing, just a different location.
“European Assault” gives the player “control” of three other soldiers, in effect pulling a “Rainbow Six” without the actual advantage of having a small team at your command. It also introduced the silly “adrenaline” function that slows down everything and causes your attacks to be twice as lethal. Yeah, it was a gimmick and it shows. At least all that silliness was ditched in “Vanguard,” but even that game suffered for various reasons, not the least of which was somewhat stupid AI.
Apparently, that’s been a problem with this franchise for a long time now, as each fares no better. Why bother hiding in cover when you can basically just run up to the enemy and lay into him with a rifle butt or hot lead? You’ll have plenty of time to do either while he’s busy running around, acting like his head’s been chopped off, or taking sweet time to reload. The aiming system in these games also leaves a lot to be desired. I could have sworn I shot a soldier point blank a number of times, only to have him not react at all. If you want a special hell, be sure to try “Frontline” with its simplified “classic” controls. Trying to line up the targeting reticle was never so much fun with frustration.
But hey, that’s “Medal of Honor” for you. Either you’re in or you’re out. Each of these games has its exciting and engrossing moments, but they’re few and far between to break up the monotony of running through these on-rails experiences. It basically all boils down to simple rush and attack strategies and grinding out levels just to see what happens next. Ah, and then there’s just…more of the same. Still, for all the WWII video game junkies out there, “Medal of Honor” apparently provides a good fix. Personally, I prefer my military shooters to be more along the lines of “Gears of War,” but that’s another tale entirely.