EA Games' Medal of Honor World War II action games have made a name for themselves with a combination of fast-paced, accessible first-person shooter gameplay, surprisingly accurate historical re-creations of wartime conditions, and outstanding audio. But the series had previously confined itself to operations on the western front (along with some missions in North Africa). With the next game, Rising Sun, the series will head east to the Pacific Rim to new theaters of war in Japan, Burma, and the Philippines. Rising Sun's single-player campaign, like that of other games in the series, casts you as a lone soldier who must fight his way through a series of unrelated missions against seemingly impossible odds. But like in the other games, you'll receive backup from computer-controlled allies against dramatic and highly cinematic backdrops.
In the game, you play as Corporal Joseph Griffin, who signed on for a tour of duty with his brother Donny, also stationed in the Pacific. Griffin begins his tour of duty stationed on the USS California in Pearl Harbor on the Day of Infamy, December 7, 1941. He's dozing off in his hammock, when suddenly a huge explosion jolts him awake, and he finds that his buddies are all scrambling out of the cabin while his commanding officer screams at him to get out of bed and get topside.
You're then thrust into the action from a first-person perspective, which you control using what has become more or less the standard control setup for console first-person shooters: You use the left analog stick to move forward and backward and the right analog stick to turn and aim. As you make your way to the upper decks, you get your first try at the game's optional objectives, which, if completed, can unlock additional bonuses, such as behind-the-scenes videos and interview clips. These optional objectives include helping unstick a jammed door and using a fire extinguisher to rescue some comrades who are trapped behind a wall of flames.
In this and other levels, Griffin is able to switch from being on foot to using stationary gun emplacements, such as antiair guns, mounted turrets, and field artillery. From what we've seen (and heard) these heavy-duty weapons are brought to life with what seems like uniformly excellent audio. Rising Sun seems to have very distinct-sounding firing effects for every single different weapon, from the roar of heavy dual machine gun turrets on a PT boat to the sharp report of the M1 Garand infantry rifle that Griffin can use to pick off enemies from a distance.
The game's audio, which is powered by THX technology, also seems to make great use of ambient sound and spectacular sound effects, especially huge explosions, which actually seem to reverberate slightly in enclosed areas. The sound effects are complemented by fully spoken dialogue, both from your American allies as well as from enemy Japanese soldiers, who frantically shout warnings when they sight you and call for help in the few instances in which you and your buddies have them pinned down.
Rising Sun's single-player game takes place over nine lengthy missions that take Griffin to several different areas in the South Pacific to complete a number of different types of objectives. These missions include an escort mission through the streets of a besieged island in the Philippines, a night ops mission in Guadalcanal, and an undercover intelligence operation in Singapore, among others. Each of these missions seems designed to be challenging, but not impossibly difficult. Many of the field operations, for instance, require you to creep carefully ahead toward your goal along paths that provide just barely enough cover.
For instance, in one of the game's later missions, Griffin must accompany a pair of demolition specialists though a dense Japanese jungle on the way to a strategic position known as Pistol Pete. In this level, he can use the heavy grass and trees to hide from his enemies in the early going, then use the natural rock formations later on in the level as cover when he begins taking fire from entrenched snipers who have the high ground. In each single-player mission, your next objectives can be viewed simply by pausing the game and are indicated with your trusty compass in the lower-left corner of the screen in true Medal of Honor fashion.
And Griffin isn't completely out of luck; he begins his career decently equipped with three different firearms: a handgun, an M1 Garand rifle, and a Thompson submachine gun. The Garand makes for a good sniper weapon, especially when Griffin uses the zoom mode, which requires him to stay still but lets him shift slightly to the side as he looks down the sights of his weapon to get a closer view of a far-off enemy. The Thompson seems like a decent weapon for close engagements, but it can't be fired continuously (the barrel climbs upward with the force of its fire), and if you're not careful enough to manually reload it, its relatively small clip often runs out right when you need it to last. Fortunately, Rising Sun has more than 20 different authentically modeled World War II weapons that Griffin will be able to choose from over the course of the campaign. This arsenal includes a healthy supply of grenades that can be lobbed a few feet or hurled across a long distance by pressing and holding the grenade button.
Unfortunately, Griffin's enemies are smart enough to try to escape from live grenades where possible, and they're also smart enough to take cover when they're under fire or need to reload. While the focus of Rising Sun will be fast-paced, accessible first-person shooter action, the game does model some real-world military tactics, including the Japanese "banzai" attack. Essentially, enemy soldiers that come within a certain distance of Griffin will forget about trying to shoot him and will instead come barreling toward him and attempt to skewer him with their bayonets. While you can attempt to charge headfirst into all of your encounters in Rising Sun, this desperate tactic on the part of your enemies may make you think twice about rushing into a heavily defended encampment. You may even want to brush up on your grenade-throwing and sniper skills instead.
In addition to its substantial single-player campaign, the PS2 version of Rising Sun will also support a co-op campaign mode that will let two players play on the same side through the single-player game simultaneously. The PS2 version of the game will also support four-player deathmatch and team-based multiplayer in your living room, and online multiplayer play for up to eight players at once. Medal of Honor Rising Sun is scheduled for release later this year.