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Medal of Honor Rising Sun Updated Preview

We get one more look at Electronic Arts' latest entry in its World War II first-person shooter franchise.


Medal of Honor Rising Sun is the latest entry in Electronic Arts' ongoing World War II first-person shooter franchise that started on the PlayStation. The ensuing years have seen the series evolve into a solid mix of tight gameplay and cinematic visuals. Rising Sun continues that evolution in a new setting--the Pacific Rim--which affords some interesting new gameplay experiences. We had the chance to go through a near-final build of the game to see how it's coming together.

You'll find new environments--complete with new threats--to explore in the game.
You'll find new environments--complete with new threats--to explore in the game.

The game casts you in the role of Corporal Joseph Griffin and throws you headlong into action aboard the USS California, stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on "The Day That Will Live in Infamy," December 7, 1941. The first level works well as an introduction to the historical events that will frame the missions of the game. This level is also one of the best examples of the cinematic direction the game has taken since its ambitious, but understandably modest, cinematics on the PlayStation. The dynamic way the level changes and guides you, Halo-style, through the California to the main deck is very well done. As with previous entries in the series, you'll also find that the first level doubles as an in-game tutorial for the controls.

Another key element in Medal of Honor Rising Sun that sets it apart from its predecessors is a greater emphasis on story. While the previous games in the franchise have always had a narrative, Rising Sun's is given a more personal touch due to Corporal Griffin's brother Donnie, whom you'll encounter in the game's second level. As you progress deeper into the game, Donnie's capture by enemy forces adds another level of tension to the plot. The way the story plays out in Rising Sun has also been beefed up through the use of roughly 300 scripted sequences peppered throughout the missions you'll take on.

Some missions will require you to be stealthy, as opposed to gun crazy.
Some missions will require you to be stealthy, as opposed to gun crazy.

The scripted events tie in nicely to the absolutely stellar sound, which has long been one of the highlights of the series. You'll hear an excellent mix of ambient tunes, weapons fire, and voice (in a variety of languages that help give the game an extra layer of authenticity) in each of the missions. The whole package is topped off by appropriately sweeping tunes that nail the mood for the missions quite well. The fact that Rising Sun is THX-certified ensures the impressive sound work will be appreciated by A/V enthusiasts with high-end sound systems.

As far as gameplay goes, Medal of Honor Rising Sun features the same solid mechanics that have served the previous entries in the series so well. The core scheme is the now-standard console setup for first-person shooters. You'll use the left analog stick to move forward and backward and the right analog stick to turn and aim. Additional functions, like reloading, hitting enemies with the butt of your rifle, crouching, switching weapons, and zooming in your view, are all mapped to the PlayStation 2's face and shoulder buttons. Fortunately, the layout is intuitive and is easy to pick up.

The basic structure of the game is a pretty standard mission-based setup that should be familiar to veteran gamers. Every mission will feature a main objective and other optional tasks to perform. If you manage to accomplish them all, you'll unlock the game's plentiful bonus features. In addition to the single-player campaign, Rising Sun will also support a co-op campaign mode that will let two players simultaneously play on the same side through the single-player game. The PlayStation 2 version of the game will also exclusively feature online multiplayer support for up to eight players at once.

Ideally, you don't want to see this too often, since people like this always bring lots of well-armed friends.
Ideally, you don't want to see this too often, since people like this always bring lots of well-armed friends.

The graphics are probably the most uneven part of the game's presentation. While the game looks good, the visuals don't always match the other aspects, in terms of polish. There are definitely some very nice touches. The scale and detail of Pearl Harbor are extremely impressive, as are some of the later levels that are set in jungles and at night. However, you'll find some uneven graphical elements, like poor textures in the visual mix, as well. The same holds true for the character models, which range from extremely clean and detailed to rather plain and low-poly. The end result makes for an uneven visual performance that, while it doesn't detract from overall gameplay, we hope will be polished up a bit more before the game ships.

In the end, Medal of Honor Rising Sun is shaping up pretty well, as a whole. The gameplay is solid, and its presentation is an ambitious cinematic effort that does an excellent job of sucking you into the game. While we'd like to see some of the weaker graphical elements tightened up, the game is a very promising entry in the Medal of Honor franchise. Medal of Honor Rising Sun is slated to ship next week for the PlayStation 2. For more on the game, check out our exclusive movies of some of the WWII-veteran interviews you'll find in the game here.

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