These days, Electronic Arts must expect the Medal of Honor games to sell solely on the strength of their name alone. The newest game in the acclaimed World War II-themed series of shooters, subtitled Rising Sun, adopts the same formula used by its predecessors, but it's fraught with lots of minor gameplay problems that eventually add up to one major headache. Rising Sun isn't completely without merit, since it comes packaged with some nice extra materials and mostly solid production values, but the weakness of the gameplay itself undermines what could have been a much more enjoyable experience.
Rising Sun brings Medal of Honor to the South Pacific for the first time.
If you've kept up with the Medal of Honor games over the years, or even the legion of World War II games in general, you'll notice right away that Medal of Honor Rising Sun represents a noticeable shift in setting. For whatever reason, nearly all WWII games focus on the various European operations that took place during the grueling years of the war, but Rising Sun steps up to the plate and moves the action entirely to the Pacific theater of operations. The game's missions will take you to various hotspots in the Pacific conflict, such as Manila, Guadalcanal, and Singapore, and, in true Medal of Honor style, you'll be tasked with accomplishing big objectives with a small force (sometimes limited only to yourself). Rising Sun isn't the longest game, with only around eight missions that usually last 30 minutes to an hour each, but there's at least a decent amount of variety in its locales.
The Medal of Honor games have always been about presenting dramatic, larger-than-life action sequences that make you feel like you're really in a war--or at least a war movie--and Rising Sun does a respectable enough job in this regard. The game starts off pretty strongly by thrusting you right into the middle of the Pearl Harbor surprise attack, which will have you trying to escape the innards of your besieged ship. You then man the guns on deck and later do the same on a PT boat against waves of incoming Zeroes. Though this sequence is, at its core, a basic rail shooter, at least it's exciting. After Pearl Harbor, Rising Sun reverts to the tried-and-true FPS gameplay that the Medal of Honor series is known for. You've got the standard WWII-era armament at your disposal, including the M1 Garand rifle, Thompson submachine gun, and M1911 pistol. FPS fans should honestly be pretty familiar with the weapons in the game, so there are no big surprises here. Your objectives always place you behind enemy lines and usually call for you to complete such tasks as disabling artillery, infiltrating a secret meeting of Axis leaders, and even sinking a Japanese carrier. Of course, you'll have to kill every enemy soldier in your path to complete these goals.
All of the important pieces of the Medal of Honor formula are present in Rising Sun, so you may be wondering what's wrong with the game. The answer is, it just doesn't work right. The basic mechanical elements feel extremely clumsy and unfinished, at times, which often makes playing through the missions feel more like a chore than a good time. The most egregious offenders are the enemy and teammate AI and the location-specific damage system that governs enemy deaths based on where they're shot. During our time with the game we observed such absurdities as enemy soldiers who ran in place up against walls and enemies who stood motionless and faced the other direction while we noisily dispatched of their comrades only a few feet away. Some enemies will attack you viciously, but others will simply stand there waiting for you to reload your weapon so you can shoot them in the head. Then again, headshots aren't nearly as lethal in Rising Sun as basic anatomy would dictate. You can often squeeze off what looks like a solid shot to the head or chest with your rifle, only to have the enemy stagger briefly and then continue firing as normal. It can take two or three subsequent shots to put him down for good, which doesn't do a lot for the game's attempts at realism. Similarly, a shotgun blast to the legs will sometimes cause an enemy to hop about comically for a moment, and then he'll charge at you at a full sprint. There are a few other rough edges lurking about, such as occasionally shoddy collision detection that makes enemy soldiers clip through floors. All of these little problems just make the game feel a little sloppy. Things like functional AI and solid hit mechanics are essential to the fun of a first-person shooter experience, and that's precisely where Rising Sun fails.