EA Games Medal of Honor: Vanguard
- Stunning atmosphere, varied missions, varied gameplay.
- Occasional A.I and framerate issues, short single-player campaign, check points are few and far between.
Despite a few notable flaws, Medal of Honor: Vanguard manages to stand out from the W.W.2 FPS crowd.
Price$ 49.95 (AUD)
The Medal of Honor series started the recent blitzkrieg of WWII-themed shooters, and has since spawned about a million sequels.
With Vanguard, we return to some of Europe's greatest operations, like Market Garden and Varsity. This time the focus is on the 82nd Airborne Division, the first brave men to set foot on any given battlefield.
The Tip of the Spear
For the single player campaign, you take on the role of Frank Keegan, a Corporal paratrooper. Instead of marching to each battle, you'll bounce around Europe, dropping into the thick of conflict wherever needed. Right from the very beginning, you leap out of a plane and control your descent into a chaotic tempest of bullets, grenades, and hoarsely shouted orders.
The gameplay is lean and fierce, and as in previous MOH games, it is more pop-from-cover than run-and-gun. The enemy is always entrenched and it takes some meticulous movements to root them out. There is a great flow to the levels; many times, after clearing out the frontline troops, you can kamikaze rush to finish off the holdouts, while other times you must defend a building from advancing forces. Each combat situation presents new challenges, fostered by well-designed environment layouts. When you need to crawl on your belly to avoid snipers, convenient foxholes and trenches provide sneaky routes through the danger.
There are also several multiplayer modes supporting up to four players via splitscreen. Aside from the standard deathmatch, capture the flag, and king of the hill, there is a mode called scavenger hunt, in which players scurry to pick up supply drops that float down from the sky.
It's All About Atmosphere
The graphics look damn good for a PS2 game. You'll be fully immersed in the game and forget about next-gen promises mere moments into the first mission. The performance can slow down sometimes, but considering the graphical quality, distance visibility, and dense action, the framerate is actually pretty sturdy. The sound is excellent, of course, with realistic explosions, ambient sounds, and music that is beautiful but unobtrusive.
Despite all of the beautiful visuals and audio, there are a few gripes to be had. While the game touts weapon upgrades, in a normal playthrough you may only encounter a whole two enlarged magazines. Whoop-de-doo. The AI for the most part is decent, but the occasional spotty moment will have the AI behaving stupidly or oblivious to your existence. But the biggest issue is the sparse amount of checkpoints later in the game. During the last mission, you'll have to slog through fairly difficult sequences for more than a half hour, and if you die they expect you to do it all over again! All it takes is one unlucky grenade and you'll be cursing at the screen. It's not that the game is too hard, but come on--we should not be asked to repeat forty minutes of slow, methodical progress.
The game is also quite short. Normally we don't mind short and sweet, but you could seriously finish the game in one long afternoon. Still, despite some frustrations, the game is mostly an intense, exciting, and worthy entry in the long-running series.
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