World War II seems like it is becoming a generic setting. If you’ve played the Call of Duty series or a previous Medal of Honor game, then you know what to expect here. It’s the same setting, feel, gameplay, objectives, enemies, and allies you’ve seen time and time again. The tried and true formula that was once a great gameplay concept has simply been used too much.
There’s not much this game does differently. It’s mainly just another World War II First Person Shooter (WWII FPS). But for whatever reason you’re still itching to take down a few more Nazis on your PS2, then read on.
They somehow made the battlefield about as bland, dull, and unexciting as possible. You get a lovely mixture of grays and browns, mixed in a very dark tone all together. Night maps are especially bad, and distinguishing where you are going can be downright difficult at times. I know it’s an historical setting, but the game could look a bit more exciting. For the PS2 the graphics are fine, but it also isn’t reaching it’s limits. When you play it’s mainly a mushy mess of similar, boring colors. I’m not saying it needs to be colorful as much as it needs to be exciting. As it stands, the battlefields and graphics look so drab it could put you to sleep.
It also isn’t as much dull as it also is repetitive. You’ve got the Garand, Thompson, and various Nazi guns that all look nearly identical to other games. You’ve got generic teammates that all look alike. Nazis are even more bland and indistinguishable than your teammates. There is so little imagination or any sort of visual flare in the graphics, even though the graphics are decent from a technical standpoint decent for the PS2, it just is so bland.
The sound and music of the game are a good step above average, however again suffer from deja vu. You’ve heard the ambiance of warfare before, and what Vanguard offers isn’t too special. The voice acting is good, but after awhile you begin to hear the same phrases over and over. Still, they can directly relate to the game as your team will call out enemy positions, grenades, and offer other helpful advice in war. It all sounds authentic, too, even if you’ve got a feeling of deja vu while playing. The gunfire and other wartime ambiance all mix together well, but in the end it won’t be too exciting or unique. Still, it’s a fairly solid addition to the game, which is more than you can say about it’s graphics.
Everything from running, shooting, aiming, and other general controls is as you’d expect. However, there’s a couple new additions into the controls which makes this game a bit more fun. Take, for instance, the new sprint feature. Nothing revolutionary, but a good addition none the less.
One of the better features is the new cover system, which actually is quite effective and fun to use. The best idea is to lower your stance into a Crouch by using Square. Then, position yourself behind a piece of cover. Use L1 to pull up your iron sights. Now, your movement analog stick (the left analog stick) is used to change your position. Use Left and Right to peek around the piece of cover, or use Up to look over the top. This little addition is actually pretty fluid, and it’s implementation into the game works well.
You are Frank Keegan, part of the 82nd Airbourne. You get a little history and information on your unit, the operations you are a part of, and other tidbits during cut-scenes. In the end, however, they made the story completely irrelevant in the actual game. You just run fairly standard objectives: defend this house, blow up this bunker, clear this street. What is annoying is the lack of any character development, in-game plot movement, or any sort of interesting story devices used at all in the game. It’s just go from Point A to Point B without any real definition to exactly what is going on. The cut-scenes add a bit of interest, but aren’t the best storyline devices. Call of Duty picked up on the fact that in-game story devices do work, and do make the generally bland settings a bit more interesting. Sadly, that isn’t the case here.
To add to a lifeless story and bland setting is some good AI, but with increasing stupid behavior. Most of the AI feels scripted, and all the battles feel very set up. The best description is the game is “on rails,” meaning everything that is happening is supposed to happen that way and it is not dynamic. This lack of dynamic gameplay makes things a bit boring, especially when you have to reload a checkpoint and move through an identical battle again. Like I mentioned before, though, even though I’m not a fan of scripted behavior they did a pretty good job nonetheless. On the other hand, if you are able to somehow flank an enemy (which is very rare on its linear maps), their lack of dynamic attitude is their death. If you come at them from behind, instead of turning around and shooting you they’ll continue to face in a direction where you SHOULD be coming from.
It’s not all bad, though. The core gameplay is good, and is mainly split up into two tactics. First, you’ve got the run and gun tactic. This is get as close to your target as quickly as possible, and destroy him with your Thompson. Tactic number two is to use the cover system mentioned in Controls, and use your Garand to pluck off enemies from a distance, and from behind cover. Tactic number one is fun, and can be pretty effective, too. Tactic number two is probably a better idea if you’re going for the medals (such as staying alive an entire mission).
Receiving medals is also a pretty cool upgrade. If you complete a mission under certain conditions, you get a medal. Say you get enough headshots, never die, or parachute in on the proper location. All these will give you medals, which in turn give you weapon, health, and sprint upgrades. Not a bad system, and it makes the game a bit more interesting to play through.
In the end you’re only going to get 6 to 8 hours of gameplay from the campaign. Due to its scripted nature, lack of dynamic AI, and linear maps, there is little reason to revisit battles you’ve already played through. Add to that no online play, you’re not going to play this much. You can play with up to 4 players, though, using the PS2 Multitap. Still, split screen is never that fun. For $40, I wish the game would offer a longer campaign and more incentives (besides the Medal system) to revisit the campaign.