1/28/2007 4:59:03 PM
Medal of Honor: Heroes PSP Review
By Rich Dixon
Before we begin, let's take a moment to thank the Nazis: without German's brutally repressive right-wing regime, the video game industry would be severely impoverished. After we're done shooting zombies and demons, what's left? Nazis, that's what. It's a grim little irony of the twentieth century: the political movement that turned "genocide" into a household word later became one of the bedrocks of the entertainment industry, a stock villain pulled out on every occasion to serve as gun targets for generations of little boys and girls. And now we have the latest game in this grand tradition of killing pixelated Germans: "Medal of Honor: Heroes," which despite its familiar plot may be the best PSP shooter yet.
If you're familiar with the "Medal of Honor" series, you already know the "heroes" referenced in the title. In this version of the game you play as three MoH protagonists past in a series of scenarios throughout Europe during WWII's dying days. Sometimes you're in Italy shooting Italian and German fascists, sometimes you're in Belgium shooting Belgian and German fascists, and sometimes you're in Holland shooting German and Dutch fascists. The scenarios are short, as is fitting for a handheld title, and pretty much all involve variations on a single theme: you're capturing and holding bridges, or capturing and holding city squares, or capturing and holding bunkers. If this sounds a lot like that old familiar "capture the flag," you're exactly right: with the help of an overhead map you're locating and capturing actual flags planted in the ground. To get there you have to fight through a number of enemies, and to hold it you'll have to fight off waves of the same. Succeed and you can move on to the next mission; fail and you're back where you started, since this is a game with sequential scenarios and there's no skipping the levels you find boring or excessively challenging.
I'm generally not a big fan of shooters in general, and PSP shooters in particular. The FPS genre puts a premium on fast and accurate targeting, and with the PSP's imprecise analog stick, that tends to be a pretty unrewarding task. I can still vividly remember how un-fun it was in "Coded Arms," shooting wildly and usually missing targets that were far too difficult to bring down. "Heroes," however, provides a much better experience. You get a little on-screen circle that shows where you're aiming, and if what you're shooting at falls entirely or mostly within that circle, you're usually golden. There were a few times that I failed a level and yet still managed to kill upwards of 25 enemies. If I'm going to die (on screen), at least I want to take a bunch of the fascist bastards with me, and this games allows me to do that.
But a bit more about those 25 enemies killed in a losing cause: if your experience is anything like mine, you'll have an easy time with the first ten missions or so and be feeling pretty good about yourself, and then when you hit Belgium the difficulty will rise dramatically. One level frustrated me so severely by throwing wave after wave of enemies at me – while I had only three NPC comrades who managed to get themselves killed immediately – that finally, in frustration, I pulled an Ender Wiggin and ignored everything around me in an all-out dash for the flag. What's worse, I actually managed to beat the level that way (mostly because, though nearly dead, I was surrounded by enemies who kept firing into the scenery because of poor AI targeting). Several of the levels are fun, but given that you have to play every level in sequence, more time should have gone into play-testing and balancing all the levels so that problems like this don't block gamers from accessing parts of the game
In sum, if you're into shooters and enjoy a chance to gun down Nazis who speak in accented English, this is a good choice for you. The FPS mechanics are a lot better than in competing titles, and as a result you actually have a chance to have some fun.
Graphics: 8. Not a lot of character detail here, but the landscapes look nice and the game presents all the visual information you need.
Sound: 8. I'm fond of the theme music. Otherwise you get the standard game version of Nazi speech: English with a German accent.
Gameplay: 7. The action is fast without being too fast, but a few of the levels should have been better balanced.
Story: 7. You get short little mission briefings that explain what you're trying to do and why, but otherwise the story is left to your imagination.
Replayability: 7. Ad-hoc and infrastructure multiplayer extends the action, but I'm still ambivalent about playing a multiplayer shooter on a handheld system.
Overall: 7.5. “Medal of Honor: Heroes” raises the bar for PSP shooters.
Medal of Honor: Heroes PSP Review