This may be a bit of speculating on my part, but after watching his buddy George Lucas and his company LucasArts become a successful software powerhouse since the early days of Point & Click classics like Zak Macraken and Maniac Mansion, my guess is that Steven Spielberg must have gotten tired of being a mere spectator. Not to be outdone by his 'Film School Generation' compadre, Spielberg expands his recently formed media empire (with fellow moguls Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen) Dreamworks SKG into the videogame industry by setting up Dreamworks Interactive and then putting them hard at work on realizing his vision of a Saving Private Ryan-esque game. Thankfully, I assume Spielberg has more class and integrity then to trivialize and commercialize his own gut-wrenching World War II masterpiece film by brandishing its name directly on to a game. Rather, the developers have done something unique by drawing from the same research and expertise that was incorporated in the film (Captain Dale Dye, the military consultant who trained Tom Hanks and co. for their roles also worked over the developers of the game). The results from the newly formed division is a well-crafted unique vision onto its own called Medal Of Honor (MoH).

The media and public have been quick to refer to MoH as the PlayStation equivalent of GoldenEye 007, Nintendo 64's own legendary first-person shooter (FPS) and I am inclined to agree with these comparisons. Both games incorporate short self-contained stages with mission objectives. Both games have fairly aggressive computer enemies that possess deadly AI (artificial intelligence) and precise hit-detected animations when struck in particular areas (the game even records groin shots. Ouch!). And both games feature competent Multiplayer features (though MoH will only allow two-player battles). Of course the main difference being that MoH is set against the backdrop of one of Histories' major aggressions, WWII while GoldenEye is based on one of film's longest running franchise, James Bond 007.

This distinctive setting cast players as the role of Jimmy Peterson, a soldier who joins the ranks of the elite covert operations unit, OSS trying to stop the Nazis right before the critical juncture of D-Day. The developers have taken the theme and backdrop story very seriously and it shows because the WWII iconography in MoH is captured beautifully not only in the costumes of the characters and the design of the architecture, but it also permeates through the detailed movie-like orchestra scores that make up the background music. It further radiates through the interface and menu choices that are all cleverly represented in metaphor (i.e. Save and loading menus are depicted as office desktop 'In-Out' boxes and control options are handled by timely fashioned radio dials.) There's also vintage full-motion video footage 'educating' the player of past events and relevant information during mission briefings and successfully completed mission. More importantly, the WWII theme should be integrated into the gameplay and in MoH is successful in that respect as well. Mission environments and objectives have a level of authenticity, depth and dimensionality rarely found in videogames because they are partly based on actual historical events and operations like sabotaging enemy equipment and weaponry or infiltrating Nazi bases undercover. Players are also given a selection of time appropriate weapons that doesn't go overboard with any wildly sci-fi absurdity.

The only real issue I had with was that MoH is that while its billed as a sophisticated World War II (WWII) simulation, that grandiose declaration can't mask the final presentation from what it really is, an aging first-person shooter. Had MoH had been released at around 2 years ago when GoldenEye rocked the charts, the graphics and visual style would have been hailed as cutting edge. But today, inspite of maximizing the aging PlayStation hardware to its fullest, MoH still looks extremely dated and technologically unimpressive. Graphical 3D glitches and lack of the latest special effects are all too apparent. The gameplay while having interesting and clever twists due the WWII setting, also have a bit of that 'been there, done that' feeling. Nothing seems revolutionary, but rather evolutionary and even the Dual Shock controller (don't even think of trying MoH without one) which I thought would be ideal for FPSs, didn't perform as well as expected.

Like I said, earlier, had MoH been released at around the same time as GoldenEye, you'd be hearing me singing a much higher tune and dubbing it the 'GoldenEye Killer'. But like many of today's PlayStation games, despite possessing some truly extraordinary qualities, they seem a little late coming out of the gate. Stylistically and conceptually, MoH is a smoking contender that's bogged down by the technological limitations of the PlayStation. Still this game is game with good production values with nothing to be ashamed off. There's plenty for developers and Spielberg to be proud of. Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Chi Kong Lui
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