Last year, Dreamworks Interactive Studios introduced gamers to a new direction for first-person shooters. Unlike the fictional realms of facehuggers, ghastly creatures and the like...the essence of historic events were harnessed and delivered in the form of the critically acclaimed title, Medal of Honor. Its timing arrived on the peak of interest which was generated over the last few years with the release of such films: Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line. Dreamworks endeavored to produce a variety of realistic aspects inspired by the literary works of several prestigious individuals which, notably, included over 500,000 women who demonstrated an exemplar degree of heroic contributions during World War II. Based on their backgrounds and counsel, Medal of Honor: Underground was developed not only as means to create an memorable experience, but to pay homage to the bravery, fierce patriotism and amazing determination exercised by the female ensemble.
Enaging this title proved to be quite an experience in more ways than one, as not only had I been unfortunate to play the original title, as our editorial team previously reviewed, but to gain an appreciation and historic fondness of the events which took place several decades ago.
Dreamworks takes us back to Europe, during a period prior to Medal of Honor. In the latest chapter within the saga, Underground centers around the era when Nazi morale peaked with confidence as they conquered the territories of France, allied with Italy, and deemed their forces stationed in Europe as impenetrable. The new storyline introduces us to Manon, the key figure and heroine of this chapter, who discovers the grim situation at hand - outmanned due to the various leaders of the French Resistance who've surrendered and opted to collaborate with Nazi forces. Manon realizes with her home destroyed and her homeland occupied, with no aid to come for another four years, her only options become clear: surrender, collaborate...or resist. As Manon, you will embark on a journey throughout the European continent, join the OSS forces and thwart the German onslaught.
Without a doubt, Medal of Honor: Underground is packed with plenty of new features, while staying true to the formula that made the original title one of the most successfully selling games for 1999. Featuring seven missions that span a total of 24 levels, each area consists of specific mission objectives that must be met in order to advance to succeeding stages. With a new complement of weapons, enemy vehicles that range from motorcycles, half-tracks, battle tanks, and Gestapo thugs, a diverse degree of challenge awaits as you travel to various locations throughout Europe, North Africa, Paris and even the narrow alleyways of Casablanca.
In comparison to the controls of The World is Not Enough, developed by Black Ops, Dreamworks retains the tight and intuitive controls and possess a comfortable control setup (which can be configured by the various choices available for Dual Shock users). The setup is as follows:
X - Fire
Square - Reload/Action (to interact with doors, switches, etc)
Circle - Change weapon
Triangle - Jump
L1/R1 - Strafe left/right
L2 - Crouch/Crawl
R2 - Aim/Look
Dual Shock Analog pads allow the two analog controllers to control centering your view, by respectively "pressing in", whereas the right controller operates Look/Strafe
The default configuration is relatively easy to become accustomed to, and before long it was second nature as I began gunning down enemy soldiers with ease. Naturally, having significant aptitude in any FPS is essential, especially in Underground as Dreamworks incorporated a sharper level of AI. Don't expect mindless drones to await you to pick them off. This factor was immediately apparent much like TWINE as soldiers and various enemy types field of vision prompts them to alert others of your presence, retreat behind walls and initiate various tactics accordingly to thwart your success. Your weapons range from a series of authentic types that include pistols, rifles, grenades and heavy-duty weapons. To aid in your navigation throughout levels, simply examine the compass, which serves as a damage indicator (incurring damage will indicate the direction in which the gunfire originated) and health indicator (meter reaches zero and its game over...c'est la vie!) Of course...there are various health items, composed in the form of medicinal canteens, health kits and field surgeon packs deposited in predetermined locations throughout the levels you'll encounter.
Unlike The World is Not Enough, Underground offers a higher degree of incentive and interaction to boot. For starters, while TWINE features a substantial degree of weapons and gadgetry, only a select few proved to be effective, not to mention minimal thought was required to portray the role of a spy. While in contrast to the game in discussion, strategy, resource management and overall effectiveness plays a greater role...which factors into the actual interaction itself. Examples can be seen in the new features introduced, including the use of vacant vehicles, a "buddy system" (allows a second player to join in on the action; thus helping you to accomplish unique tasks and undercover clues). Lastly, a special "disguise" mode that allows you to don uniforms in order to elude detection from enemy soldiers. To add further appeal...situations may arise where your credentials will not work, and thus to minimize suspicion, can opt to take pictures of the soldiers with your camera. An amusing feature indeed...everyone loves a Kodak moment!
Graphically, the 3D engine is very clean, all the environments portray a sense of realism and vastness. Hallways, caverns, and other area all possess ample textures and light sources. Plus, there's a substantial diversity in enemy types as aforementioned above, so you needn't worry about "seen one, seen them all". To set the proper atmosphere, Underground only features a small degree of music which ensue during specific points as Manon engages enemy forces. This added interaction proves to be truly exciting since you're directing in the action, as opposed to watching a cinematic sequence.
As with all first-person shooters, gamers are always highly intrigued as to the multi-player diversity and functionality. While the buddy mode doesn't adopt the standard multi-player type, it should be accredited to delivering an exceptional level of teamwork and interaction between two players. With a small quip of collision detection rearing its head, the overall aspect plays out in excellent fashion and is certainly an innovative feature that future first-person shooters developed for the console market should adopt.
Dreamworks and Electronic Arts have once again, succeeded in delivering a package designed to create an unforgettable experience. Boasting a new degree of integrity, challenge and features that warrants newcomers and fans of the original title lock and load, and discover another best selling title in the making.
· · · Bahn