Medal of Honor Vanguard PlayStation 2 & Wii
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
The latest in the ever popular Medal of Honor series is finally with us. Medal of Honor Vanguard puts you into the shoes (or should that be boots) of Frank Keegan, Corporal of the 82nd Airborne Division. You'll engage in battles ranging from Operation Husky in Sicily to Operation Varsity in Nazi Germany with Neptune and Market Garden sandwiched in between. Such a game you would think, would have been tailor made for the next generation consoles. In fact it's arriving on only one of them, the Nintendo Wii, with the game also arriving on the PlayStation 2. We were fortunate to get our hands on both versions and it was interesting to see how it played on the two consoles.
Medal of Honor Vanguard offers a single-player campaign (that offers three difficulty modes) and an offline multiplayer mode that offers support for four players (you'll need a Multitap device on the PlayStation 2 to have four players). There's no online multiplayer support which is disappointing if not altogether surprising when you consider that the PlayStation 2, in general, has not been a great console for online play and that online gaming on the Wii is currently non-existent (at the time of writing).
The single-player game is disappointingly formulaic. You're given some black and white footage before being thrown into a situation that suddenly takes a turn for the worse and then you have to get out of the mess by completing a list of objectives to finish the mission. It's pretty entertaining stuff but it's all things we've done many times before having played several games in the series. What I'm trying to say is that the novelty and wow factor has been worn away and Vanguard offers no surprises and whilst this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it isn't a good thing for those who have been looking for something new in their Medal of Honor games. To make matters worse there are AI problems. The men that fight alongside you seem to be there simply to make up the number and give the illusion that you're not fighting on your own. In actual fact you might as well be as they seem incapable of hitting any of the enemy. Your own men have a knack of managing to block your view and get in the way far too often, which becomes very irritating after a while. These would be major problems except for the fact that the enemy AI isn't that bright either. When confronting enemy soldiers you'll notice them run for cover and then at regular intervals they will pop out from the cover just long enough for you to take them out. As long as you don't run wildly into a situation you'll never be challenged by the AI because of this behaviour, which is very unfortunate.
Of course having access to both the PlayStation 2 and Wii versions meant we had the chance to compare a typical console control system with that of the motion sensing Wii controls. It was certainly an interesting comparison and one that showed that there is still work to be done in finding the ideal method of control when using the Wii remote and nunchuk attachment. Playing through the PlayStation 2 version caused me no problems at all. The game controls as well as any other FPS I've played on the console. The Wii version however, gave me some problems and it took me a good hour before I was happy with the control setup. Even when I was fairly satisfied with the control setup, it still wasn't as good as I would have preferred. The various nunchuk gestures that you make to reload and change stance felt fiddly. Thankfully you could ignore them and rely on the tried and trusted method of button pressing. Aiming did feel good with the Wii remote although play sessions weren't as long as they were with the PlayStation 2 version due to having to keep your arm pointed at the screen. What's really disappointing with the Wii control system though is not that it doesn't work reasonably well but that it's certainly no better or indeed, as comfortable as the PlayStation 2 control scheme (although the parachuting segments were kind of fun with the nunchuk and Wii remote). However, if I had to pick a version to play for long durations it would be the PlayStation 2 version.
Graphically the Wii manages to disappoint once more. On the PlayStation 2 the game looks quite good with the character models and various environments all looking pretty much how you would expect them to. Load times are a little on the long side but are nothing too testing. The Wii version disappoints because aside from looking a little sharper here and there, there is practically no difference. Load times are quicker on the Wii version and the frame rate seems slightly better, although it's not that noticeable and both versions slow down a little when the action gets frantic (although it never becomes problematic). Whilst nobody expected the Wii to be a graphical powerhouse, it's becoming increasingly irritating to find that games are offering little or no improvements on the Xbox/Cube/PS2 generation of consoles. Let's hope that future titles manage to get a bit more graphical oomph out of the system.
The game does offer subtitles but they are disabled by default so you'll have to make sure to enable them before beginning a new game. The subtitles are displayed simply in white text. There are no character names or portraits placed alongside the text so it's not always possible to know who is saying what. All objectives are shown in text and can be recalled at any time. Tutorial messages are also shown in text. Those playing the Wii version will get extensive text and pictorial tutorial messages that show what all the nunchuk and Wii remote gestures do. Grenade icons warn you when a grenade has been thrown in your vicinity allowing you a chance to move as far away as possible from the blast (the icon disappears if you move to a safe distance). Timers appear onscreen when you've set a charge so you'll know how long you have to get clear. Some of the peripheral speech isn't subtitled but that doesn't really cause a problem. If you take damage the edges of the screen will begin to redden and providing you find cover you will heal causing the red screen edges to fade away. As with previous Medal of Honor titles, a compass shows you the direction of your objectives and also the position of the nearby enemies.
The Medal of Honor series has been around for quite a while now and chances are that if you've played any of the previous titles in the series then Medal of Honor Vanguard will offer nothing you haven't seen before and whilst that's not necessarily a bad thing, it will disappoint those who were looking for something more. The AI (both enemy and companion) is also disappointing and given there is no online multiplayer options it means you'll be spending most of your time having to deal with this poor AI. Whilst the control system on the Wii is OK it's certainly no improvement on the standard controls used on the PlayStation 2 version, which is disappointing. That's a lot of disappointments and in essence that's what Medal of Honor Vanguard is which in itself is very disappointing given the quality titles the series has produced in the past.
Medal of Honor Vanguard is disappointing in many ways. There's no originality here, the AI isn't up to scratch and it doesn't offer anything we haven't seen many times before. The controls on the Wii version are OK but don't improve upon the traditional control scheme that the PlayStation 2 employs which is both surprising and disappointing.