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Medal of Honor: Vanguard
Score: 87%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: EA Games
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: First Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
Medal of Honor: Vanguard is yet another installment in the WWII first person shooter series. As always, the music is fantastic. Sweeping and orchestral, kicking in at the height of battle, the music will move you and helps to immerse you into the experience. Voicework is good, as it always is in the Medal of Honor series. However, some of the cut scenes are annoying. Well, they are just fine the first time you see them, but when you are forced to watch them every time you die without the option to skip them, they become grating. And you will die. Over and over again. But more on that in gameplay.

As for the graphics, they are about average. Not too great and nothing too offensive. The water is quite gorgeous, I must say; however, the frequent pop-in of bushes and trees can get bothersome.

In Medal of Honor: Vanguard, you'll play as Corporal Frank Keegan, a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. You'll be dropped behind enemy lines numerous times and have to fight your way to victory, sometimes by yourself, but usually with your team. Missions range from securing areas, defending and destroying bridges, ridding an area of snipers, and so on. You'll begin with one or two guns, but you have the option to drop an existing weapon and grab up an enemy's weapon after they have been killed. Personally, I find that as long as I have a rifle with a decent scope, I am fine. You'll have to test out numerous weapons to find out what you are most comfortable with.

You'll begin by being dumped out of a plane, needing to guide your parachute to the areas indicated by the flares set on the ground. Once you land, you'll generally be bombarded by enemy fire, so it pays to hide out and regroup with your team. You'll begin by picking off the enemy, however your team rarely seems to be much help. It seems that enemies continue to spawn until you move to the area that you need to be in, according to the game's script. If you don't move forward, forget about your team making a move. They will sit and wait on you. So you make your move and then they join you, but there will be many times that they will flat out get in your way. Say you are needed to sweep an area of snipers. Well, one of your guys is going to stand right where you need to be to make the first kill, poking his head around the corner to check things out - as if he is going to do something about it. So you have to go out in the open to make the shot. Argh! Alas, there is no friendly fire, so I couldn't even gain any satisfaction by shooting them in the ass. However, I will say that the A.I. is not terrible throughout the game. It's bad in the beginning, then gets better, then gets annoying again towards the end.

While I can't say that the missions are widely varied, they are fun, for the most part. While Starscream (who is reviewing the Wii version of MOH: Vanguard) had no love whatsoever for this title, I actually really enjoyed it. My only major gripe (aside from the sometimes stupid A.I. and unavoidable cut scenes) is the insane length between some checkpoints. For instance, there's a mission towards the end where you must clear out a factory. You go in and are ambushed, then right after, there's a save point. It takes you maybe 5 minutes (and that's quite a stretch) to get here. Then, there's not another checkpoint for a little while - not until you get past a tank and delve deeper into the factory. But that's not the worst part. Eventually, you work your way to the above mentioned sniper clean-out. Now this is an insanely tough area that is very long. You have to go so far before you get a checkpoint that I have turned the machine off in frustration several times. I just think the checkpoints should have been a little bit more forgiving and occurred a tad more often.

There's also a multiplayer aspect to Vanguard, but it's not all that much fun. You can battle it out with up to three other players, selecting whether to be on the Allies' side or the Axis'. Then you can select a skin. Your weapons are assigned to you based on your choices. You can play in King of the Hill, Capture the Flag, Deathmatch or Scavenger Hunt. All are fairly self-explanatory. If you are just playing one other person, it's kind of boring since it's just you and them, running around killing each other and stealing things back, etc. Medal of Honor is, once again, all about the single player experience.

You can choose one of three levels of difficulty: Recruit, Veteran and Elite which translate into Easy, Medium and Hard. On the Recruit difficulty, it takes a quite a few hits before you die and the enemy is not so vigilant. In fact, on Recruit, I literally chased several enemies from their post near a standing Machine Gun into a building. This is definitely where you want to be if you've never played an FPS. On the Veteran setting, the enemies are no walk in the park, but you can still tolerate a few good hits before you die. On Elite, the enemy is all over you and you had better duck for cover. A lot. 3 hits and you are dead.

Also, as I said above, the game gets a lot more difficult when you have to keep repeating the same areas over and over due to a lack of sufficient checkpoints. It seemed that the game was artificially lengthened this way and it didn't make for a more fulfilling experience, just a more frustrating one.

Game Mechanics:
In the last few installments of the Medal of Honor series, they seem to have moved more to squad-based combat than the lone wolf situation we saw in the earlier versions (which I preferred, actually). Perhaps this is due to the screaming success of the Call of Duty series. Who knows? Now, don't get me wrong - I don't mind squad-based combat at all if it is done well, but you're teammates' A.I. leaves much to be desired in Medal of Honor: Vanguard. But I have already exhausted my rant on that in Gameplay.

There are no health packs in Vanguard. Instead, as you get hit by gunfire or grenades, your screen turns reddish. If you don't get out of the line of fire, you will die. If you do, you will recover. Stand too close to a grenade, however, and you're dead. Speaking of grenades, they have adopted the same grenade interface as was seen in Call of Duty. If one is thrown around you, a grenade icon appears with a red arrow indicating the direction and its proximity to you. If it's really red, then it's really close. This helps you to know where to go when you have several grenades thrown your way.

All in all, I found Medal of Honor: Vanguard to be a lot of fun. It has its problems, but I still love a good WWII FPS on my PS2 and Vanguard fits the bill. If you want a little (and I mean very little) paratrooper action with some good shooting missions, go pick this one up. If you are leery because of some of the things I have mentioned, give it a rent first.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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