Medal of Honor Vanguard

Medal of Honor Vanguard

EA's hallmark shooter prepares for one final mission on the PS2. Impressions within!
Author: Kyle Sutton
Published: January 23, 2007
Producer Joe Fielder put it quite aptly when describing Medal of Honor Vanguard, calling it more of a "classic" MoH game, while Airborne, its next-gen successor, intends to reinvent the genre. And for a franchise that has paid its dues to the FPS genre for many years now (while somehow managing to reinvent World War II as a pristine setting time and time again), it makes sense EA would give PlayStation 2 owners one last go on the current-gen battlefield before promoting the franchise to the cutting-edge hardware. Some recent eyes-on (and hands-on, but boy did we get whopped) time with the game provided an early sample of what we could expect from the final product.

Vanguard follows the trail of the elite 82nd Airborne Division, with players seeing the role of Corporal Frank Keegan. In the demonstration, we took on a mission dropping us into Holland, with the intent to clear a path for the British and, with luck, ending the conflict by Christmas. The year is 1944. From an aircraft high above, we received some quick pep talk from our comrades before taking the leap without a second thought. We were able to catch a bit of the action below with a free-form first-person view before deploying the parachute and actually taking control of ol' Keegan.

The target: a ratty two-story house far below where German soldiers were currently taking refuge whilst exploiting the windows as ideal vantage points. As clouds of green smoke ascended from a hole in the roof, our point of entrance became clear. It also proved to be the first instance of exemplifying one of the game's fundamental policies: assess and execute a mission as you see fit. For Fielder, it was as easy as making a clean landing in the attic of the abode, unnoticed, before greeting the in-house company with an "explosive" housewarming gift at their feet.

Our entrance, however, was a slightly less spectacular. Missing the mark on drop-in meant a frantic scramble to the house, and we paid dearly for our mistake, as it was notably more difficult to clear out the shack than had we taken the enemy by surprise. With one objective down (which tied directly into the game's checkpoint system, as it appeared), a trio of soldiers rendezvoused within and, with a firm kick to the door, led the charged onward.

Under a cloud of ceaseless enemy fire, we found ourselves taking refuge from sharp shooters in the windows above and a number of Germans manning automated guns. Taking them out required a sharp combination of scope-utilizing rifle shots and a few well-placed grenades (with, once again, Fielder making up for our own lack of tact in the mission). Had we decided to be so brave as to recklessly charge forward (as opposed to, or we don't know, taking cover), showing an enemy the business side of a rifle butt at close-range (assigned to the R3 button) proved quite effective.

Continuing our march forward, the mission's ultimate objective came to our attention: to locate and destroy an AA (anti-aircraft) gun being stowed high and away in a tower. Gaining access to it was no walk in the park, with German soldiers manning the windy stairs we had to traverse. Once at the top, though, taking out the massive weapon was as easy as activating a charge on it and then standing back to witness the fireworks. A job well done, if we do say so ourselves.

While the Medal of Honor series has never prided itself too heavily on spectacular visuals, Vanguard will feature twice as many polygons as the previous entry, Fielder pointed out. From the looks of it, character models were noticeably sharper, some enhanced lighting effects really drew out the nearby explosions, and the framerate churned along with nary a hiccup. Environments were sprawling, a quality we've come to love in our first-person shooters, and to having full-on control of the game as we did, from parachute deployment right on through to our crash landing,

Press events arguably aren't the ideal places to assess a game's audio work, but Vanguard did seem to harness its fair share of chatter amongst comrades. According to Fielder, who actually handled dialogue and voice casting on the project, the spruced up AI will make mention of when an opportunity presents itself, for example, telling you to "run for it" if an enemy manning a turret is seen reloading.

As we twitch with anticipation to see just what a new era of hardware can do for our beloved franchises, it's a venerable thing to see developers still willing to invest time in the current-gen consoles and attend to those dedicated fans (ok, so maybe we hear the faint moos of a cash cow as well). Medal of Honor Vanguard deploys this March, and we'll be sure to keep you posted as the conflict develops. This is World War II, remember; who knows how it'll end!