Medal Of Honor: A different kind of first-person shooter
By Callum Smith
Before there was Call Of Duty, Battlefield or even Halo, a first-person shooter stood alone amongst the other great PS1 games of its era. I am, of course, talking about Electronic Arts’ Medal Of Honor, which resides on my shelf to this day as one of my all time favourites.
Medal Of Honor was a WW2 game that tasked its lead character, OSS operative Jimmy Patterson, with sabotage, infiltration and assassination deep behind enemy lines. Its popularity endured for many years, unsurprising when you consider how much hard work was put into developing it. Medal Of Honor’s gameplay was unique in comparison to the many ‘run and gun’ games in the genre in that it treated you like an actual OSS operative by giving you the freedom to choose your next move.
“Medal Of Honor’s gameplay was unique in comparison to the many ‘run and gun’ games in the genre”
You could pick enemies off in a variety of different ways, assuming you remained undetected, by utilising the items in your possession or found nearby, such as mounted machine guns. As someone who is crazy about stealth games, my favourite missions saw Jimmy, silently completing tasks such as eliminating officers and stealing their papers to access certain areas. It brought a real sense of variety into the game, rather than just killing everyone in sight.
My first taste of Medal Of Honor came when a copy was given to us by a friend of my dad’s. We were only 4 or 5 at the time and my dad would let us play it behind my mum’s back as it wasn’t the sort of game she would have wanted her kids playing. When I say that a copy was given to us, I do mean a copy, it had been ripped from an original disc and we were only able to play it as our PS1 was chipped. Upon loading it, a screen came up that allowed you to turn on a load of cheats. As a fully fledged cheater at the time, I could never resist and loved wandering around, enjoying the brilliant graphics safe in the knowledge that I couldn’t die or run out of ammo. That didn’t prevent one of the later missions terrifying me however! I remember you’d be exploring the underground sewers and a bunch of dogs, which scared the hell out of me, ran at you trying to bite you. Despite having invincibility I didn’t want to put myself through that horror.
“I was now stranded behind enemy lines with only my strategy and guns to defend me”
At that age playing with the cheats on made shooting rockets at every Nazi I saw pretty satisfying. It’s only since growing up that I realised that it undermined the developers who would spend years building these games. So a few months ago I decided to give It a fair playthrough and was soon struck at how hard it was now I have lost my sense of invincibility. I was now stranded behind enemy lines with only my strategy and guns to defend me. It felt so different. I felt vulnerable and, as a result, was far more cautious which was presumably the original intention. Though could I still remember where the enemies were located, I had to I apply different tactics like looking for cover and flushing them out with grenades.
For the first time I was playing the game like a real soldier and loved it even more as a result. One thing I didn’t count on was the fact that if you die you have to start the whole level over again which gave the game a brand new element of frustration, especially during certain levels where the Nazis were equipped with bazookas. I would be trying to blindly dodge out of the way and would end up cornered which would inevitably lead to my demise. It did make me wonder why they didn’t introduce checkpoints or an easier save mechanic.
“For the first time I was playing the game like a real soldier and loved it even more as a result”
One big difference between Medal Of Honor and its modern equivalents is that back then it felt natural that to aim whilst locked in a single spot, whereas it is now standard that you can aim and move at once. The controls did feel fluid though and were easy to grasp initially, though took longer on my recent playthrough having since adopted the XBox controller as my default. However I was soon back into the swing of it, firing V2 rockets at a Nazi base, sufficiently immersed so that I felt as though I was actually there, feeling the tremors and hearing the deafen explosions around me.
To wrap up I want to say that if anyone is thinking of replaying this game, or discovering it for the first time, it’s absolutely worth it and you will still need your wits about you to survive. Unfortunately Electronic Arts have since put the series to rest but, in the current climate of remasters, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it make a last stand for all the die hard war veterans out there that loved this game.