Medal of Honor Heroes Review
Now that Sony's PSP has been out for a while, we all knew it'd happen eventually: WW2 shooters. And with Activision's announcement of a new Call of Duty for the PSP and EA's release of Medal of Honor: Heroes, we know that the PSP has definitely hit it big time. But can the full scale of a World War II action game really be done justice on a portable? The answer, unfortunately, is that EA certainly hasn't made it happen.
Medal of Honor: Heroes sends you out as an American soldier to battles all over Europe. You'll have a squad of guys with you who have the most basic of AI, and the German forces you go up against are pretty much no better. Some of the levels, like a mountainside city in Italy, almost look good for the PSP platform - almost. But as you play on, you'll find that both the gunplay and WW2 atmosphere, arguably the most important things in these games, really comes up short.
You'll get the usual arsenal of weapons in Heroes, including German guns which you can pick up. But you'll only have one main gun to use, in addition to your pistol and grenades. The controls are definitely stretched to their limit here on the PSP, as every button gets used - some for multiple purposes. The analog stick controls movement and the face buttons control your view. The right trigger fires, and the left one gets you a pretty rudimentary "iron sights" view where the game's generous auto-aim is put away temporarily. The down button on the D-pad lets you crouch, left and right on the D-pad let you switch weapons and reload, while pressing up on the d-pad lets you use a health kit out of your inventory (holding it for a couple of seconds) or you can tap up to use items and pick up stuff of the ground. Tapping the left trigger will get you a melee attack, and of all buttons, the Select button allows you to jump.
The problem comes with the control scheme - I have an issue with every PSP game that expects you to aim with the face buttons, and the PSP really is just not a good system in my opinion for a control scheme like this. You can set the game to switch them and put the look controls on the analog stick and the movements on the face buttons, but that feels even more alien to me.
Even then, once you get a hang of the controls you'll find Medal of Honor: Heroes very easy. Then when you turn up the difficulty, the difficulty becomes frustrating rather than challenging because you'll find that trying to achieve mastery of these controls is like driving with your eyes closed - you get killed and you still didn't have any fun in the process. One major problem with the gunplay is that grenades that go off on the other side of a wall right next to you will still hurt or kill you, and the AI enemies on the other side of a wall from you can actually stick their gun right through the wall and shoot you. It looks so ridiculous that it almost seems like the development team did it on purpose.
The missions are completely non-sensical, too. At one point you're actually changing history by capturing an Enigma machine, as an American soldier, in Italy (as opposed to the real Enigma machine capture which the British did from a disabled German U-Boat). You'll play as a few different soldiers from past Medal of Honor games, although you'll likely find that since the voice acting in Heroes is so sparse, there's little difference from one to the next. Most missions last 15 to 20 minutes long, and with only 15 total in the game, you shouldn't be expecting any kind of epic single player experience.
Where this game shines, though, is in the multiplayer modes. Unlike many PSP games, Heroes includes both ad-hoc and infrastructure play, and EA even lets you download a PC program to set up and create a server for your PSP game - up to 32 players are supported this way (the ad-hoc action is for up to 8 players, and game sharing isn't supported). One nice part is that for infrastructure play you can join games in progress, and the inclusion of six multiplayer modes is nice - one is plain deathmatch, the rest are team-based, objective matches. Of course, you'll still be fighting the controls, but at least these players won't be shooting you through walls.
Medal of Honor: Heroes delivers a lackluster WW2 experience on the PSP platform. It's got boring combat and some dull missions, but the multiplayer is definitely worth a try if you love online gaming on your PSP. If you're just looking for single player, though, then pass on Heroes and just stick to home systems for your WW2 fix for now.