Greatest Game of 1999: Medal of Honor

Let’s start this off with the obvious — Medal of Honor deserves praise for starting a franchise that has lasted for well over a decade. It’s made a bazillion dollars for the Scrooge McDucks over at Electronic Arts. But the first installment also brought to the table a true innovation in this humble blogger’s opinion: one of the first true console FPS games since Goldeneye. It wasn’t all about Leroy Jenkins-ing each level, but instead it demanded some patience and stealth. And really, it was one of the first console games that didn’t seem like a straight-up port of a PC game. Although the best game in the series was probably Medal of Honor: Frontline for the PS2 (with the memorable D-Day opening), I still think Medal of Honor was very deserving of our Game of the Year in 1999 and one of the best games that came out for the PlayStation period.

Steven Speilberg, the crafty Jew that he is, produced and directed this game adaptation of his hit movie Saving Private Ryan. The story itself is now old and stale, but at the time it was a pretty cool idea — play as a fictional WWII soldier and try to stop zee Germans from ruining the world. During the game you infiltrate Nazi headquarters, bases, camps, and even steal a submarine. You shoot up German soldiers, scientists and German Shepherds. And you plant bombs/explosive devices to blow shit up. All pretty standard fare in today’s oversaturated FPS market, but back in the day this was a truly “authentic” first-person, WWII experience.

Stealing a sub was pretty sweet

The gameplay was also pretty innovative, with the ability to zoom and aim at a target to complete one of many headshots. Weapons were varied and realistic with the typical M1 Garand and Thompson SMG, but also German potato mashers and hand grenades. These weapons in particular are memorable because it was probably the first time that I can remember playing a game where the enemy could throw a grenade back at you or kick it off to the side. I also liked that you could dress as a German soldier to obtain documents and maps and get past the guards (bringing me back to my Thief days). On occasion you needed to show your badge and risk getting caught by German soldiers. If I remember correctly, these guys were always easy to find because they wore the black Nazi uniform instead of the standard grey, but still. Also memorable was the ability to inflict damage on different body parts — arms, head, chest, legs. For once, it wasn’t just aiming at a body and hitting it multiple times for a kill. You could be a little more strategic and go for a disabling shot before a final kill shot.

Right in the goiter!

Beyond the game play, I remember the music being amazing — nice and ominous during slow moments, and then it really ratcheted up as the action started to get crazy. William Morgan Sheppard was a great narrator (also of Civ 5 fame for you strategy players out there) with his deep, distinctive voice. I also remember that all of the war propaganda  in the game — between levels during load scenes and the “main screen” itself (an office that seemed to be in some kind of government intelligence office) — really added to the experience. I also liked that depending on your play style, the game gave you nicknames like “head masher” and “arm slinger” and also handed out stats after each mission: how many enemy baddies you killed, what body part you hit the most, etc. It also had one of the earliest forms of “achievements,” giving you a distinct medal depending upon your performance in each given level.

Last but not least, the cheats. What other game allows you to play as a velociraptor fighting Nazi soldiers?

Case closed!

468 ad