review from Once at the forefront of console first-person shooters, the medals pinned to this franchise are starting to tarnish with age. Medal of Honor: Rising Sun offer some slick scenery and sharp new features, but poor A.I. and mostly linear levels limit the fun. Purple Heart If you mentally pictured the Medal of Honor series packing up stakes and moving to the Pacific theater, Rising Sun is exactly what you’d expect, almost like an expansion pack. That’s the main problem with this game—while it’s familiar and fun in that Frontline way, the essential elements of evolution and innovation are sorely missing. The weak A.I. is the main culprit. You fight alongside friendly soldiers on a regular basis, and it’s cool that more people are actively involved in battle. Unfortunately, you’re the only one who can reliably shoot straight or use effective tactics. Whether they’re friend or foe, NPCs generally position themselves in plain view, moving in obvious patterns while firing inaccurately. If you pause and just watch, battles are rarely resolved until you step in with a decisive salvo. Also, there’s little incentive to attempt a tactical approach. You can safely take your time while firing from an exposed position, or charge in recklessly and blaze away. Even bumping up the difficulty to Hard doesn’t improve matters—it mostly means that you take damage faster. Rising Sun will be pretty easy for experienced players. The levels also retain that claustrophobic, linear feel. You’ll regularly encounter small, branching side paths, but they don’t shake the game free from its corridor shackles. Some levels offer great interludes that feel more open (like the awesome charge up a hill toward a howitzer emplacement), but they’re too few and far between. The end result is gameplay that isn’t nearly as captivating as that of current stars like XIII. But the action is as solid as it was in Frontline, and if that works for you, you’ll be thrilled with Rising Sun. Rising Star On a more positive front, Rising Sun features terrific multiplayer support, including split-screen co-op action and PS2-only online play. New tweaks—like checkpoint saves, a dedicated button for tossing grenades, and down-the-barrel precision aiming—provide nice modernization that makes the combat handle as smoothly as always. Mostly, the production values are as high as fans of the series expect. The Pearl Harbor levels deliver a truly jaw-dropping spectacle—the amount of activity on the screen is as astounding as the fantastic smoke and lighting effects. Other levels, though, mix gorgeous scenery with occasionally funky textures and animations. The audio also isn’t quite as strong—the dialogue and sound effects are as intense as usual, but the music strains too much toward heroism and isn’t as powerful as it used to be. Setting Sun When choosing between the three mostly identical versions, the PS2 gets the nod for providing online play, while the Xbox sports the spiffiest graphics. The GameCube version trails in third with more muddy and choppy visuals. True-blue Medal of Honor fans will still enjoy Rising Sun’s cinematic style, respectful and historically accurate atmosphere, and heavily arcade feel. But for many, the game will feel too familiar in a fast-food way, lacking that old Medal of Honor magic. Here’s hoping that next year’s operation, a sequel to Rising Sun, will muster a return to glory. Graphics: 4.0 Sound:4.0 Control: 4.5