IGN Review of Medal of Honor: Heroes 2
When it comes to PSP first-person shooters, Medal of Honor is owning the platform. The last wave of FPS competition put Heroes above its rival Call of Duty by nearly two points on our scale, with other titles on the system falling even farther behind. If you're looking for pocket-sized WWII shooters, Heroes is the place to go for it, and it's true once again with Medal of Honor Heroes 2. As part of the elite OSS you're again dropped behind enemy lines, with seven single player campaign missions that set the stage for another dose of 32 player online action. Medal of Honor Heroes held the title this long, and it isn't giving it up without a fight.
Heroes on PSP was an amazing first effort for the system, but in order to really appreciate it players had to deal with a much thinner overall setup for the campaign, some decent - but far from pinnacle - visuals, and the general "we wish we had dual analog" design hurdle of PSP shooters. For the second dose of Heroes, EA's Team Fusion was able to tackle two of the three issues at hand, with the third of those remaining as a purely hardware issue. This time around you're getting a stronger single player campaign met with more diversity and production value, an improved graphical style, but the same general controls. If you were on board for last year's effort, you might as well stop reading now and pick up Heroes 2, as it brings the same impressive console-like feel to the PSP as its previous year did; now with a bit more flair to it.
Since this year's Heroes product was brought to Wii as a primary SKU, there was a bit of danger in what the PSP product could end up looking like. With so much focus on bringing the best possible experience to Nintendo's console it'd be easy to drop support on PSP and just port out a mediocre product, but that's far from the case. PSP is getting nearly the same experience as Wii got - minus the IR-based Arcade mode - overall, with missions, sub-missions, online, and customization included in that experience. It doesn't have the power of Wii, but PSP manages to actually hang in there quite nicely, becoming the best looking FPS on PSP in the process. On the tech side the game runs relatively well, locking in 30fps for the majority of the experience with a few pops and jitters during level boots or checkpoints. For the most part though, you're getting a console experience in your pocket, and that's one hell of an achievement.
This time around Heroes brings about a lot more event-based gameplay to the table. Rather than just running and gunning through the experience in a few hours, Heroes adds sniping, .50 Cal machine guns, mortar blasts, bazooka demolitions, and a ton of other mini-game like situations that mix up the design. It's all relatively straightforward, but it ends up rounding off the experience very well, giving the PSP version the feeling of being a true Medal of Honor title that's merely shrunk down to fit the system.
That being said, the game is still pretty short overall, with our initial playthrough clocking in at just over two and a half hours. Granted we'd been playing the Wii version for months prior, but with the aim assist and generally easier enemies (aim assist means fewer shots needed) it wasn't exactly a marathon game. For on-the-go gamers Heroes is a great title though, as it autosaves every few minutes, and has almost no load time at all; extremely impressive for a system that is often plagued by a sluggish processing. Team Fusion went all out to make sure the game was optimized to its fullest, and it pays off in a big, big way.
On the audio/visual side of things, Heroes is a pretty sizable upgrade from last year's efforts as well, with some of the best sound we've heard on a portable system, visuals that rival the PS2 (models are a bit low poly in comparison, but the general look is on par when considering the screen size and resolution), and overall production value that looks, feels, and presents itself like a console effort every step of the way. Where the game takes a few hits though is in the general scope of levels, and in the AI of enemy targets. Many of the worlds feel a bit too small at times, with missions often having you backtrack or cross over areas you've already fought in. It's obvious that production value was a huge part of Heroes 2, but it does end up losing that "wide open world" feeling you get on consoles in the process.
Our only other major gripe with the game comes with the sometimes debatable enemy AI, which seems to basically run from point to point, and then do its best to not look senile. You'll see a group of Nazi Stormtroopers sprint down the street, take their positions, and then often hold those until death. Occasionally you'll get a rusher or someone who tries to actively flank you or toss grenades your way, but play through the mission again and you'll see that many of those actions happen every time. We're in no way slamming the game for its lack of on-the-fly AI - some of which it has, though very basic - but this is another symptom of attempting such a large effort on PSP. The AI holds its own; it just isn't entirely lifelike, and will often make odd choices on where to take cover or how to set up a defense against you. Definitely something that could be improved for next year's effort.
On the multiplayer side of things Heroes 2 plays out just like it does on Wii, allowing for up to 32 total players online in deathmatch, team deathmatch, and infiltration. In our playthrough session we only had a chance to go hands-on with a few other players, as the game isn't released yet, but the team is using the same basic online structure as they did last year, and it shows, as there was literally no slowdown, no dropped frames, and nothing that really made the game feel like it was an online experience due to hit in performance. Players can add friends through EA Nation, dive into a game at any time (an excellent feature, as dropped players aren't a life or death issue), select their allegiance, appearance, and weaponry payload, and just play.
There's still no online voice support for PSP, which is something that simply needs to be included for next year, as the on-board quick-commands are far too simple. You can bring up a menu that freezes gameplay and either type using nine key or select one of six preset commands, but the process is slow, wasting tons of time during the heat of battle. The game simply needs voice chat. This year's online package includes six maps for deathmatch and team deathmatch, as well as two maps for infiltration. It's less overall than what players got last year, but the experience is still extremely impressive, allowing you to tweak any options you'd want, hold votes to have maps changed and players kicked, and of course rise to the top of the online ladder through ranked matches. You're getting an impressive online package that rivals not only last year's efforts, but also the Wii console version.
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