Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Netherock Ltd.
Release Date: November 17, 2003
Buy 'MEDAL OF HONOR: Infiltrator': Game Boy Advance
The Medal of Honor series has had quite a few iterations since it's 1999 debut on the original Playstation. Each title has presented a similar take on the World War II-era: a single soldier overcoming great obstacles in order to bring his or her country closer to victory. Since the release of the first Medal of Honor, there has been a constant flow of World War II-themed games, whether they have come from Medal of Honor publisher Electronic Arts (Battlefield 1942) or elsewhere (such as Activision's Day of Defeat). It's obvious that games set in the era of the "Greatest Generation" are almost always hot sellers - and the trend doesn't look to stop anytime soon.
Medal of Honor: Infiltrator marks Electronic Art's second attempt at a handheld Medal of Honor game. The first attempt, a 2002 Gameboy Advance port of Medal of Honor: Underground (originally a Playstation game), was an abysmal failure, and, in the opinion of many a reviewer, tarnished the integrity of the series, which had not had a bad release up to that point. The GBA is not the best platform for first-person shooters, and while some releases have been passable, such as Id Software's Doom titles, Underground did not pass the test. Thankfully, Electronic Arts saw their mistake, and decided to turn things around for their next try at a pocket Medal of Honor game. Instead of another go at a miniature FPS, Electronic Arts gave developer Netherock the task of putting together a 2D top-down perspective MoH game, with hopes to capture the portable market the second time around. Looking at the amount of features packed into this game, including a solid single player mode, multiplayer support (both deathmatch and co-op), a few unlockables, and GBA-to-GCN link support when used with Medal of Honor: Rising Sun for the GCN, it seems that Electronic Arts may have gotten it right this time around. Have they?
The single player mode is, of course, the meat of the game. The gameplay is of the overhead shooter variety - similar to classics like Commando, if only on the surface. Like the other Medal of Honor games, there are times when making meticulous use of stealth is best, and others when unleashing all the firepower at your disposal is the best way of dealing with things. The slick presentation of the game usually lets you know which form of action is most appropriate for the given situation; for example, at one point in the first mission, you hear a digitized voice yell "ambush!" as a seemingly endless stream of enemies pours out from the nearby buildings, and later in the game, you hear a voice let out a surprised susurration, pointing out two German soldiers who are casually walking about. Still, however intuitive the game makes your choice of action, Infiltrator is anything but a cakewalk! Each of the five missions presents a distinct challenge. You will almost definitely die your first few times through any of the levels, especially the first time you make your way through the onset of the single player campaign; you are thrown right into the action, with bombs raining down on you, bullets flying towards you, and landmines littering the ground! Once you are used to handling the controls for strafing, and learn where the weapon-switching locations (places in the game where you can switch weapons, away from the prying eyes of the Germans) and medical kits are, it is much easier to navigate the levels, but the somewhat unpredictable nature of the enemy soldiers keeps things interesting. This is not a "memory game", which is an exemplary decision by the developer; Medal of Honor is not that type of series, and just because this is a 2D game doesn't mean it shouldn't follow suit with the rest of the continuance!
The one thing that made me uneasy about Medal of Honors transition to the second dimension (it's odd saying that about a 3D series!) was keeping the integrity of the World War II setting intact. Honestly, I felt kind of removed from the surroundings, in the historical sense of things. That being said, Netherock did the best they could with the hardware. To help set the mood for things, there are high quality cutscenes before and after each mission, which are put to good use.
The character sprites are passable, but the big-headed look seems out of place in a game with such a serious tone. They do the job, though. Besides, Infiltrator definitely puts the focus on strategic firefights, not graphical prowess, and in terms of gameplay, the sprites are nearly perfect, if somewhat buggy at times; it's not uncommon to see an enemy soldier turning from one side to the other at a frightening speed. Other than that one problem, things run smoothly.
My only major gripe about this game is the sound. Certain sounds, such as gunfire, work well, and fit in with the environment of the game. Most others are simply annoying. The digitized voices are somewhat annoying and badly done, even though they do serve to set the tone of the oncoming battle well enough. While that sounds bad enough, the alarm sound effect is worse. It would work well if it was used sparingly, but the same, repetitive, bleating noise is heard so many times throughout the game, it can drive players to ripping out their own hair (or just turning down the volume). The alarm sounds even when there couldn't possibly be an alarm set up anywhere within the level! If I could change one thing about this game, it would be to have the alarm sound reduced to being used only when alarms would be available to your enemy.
Infiltrator's musical score is simply mediocre. Not catchy or interesting in any way, but not horrifyingly bad. It simply plays in the background as you struggle to best complete your objectives, and does nothing more. I don't expect to hear anything especially outstanding musically in this type of game anyways, so I don't feel any disappointment in that regard.
Medal of Honor: Infiltrator is a solid action/shooter experience that is not to be missed, whether you like the other games in the series or not. It may not play much like a traditional Medal of Honor title, but it is easy to see that it is part of the same series, and not just because it shares a World War II setting with it's 3D brethren; the same method of executing a mission is very much intact in Infiltrator. Honestly, this is one of the better action games on the GBA. It may not be without its problems, but Medal of Honor: Infiltrator is definitely worth the time of any action-loving GBA owner.