Medal of Honor: Vanguard Review (Wii)

This may be a slightly unusual review of Medal of Honor Vanguard. Chiefly because, believe it or not, I haven't played either Medal of Honor or Call of Duty before. So if like me you want to know what all the fuss is about, or you want a fresh perspective on this popular franchise, read on!

Covering fire for that lackluster AI
Nice varied environments

I popped in the disc with baited breath not quite sure what to expect, apart from novel aiming schemes and Gamecube(ish) graphics. As a volley of music announced the gameís Wii- channel and automatically upgraded my Wii (parental settings I hadn't yet applied perhaps?) I was pretty impressed and ready to get into the game proper.

Jumping into the game, I was first struck by similarities with other first person shooters (FPS). From Halo for instance I recognised the proper orchestral score, the professional voice-work of fellow soldiers and the ability to recharge health by finding cover. Other FPS franchises such as Gears of War had also been brought to bear in Vanguardís cover system. A confident provision of 'stop and pop' game play, controlled via the analogy stick on the nun-chuck.

These aspects of the game were well executed and meant that I was happy to suspend my suspicion of other less impressive parts of the game, until I'd played through a few levels. The first of which introduced, what I understand to be a staple element from the upcoming Medal of Honor Airborne, parachuting into the mission arena. Again this was nicely executed with nun-chuck used to pull one cord and the Wii-mote to pull the other, you had a good degree of control of where you landed, although not to the extent promised by Airborne.

A moment of quiet before the storm
Squad tactics - Charge!

Before we cast a more critical eye over proceedings, let me cut to the chase. The key issue for any Wii FPS release is: do the controls work? The answer for Vanguard is mainly yes, but not without its faults. I was impressed by the feel of the main moving and aiming dynamic. The Wii-mote targeting provides excellent sniping control, although it is more clunky for close encounters. The most compelling argument here is that after 15 minutes or so the controls become second nature so that you become less aware of anything unusual and can just enjoy the game.

That said, there is still work to be done here. The mapping of actions such as running and melee to buttons at either end of the Wii-mote left me fumbling up and down trying to find the right one. The use of nun-chuck gestures also proved too sensitive and often introduced an unwanted crouch or jump when things got hectic. Luckily, the majority of these features were superfluous and could be ignored leaving a largely functional and satisfying sense of control.

My main gripe with Vanguard was the lack of any meaningful sense of human-like artificial intelligence (AI). Both allies and enemy troops are either obviously on rails, or simply repeating the same action over and over. This may be why there is also a lack of any computer players in the multiplayer modes. I would have been happy to forgive this limitation if there had been a co-op mode for the campaigns, but without either this turns into a solitary pursuit.

Clearing out the bridge
Time to find cover!

Overall the good points (controls, musical score and cover system) were enough to keep me coming back for more. And although I canít really find £40 of high quality gaming here, it certainly serves up enough to pick it up when the price starts to come down.

Top Game Moment:
Combination of the smooth analogue aiming and the great execution of popping out from cover with the nun-chuck. Crawling through the undergrowth, working from wall to wall and edging just the tip of your barrel out to get a perfect headshot has never felt better.