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Medal of Honor Underground (PlayStation) artwork

Medal of Honor Underground (PlayStation) review

"May 1940. Hitler has moved his Nazi war machine into France after a hasty surrender. Flanked by Goebbels, they watch gleefully as a formation of SS goose-steps down the Champs-Élysées. The Arc de Triomphe looms in the background. Standing for a photo opportunity, the Nazi leaders pose before the Eiffel Tower. Surely this black-and-white film will motivate troops fighting abroad, poised to lunge into the vast Eastern Front. The Thir..."

May 1940. Hitler has moved his Nazi war machine into France after a hasty surrender. Flanked by Goebbels, they watch gleefully as a formation of SS goose-steps down the Champs-Élysées. The Arc de Triomphe looms in the background. Standing for a photo opportunity, the Nazi leaders pose before the Eiffel Tower. Surely this black-and-white film will motivate troops fighting abroad, poised to lunge into the vast Eastern Front. The Third Reich in its heyday.

Inevitably there is a band of dedicated resistance forming to fight the puppet "government" set up in the town of Vichy. Paris is held in a grip of terror, all rules are dictated by what that tool Marshal Petain "decides". One fateful night, two scrappy resistance recruits, Manon and her brother Jaques, set off on a mission armed with nothing but crappy French pistols. The once cheery town, full of lovers and cigarette smokers, is now occupied with Nazi infantry. There's a truck full of explosives holed up in a building near the Eiffel tower, perfect for the burgeoning band of insurgents. Resistance during an occupation is inevitable. You're in Manon's boots, controlling her in the first person, as you follow Jaques down the familiar streets patrolled by Nazis. He's a master of the headshot, you're barely able to keep up. As the Eiffel tower appears in the distance, illuminated in the black of night, there's a slight accordion riff on the soundtrack. An aural reminder of the peace that once was, and shall be again.

This is enough to motivate you to keep on head-shotting, and it's simple with the PSX controller. As you're strafing to avoid return fire from nervous German soldiers, you can aim with the second set of shoulder buttons and plug him precisely in the dick if you so desire. However, you must push on until you reach the truck. Everything goes smoothly until a Nazi ambush appears at the gates. You retreat into the nearby catacombs while Jaques meets a very explosive fate. His martyrdom will always motivate you to press on into increasingly dangerous missions -- par vous-même naturally -- in this sequel that stays very much in the pulpy GoldenEye vein. The lame multiplayer is compensated for with the slickest presentation imaginable in the single player campaign.

Manon's transformation into a femme fatale occurs during the hairiest crash course imaginable in the barely lit tunnels cutting through these mountains of dead, mass graves dating back to the Dark Ages. You've got an automatic Sten Gun and it should be no problem blasting through helpless infantry. The Germans yelp in their native tongue, bullet hits look like puffs of dust, their death animations are varied and sometimes disturbingly realistic. The guns are rendered quite accurately, down to visible recoil and shell ejection; reloading the Sten looks really cool when Manon slaps in a fresh clip. She's like a French Terminator, or rather la terminateur. Emerging from the maze-like mass tomb with a kill count already well into triple digits, Manon acquires a panzerfaust, literally "armor fist", in a deserted cafe, once an area bustling with activity. The score becomes more and more ominous, yet builds to an uplifting John Williams-esque crescendo. Michael Giacchino continues his glorious streak with his scores for those wonderful Pixar films.

Not to digress, we're still in the very same night in 1940. The mood is tense when suddenly BLAMMO a trio of PzKpfws (Panzerkampfwagens, light armored Panzers) blast through surrounding walls. While you were scrambling through the tunnels, the Nazis were planning another ambush to take care of that ärgerliches kleines mädchen once she emerged from the single exit hole. The ante is upped tenfold in an instant. Take cover behind the fountain in the center of the courtyard, and try to avoid the MG34s mercilessly spraying lead and the ever-increasing accuracy of those Deutschlanders. The music is frantic, you're frantically trying to flank the nearest PzKpfw to blast an "armor fist" rocket into their thinly armored sides. Explosions are pretty weak, not as satisfying as one would like. The PSX hardware tries its hardest under the circumstances, and succeeds in throwing lots of enemies at you. Exfiltrating is tense but always doable for this tough cookie.

You're looking awfully sexy in the eyes of the OSS and gravel voiced Colonel Hargrove, always offscreen, shows lots of archival footage (which can probably be seen on the History Channel at any given moment), and sends your well-toned ass to Morocco to uncover a double agent. You trap them in the room by jamming a chair against the knob of the bathroom door. However, Nazis are on you like eggs in a souffle. Current objective: GTFO and kill as many Nazis as possible.

This is totally unlike the activities of the véritable French resistance. Sure, you meet maquisards and participate in raids with the maquis and save their downed or lost men. But save for a few scenes, Manon is totally on her own. Disguised as an attractive reporter with a camera, you must make your way into a guarded archaeological dig -- perhaps digging up the Ark of the Covenant -- you don't have papers so you must shoot the guards in the brainpan with your silenced Walther (headshots always sound great). By the time you make it to the dig, everything's all well. You're an attractive reporter, your camera is all the cover you need. The archaeologists have fun posing for your camera, until you have to ditch it and start blasting more Germans (but not the innocent yet slightly horny archaeologists). The score builds in intensity with a repeating "minotaur" motif, the Germans come in with bigger and bigger guns, and bigger and stronger panzer divisions. There are no boss battles, just progressively powerful guns and swarms of sometimes intelligent Nazis. They might throw a grenade back at you, or better yet, they'll land on it to save their buddies. Sometimes this "heroic" effort is misguided when all his buddies are trapped in a room right next to him. Good one, Fritz.

You've recovered vital documents relating to Hitler's plan to build a "Mondunterseite" or something. The dramatic oil painting depicts spunky Manon firing on a column of Germans with an MP-40. SUCCESS!! THE FIGHT CONTINUES!! Now you're helping out the Maquis, and all they needed was la terminateur to seal the deal. Defending the beseiged abbey in Monte Cassino is tough work, especially when it's getting raped as hard as London was during the blitzkrieg period. After everyone is given their last rites, it's off to fight more infantry with the possibility of more Panzers. You can hear the grinding of the treads from far off, which keeps you tense while you're holding a Panzerfaust out a window. Vastly outnumbered, you nonetheless take part in what feels like a battle. It's not quite warfare, but it is somewhat epic. And the children's choir in the background, barely heard over all the gunshots and explosions, is pretty haunting especially during brief lulls in combat.

If you survive that chaos, which involves random bombing and insane amounts of insane Germans, you get to spray more Germans with an MG-42 mounted to the sidecar of a motorcycle, while a comrade drives for you. The sheet ripping sound is still great, thousands of rounds fired later. Anyway, there's lots of death. You've been overseas for a while, and coming back to your still occupied country is horrifying. The maquis has grown in strength, with minor victories being enough to spurn ever increasing fed-up Frenchmen sick of paying for cigarettes in Deutschmarks. They're all well armed, and soon you're beneath the city blowing up a metric asskilogram of heavy armor, taking multiple "tank fists" to even penetrate and hopefully send shrapnel rocketing through the cramped interior of the panzer. You're pretty much done after this point, with not much to show for it, but you've certainly killed a lot of Nazis.

Wolfenstein introduced us to the possibility of WWII shooters. That early effort was over-the-top like a comic book, with villains who said "IT'S KILLIN' TIME!" and it had a Space Marine for a protagonist. DreamWorks gave us the MoH series, which also took the solo approach and added objective-based gameplay. That formula got tired quick with Frontline being the death knell for the series in my book. Call of Duty would render the series obsolete with its intense squad-based combat and grounded "realism". At least you weren't hunting for canteens to replenish your generous health bar. For 2000, this wasn't bad, just an absurdly violent T-rated EA offering. It is a shame they are still making sequels, beating this dead horse. Maybe someday they'll stop, and everyone will realise we have exhausted WWII as a source for game ideas. At least this is just as easy to pick up and the score will always sound great combined with the slaying of Nazis. Preferably by the chargement de camion.

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Community review by johnny_cairo (July 25, 2007)

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