Developer: EA LA
Release Date: 11/11/2003
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The Good: World War II movie clips are interesting, you can use cheat codes, new arsenal of weapons, fun opening level
The Bad: Wonky controls, terrible AI, boring gameplay, horrid framerate, ugly visuals, an overall lack of polish
Pearl Harbor was one of the worst terrorist attacks on the US, and was what got us involved in World War II. EA decided to leave the frontlines of Europe and head to Hawaii at Pearl Harbor and into the Japanese and Philippine frontlines. It's a nice change of scenery, especially back in the day when WWII shooters were coming out nearly every day. The problem is, Rising Sun is a reskin of Frontline with the lack of polish, detail, and just doesn't feel complete. Rising Sun needed about 6 months more of development before being anything remotely decent. What we have here is a sluggish, boring, and mediocre shooter, probably one of the worst shooters of 2003.
The game actually starts out pretty nicely. The bombing of Pearl Harbor feels epic in this game, you are just a nobody sailor who gets woken up by the bombings. After you see the poorly pre-rendered cut scene you start controlling your guy and it feels very similar to Frontline, too similar. Right off the bat you realize the control issues haven't changed. The aiming is really sensitive and finicky, there's no iron sights aiming, and the controls just suck still. Once you run around the boat trying to escape you notice you can save at checkpoints. This is actually one of the only two major issues that were fixed from Frontline. The missions are very long and you no longer have to start at the beginning of every level when you die.
Once you get out you notice the framerate is worse than Frontline. The FPS drops into single digits often and it actually affects gameplay. Trying to shoot someone when the game is chugging along at 5 frames a second is nearly impossible. It doesn't help that the aiming is already wonky. The change of pace in the beginning using the turret on the boat and shooting down planes is fun, I also have to mention that the only great part of Rising Sun is the music. Medal of Honor has a fantastic score across all the WWII games, but Rising Sun needs more than that to save it.
Once you start the next level you realize the game is just so bad. The level design is abysmal with confusing mazes, it was cute for EA to try to make you feel like you have multiple paths but you really don't. It just makes things more confusing. There are also secondary hidden objectives this time around but they are nearly impossible to figure out, hell even the regular objectives are hard to figure out. Items don't flash so you can't tel if it's part of the scenery or something you need to interact with. Most of the time you just get lucky when a prompt comes up on screen when you pass something.
I like the new selection of weapons, the shotgun, Type 99, Sten MKII, and a few other Pacific Theatre weapons. That's probably the only other great change from Frontline, but the guns control so horribly that you won't care. The most annoying part of Rising Sun is the forced and failed implementation of stealth. During one of the last few levels you get recruited into the OSS and have to infiltrate a Japanese summit at a hotel. The game gives you the Welrod which is a one shot silenced pistol. Sure that's fine, but Rising Sun wasn't built for stealth. I shot the first few people silently then all of a sudden I was being attacked. I had to run around the whole level with just a pistol and the Welrod. Not very fun. The hints say to stick to the shadows and stay in the column areas. Yeah sure what shadows? The stealth is just completely broken, but at least healing items give you more health so the game is a bit easier in that regard.
Let's finally talk about graphics, the game is butt ugly, even uglier than Frontline. During the jungle levels the devs just put a flat texture of a forest on the walls. Yeah good jobs you lazy jerks. The game is just ugly and is so unpolished. The events in the game are so unbelievable that it's hard to think that these things actually happened. Did I mention there's still no blood? The last thing to go is the terrible AI. The friendly AI just stands there while they're being shot and completely ignore enemies, the multiplayer is also as boring as ever.
Rising Sun sold millions of copies, but couldn't live up to the previous games quality. With ugly graphics, horrible framerate, terrible AI, bad level design and various other issues, Rising Sun stands as one of the worst games in the series.
(Review based on PS2 version)