IT FROM AMAZON:
PLATFORM: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PC
DEVELOPER: Danger Close/DICE
EA’s flagship shooter franchise finally strips itself of its World War II shackles and reinvents itself as a clone of that “other” modern combat title. Boasting a gritty, M-rated campaign based on real life stories from soldiers in Afghanistan and a robust multiplayer mode created by Battlefield developer DICE, it’s a mostly successful effort… even if it is heavily derivative.
Medal of Honor tells the story of the start of “Operation Enduring Freedom”, the war in Afghanistan we kicked off soon after 9/11. We see it from the perspective of the infamous Tier 1 Operators, the elite of the elite, hand-picked soldiers whose numbers are classified but believed to be in the low hundreds. (Compare that to the 50,000 spec ops soldiers.) They are the guys called in when a mission is of utmost importance, and we follow them through some tough operations in the war as they try to crush the Taliban.
CHUDTIP: Just don’t call them the Taliban in multiplayer! There you play as the “Opposing Force”.
It’s clear that they’ve taken a whole lot of liberties with the story and it’s not exactly realistic… but hey, if the Tier 1 soldiers can slaughters thousands of enemy soldiers each while shrugging off bullets, I’m wrong. Regardless, the game does give you an interesting look into the war, one which hasn’t been shown before. A brutal pitched desert battle awaits you, featuring a small team stuck in plenty of do-or-die scenarios. You play as a handful of different soldiers to experience different sides of the battle.
The game plays like every other first person shooter out there. Your screen turns red when you get shot, so grab some cover till you magically heal up, get out of cover, aim down the sights on your gun and fell your enemies with headshots. Kill everyone in the area, advance to the next one with chest-high walls and wait for the inevitable attack- wash, rinse, repeat.
Its deep similarity to the Call of Duty series (most specifically the Modern Warfare titles)- from the weapons to the vehicle sections to the use of melodramatic first person narrative- definitely hurts it. It’s a very solid experience, with some truly thrilling sequences where you’re outnumbered with your team, fending off an army. The voice acting is great, and you’ll genuinely enjoy the characters’ back and forth. But it all just feels like things you’ve already done before. It even emulates a few of the major faults the Call of Duty games have as well, with an incredibly linear campaign that guides you incessantly, never giving you a second to enjoy the experience before hustling you to the next checkpoint. For example the obligatory sniper mission, which starts off fairly promising. You’re on the side of a mountain, aiming at targets a mile away with the help of your partner who’s spotting for you with binoculars, in a really tense and exciting mission. But your partner calls out where targets are in relation to your position, what landmarks to look for to find them, and you’ve got about three seconds to find them before a huge arrow highlights their position on your screen. Has gamers’ ADD gotten this bad?
CHUDTIP: During the helicopter mission you can get a trophy/achievement for decimating an entire village. But you were probably going to do that anyway.
On the other hand, the multiplayer is fantastic, an updated version of Battlefield‘s Frostbite engine providing the chance for plenty of destruction and mayhem. Two teams of up to 12 players can battle it out on eight different maps, with many different modes to jump into. “Combat mission” will feel the most familiar for fans of Bad Company’s “Rush” modes, as one team tries to advance and clear objectives as the defendors retreat from point to point till they’re making a last stand. There’s also King of the Hill, Deathmatch, and objectives-based modes.
You can also feel that there were two teams at work on this game, because each one has its own feel to it. The multiplayer omits some of the things you can do in single player, which is frustrating. There you can no longer go prone, reload your weapon to put another bullet in the chamber, or slide into cover. It’s a bit strange and makes you wonder how each one was developed. Funny enough, there’s more Call of Duty influence to be found online, with scorechains and unlocks that seem more than familiar.
But the game has its own undeniable flavor to it, as it’s much more fast-paced than both Modern Warfare or Battlefield: Bad Company. But can it take time away from your multiplayer gaming with these titles (as well as Halo Reach and Red Dead Redemption)?
The ol’ Unreal Engine 3 keeps proving it has some legs left on it, making for yet another great-looking game that occasionally has that glossy look to it. The sound design as well is impressive (as it always has been in the Medal of Honor series), with the guns really packing a kick to them. Crank the volume and scare the neighbors!
Watch out for snipers online. It’s easily the most used class as it’s easy to hang back and pop people left and right.
As usual, the campaign can be completed in hard mode for more achievement/trophies, or in “Tier 1” mode, which is basically a Time Attack with leaderboards. No, the multiplayer’s pretty much the only place you’ll keep coming back to, and as it has the usual huge number of weapon unlocks and perks you’ve got a lot to look forward to.
A worthy rent, a nice little tribute to our soldiers, but they’re going to have to try harder to make this franchise stand out from the crowd in the next installment.
(One important note- the PS3 Limited Edition contains an awesome bonus to download- the complete game of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, freshly updated with HD graphics, iron sights and trophy support. The 2002 PC title definitely shows its age (I didn’t remember how sparsely populated those beaches at Normady were!) but this inclusion makes the PS3 version the clear victor. )