The Medal of Honor is the highest honor that can bestowed on a soldier. It represents a level of commitment and valor that often requires the ultimate sacrifice. For those who have served, it is a sacrifice we would willingly make for our country. I left the military in 1999 (AFSOC CC assigned to 819th and 823rd RHS), but it has never left me. The nature of war has changed dramatically in the last decade, and the gear I deployed into the field with is practically archaic by today’s standards. My Tier 1 brethren have weapon systems that can reach out further than we ever thought possible, unmanned drones that can spot their targets no matter where they hide, remote controlled robots that are loaded for bear, and refined techniques to counter the rising tide of unconventional enemies. If you read my review of the Medal of Honor reboot in 2010, you’ll know that it struck me in a profound way. I stated unequivocally that Medal of Honor easily trumps Call of Duty in the careful and realistic approach to the single player game, leaning heavily on the real men and women that protect our country, and basing their scenarios on the real-world situations that have demanded our attention for the last few years. Medal of Honor Warfighter tackles our newest consequences of foreign policy with a new set of Operators – could lightning strike twice?
Fewer Horses and Bayonettes
Medal of Honor (2010) was powered by the Frostbite engine. The game looked pretty great, but game engines have taken large strides in the last few years. Danger Close reaps the rewards of their EA partnership and have made use of the Frostbite 2 engine – the same engine that powers the incredible-looking Battlefield 3. Medal of Honor suffered from some clipping issues and I was hopeful that the change in engine would help resolve some of that.
The graphical fidelity of Medal of Honor Warfighter is a solid effort. After installing the single player disc, the game asks if you want to install the 1.7GB optional HD Content patch (located on the separate multiplayer disc), and you absolutely should as it raises the texture quality quite a bit. While there are certainly some low resolution textures in the game (some signs are a blurry mess), the character models are fantastic. Somehow the cutscenes are even better than in Battlefield 3, and that’s saying something – those were incredible. Unfortunately there are a few bugs remaining on the graphical side of things. During one mission the HUD item “Press RT to mark targets” got stuck on the screen and remained there for the entire duration. This obscured button prompts and made targeting a little bit difficult.
All ate up
I scored the previous Medal of Honor a solid 100 for the audio as it was perfectly authentic. It’s as true now as when I said it then – veterans can spot fakes pretty ricky-tick when they open their food trap. Guys who insist they did this or that but have absolutely no proof, or have no idea what FIGMO is and why you are so squared away when you slap your orders on the board, are usually the broke-dick, chow runner, Chairborne Ranger, Titless WAF that never took a walk in the sun. Well…Medal of Honor got it right, and Medal of Honor Warfighter follows suit. The lingo is absolutely perfect, and I once again appreciate the attention to detail.
Similar to the voice work, the music in Medal of Honor Warfighter is extremely well done. Composer Ramin Djawadi returns to the series (he handled the 2010 title) to deliver a blockbuster soundtrack. The music ebbs and flows as it should, pulling you in or pushing you along as the scenario builds. This is a soundtrack that I would purchase. There is one persistent issue with the sound this time around. More accurately, it’s a lack of sound that disturbs – the soundtrack occasionally cuts out for no apparent reason, and several times during the campaign I found myself seeing an explosion but hearing nothing.
“Reiben, pay attention. Now, this is the way to gripe. Continue, Jackson.”
Moving away from the graphics and sound, let’s talk a bit about the guts of Medal of Honor Warfighter. Again, if you read my review of the previous title, I had a great appreciation for the storyline. I felt like Danger Close treated the subject material with a great deal of respect, and I’m glad to say that it continued with Warfighter. This time, the game kicks off in an amphibious mission in Karachi, Pakistan. An operator named Tom (A badass Captain Midnight, Codenamed “Preacher”) finds himself in deep kimchee when a simple cargo truck target turns into a complete cluster, kicking off a race to unravel a terror plot that leads him through Pakistan, Yemen, the Mog, and much more. Interspersed between missions we see the all-too-common marital issues, an unfortunate consequence to life in the military, play themselves out. While the subject matter was treated with respect, Danger Close had a bit of trouble stitching together all of the most recent real-world events into their story arc, making for some moments that seem to stick out. A good example is a mission that takes less than a few minutes to complete – the recounting of the sniping of three Somali pirates in early 2009. While I appreciated the opportunity to recreate such an incredible feat of precision, it didn’t seem to fit with the flow. I will say that the ending of this game was very hard for me to see. In war there are always casualties, but each brother lost is a loss that is impossible to even explain. I’m obviously not going to ruin the ending, but I missed a great deal of it, choking on my own tears as I remembered my own losses.
There are two driving sequences in the game. One is a race-and-chase through the slums of a city that I won’t reveal, and later a sequence that reveals a heavy Need for Speed Most Wanted influence. From ducking out of sight to slamming into vehicles for slow-motion takedowns, this level makes for an interesting break from the otherwise frantic shooting. The ability to “Peek and Lean” out from cover takes a bit of practice to use, but comes together nicely the more you use it. The cover in the game isn’t ‘sticky’ like other cover-based shooters, and occasionally the AI will shove you out into the open, but thankfully it’s not a common occurrence.
As I said before, the technology behind warfare has changed drastically, and nowhere is that more true than in breaching technology. Shaped charges, breaching charges, axes, and even your boots can allow you to breach, bang, and clear a room. You’ll unlock each of the 7 door breach types by scoring multiple headshots during the slow-motion (and all-too-familiar) breaching sections. These rewards don’t really lead anywhere other than another way to punch a hole in the door, which is unfortunate as all of these breach types have very different applications in the field.
I know that most people will pick up Medal of Honor Warfighter for the multiplayer aspects of the game, and it’s true that it does extend on the 6 or so hours of gameplay proffered by the single player game…or it will when it’s patched. You’ll note that there are no reviews for the game out right now, and that’s simply because Danger Close was working all the way to the wire to try to finish what they started, as evidenced by the 50mb Day-1 patch. Unfortunately, they aren’t done. Let’s look over the multiplayer landscape before I tell you why I think caution may be in order.
After entering in your online pass code you’ll be greeted by 12 country flags as well as a selection for your character type and class. Each class is compared on range, magazine size, agility, magnification, and stealth values, as well as their stock equipment. Next you’ll be prompted (if you haven’t already) to join Battlelog. Battlelog keeps track of everything you are doing in multiplayer and shares and compares it with your friends. You’ll also set up parties and VOIP, get news, and even create your own Platoon.
Across the top of the screen are a few destinations that’ll demand your attention. The My Gun section accesses the 60+ unlockable weapons, as well as the various support actions granted you by doing well in battle. Adjusting the uppers, lowers, paint, mags, and anything you can strap to the Picatinny rail, you’ll likely spend a lot of time in here modding out your weapon systems. Under My Soldier you’ll see all of the medals and ribbons you’ve unlocked, as well as your current rank and progress towards the next one. The medals are similar to ones we’ve seen in Battlefield and the previous Medal of Honor title – killing so many enemies, capturing so many flags, number of headshots, etc.
The new feature for Warfighter is the Fire Team functionality. I talked extensively about this mode during my hands-on time with it at E3. The idea is that fire teams, especially snipers, work in pairs – a shooter and a spotter. This allows you to work directly with a close teammate, forming a group that benefits both of you. You can resupply ammo, use them as a respawn point, and earn experience between one another as you work together to prosecute enemies. Additionally, much like the close connection between real world teams, you can always see a silhouette of your partner when they are close by, giving you an easy way to keep an eye on them. If you are taken out, you can respawn on your Fire Team buddy’s six, or vice versa. If you avenge your buddy’s death he can do this instantly. Proper coordination can mean the difference between being a lone wolf and rising up to the top spots on the server. It works perfectly and is a welcome addition to the multiplayer mode.
There are six modes to play in multi, four worth mentioning – Home Run, Sensor Control, Hotspot, and Combat Mission. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are considered standard at this point and, as dull as they are, I’m not going to dwell on them. In Home Run you play 10 rounds with no respawn in a bid to capture the flag. One side will attack for 5 rounds and then switch to defending for 5 rounds. This mode quickly devolved into Team Deathmatch, but as people learn the maps and some strategy, this should improve. In Sector Control you’ll have three flags in the area. Occupying the area captures the flags, and holding them yields points until a victor is declared. Hotspot has 5 possible bomb sites that activate one at a time at random. The attackers have three minutes to detonate a bomb at the designated site, and the defenders try to prevent that. The first team to succeed in their goal 3 times wins the map. Combat Mission rounds out the list with a very simple approach – bomb the designated points. It feels very much like Hotspot, but the bomb sites don’t move.
When I reviewed Medal of Honor in 2010 I voiced concerns about some of the performance and netcode issues in the game. While most of those panned out, some of it didn’t. Switching engines with a compressed timeline has caused some of those issues to return. You’ll see people’s feet continue to run in place like Gumby, dancing inexplicably below them. You’ll occasionally respawn with an invisible weapon, making it impossible to sight or take down a target, with death being the only way to (temporarily) fix this bug. I saw this bug at E3 in June, and it’s still here in October. Since this bug is not only repeatable but absolutely common, you can consider the multiplayer broken until this issue is fixed.
Unintended Goat Rope
I don’t know which General Officer Bright Idea thought it was a good idea to rush this game (I’m sure it has everything to do with the timing of another upcoming military shooter) but the experience has suffered for it. While some little things like having to account for bullet drop compensation (BDC) while sniping, the inclusion of a HUD color blindness mode, excellent voice acting, the ability to lean, and a very solid driving level makes for a compelling product, the fractured and seemingly random storyline and currently-busted multiplayer can’t be ignored. Danger Close has a short window to get themselves squared away before it’s too late. Medal of Honor’s reboot in 2010 was high speed, low drag, but this year’s title just feels like a rush job – a little 6P (Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance) could have gone a long way.