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A lackluster shooter with nothing new to offer

 

Medal of Honor is a 2010 reboot of the longtime first person shooter series and game of the same name made in 1999, one that started on the Playstation and made World War II games cool before they were overdone by countless imitators and games set in the time period. This one attempts to bring the series back to the modern day and uses the recent war in the middle east as a setting, but unfortunately despite its claims of trying to remain true to the source, it ends up playing like an unpolished Call of Duty title that uses the war as a gimmick and has almost no relation to the series. It could have been a new IP, but instead further waters down the Medal of Honor name, and the new team behind it doesn’t do a meaningful job of executing some of the potential the game has.

 

The single player campaign puts players in the shoes of several soldiers on the ground as well as an apache gunner, but you could be forgiven if you don’t care about any of them or even remember their names (yes, they are given names). The story has a few cutscenes and attempts a few moments of exposition or emotion, but falls flat each time and just doesn’t feel like anything I haven’t seen before. Despite what should have been a simple story that could have focused on the soldiers and the war, they didn’t give me any reason to care about the people involved and made the whole thing feel less like a real life event and more like the machinations of a Michael Bay movie, with some very clichéd plot points being brought up repeatedly. Of course, I doubt anyone will be buying the game for the story, but the emphasis on real life events is lost when the story doesn’t do any justice to them.

 

The gameplay is certainly fun and works, but considering the improvements on the genre in these last years it would be hard for them to screw up the controls or basics. Of course the gunplay is actually solid thanks to the wonderful recoil and “ra-ta-tat” sounds of the weapons you fire giving a sense of power and some of the enemy animations bringing a sort of perverse satisfaction when you bring a foe down with a long range sniper bullet to the head. Certain elements like the addition of a lean on controller and ability to hold a pistol separate to your main weapons are very nice and make me wonder why more games haven’t done this (not least of which is the Call of Duty series, which apparently forces players to keep all their guns on the same back holster). But even these nice little additions can’t save the battles and gameplay, since so many firefights are predictable and happen on a linear path you have no control over, while the AI (both friendly and enemy) are incredibly dull in combat and can’t even fathom how to run and shoot at the same time, or even run away from a grenade I very visibly tossed at them.

 

Once the appallingly short single player campaign is over, players do have the option to play Tier 1 mode, which raises the challenge and removes checkpoints, but given the generic nature of the campaign I’d advise against it unless you really want to go for the achievements/trophies. The meat of any modern first person shooter nowadays can be found in the multiplayer, and with DICE at the helm the online portion is certainly fun, but much like the single player it’s a case of some good ideas with poor execution, and the change in developer means that it also plays differently from the single player in some odd ways, with the ability to lean, go prone and carry an extra gun all lost. You could argue they all might present balance issues, but similar games have no issue bringing these abilities to the multiplayer while balance almost seems like an afterthought in the competitive matches of Medal of Honor.

 

The multiplayer is very bare bones, with only a few maps and modes at the outset and absolutely no support for co-operative play or splitscreen, two things competing titles like Call of Duty and Halo offer in every recent title. Even the graphics and power at display don’t seem to offer any justification for removing these features and watering down the framerate from a Modern Warfare title when the additional player count is minor and the visual effects are significantly less impressive then what you can find on the much larger Battlefield: Bad Company titles. Probably the biggest gaffe one might find is the inclusion of Taliban soldiers as a team in multiplayer, which given recent events is in poor taste, and even EA was unable to stick by their words of “artistic integrity” when they renamed them in a spineless move, classy.

 

Of course there is some fun to be found, as mentioned the gunplay is still stellar and with DICE at the helm it isn’t a terrible experience, but the lack of content and weapons will have players abandoning the game for greener pastures in no time. The balance issues talked about above are also frequent and annoying, with some maps being impossible to win in when playing as certain teams. The defending team in many maps has a tendency to use vantage points and a lack of entry ways to clear out attackers, then use the “scorechain” attacks to decimate them with their accumulated points. Yes, they even take killstreaks then rename them, but in this case they concern points over kills and the rewards are much less satisfying to use then anything you can earn in Call of Duty, or even any of the abilities you can use anytime in a Battlefield title.

 

Overall, Medal of Honor is a flubbed attempt at reviving an ailing franchise in the hopes of taking down juggernaut shooter Call of Duty. If this attempt is any indication, then EA should just wave the white flag and stop focusing on taking down the competition that has them clearly outmatched in this battle.

 

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