Review: Medal of Honor
In our industry the last few years, we’ve seen Infinity Ward take the Call of Duty brand and blow it up to mega-superstar proportions, and DICE take Battlefield from being a simple first person shooter PC game to being one of Call of Duty’s biggest competitors. Many games have come and tried this war-game formula, but none could even hold a candlelight to the two big names in the genre. When Medal of Honor was first announced, the first thing that came into my head was, “No, we don’t need another WWII shooter, they’re boring now, and even Call of Duty couldn’t make it fun.” When I heard that Medal of Honor was going modern era, and was going to be taking place in Afghanistan and be based around real events, I was intrigued. Could this new studio, Danger Close, and veteran heavy hitters, DICE make a game to revive the Medal of Honor brand as a quality title? They could, and they did.
I was pretty scared to write this review to be honest. Not because I wanted to upset readers, or developers, but because I wanted to make sure I said correctly what I wanted to say about the good and bad of this game. I threw the idea around for doing two separate reviews for the single player and the multiplayer, but in the end I decided that one review was actually the best idea.
CAMPAIGN & TIER 1
If you have been absent from the internet for a few weeks, then let me fill you in on some of the controversy that went down. Gamestops on military bases refused to carry the game because of how close the game hit to home. One of the biggest things was the ability to play as the Taliban online, and kill American soldiers. EA then made the decision to remove the Taliban name from the game, replace it with Opposing Forces and call it a day. Sadly, the military still wasn’t having it, still wouldn’t sell the title, and the game shipped with the Taliban name removed from multiplayer. The good thing about their decision was that they stuck to their guns and decided to leave the name in the campaign, because without it, this game would make no sense.
The story has you follow three separate characters after the events of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and The Pentagon. You begin the game in the shoes of a solider named Rabbit, along with his team of Voodoo, Mother and Preacher, are tasked with retrieving important CIA information from an informant named Tariq. You soon find out that everything has gone to hell, and that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have an army of 500 to 1,000 soldiers, more than originally thought by the United States Government. You also follow in the shoes of Deuces, a Tier 1 operator who rocks and rolls with partner Dusty, the bad ass on the cover of the game. These guys are the elite of the elite, performing super dangerous reconnaissance missions in enemy territory and taking on enemy snipers in the mountains of Afghanistan. The last team you take on are a group of United States Army Rangers, who are inserted into possibly the most dangerous valley ever thought of. You play as Dante Adams, a ranger set right in the middle of the storm that politics has gotten them stuck in.
Talking about politics, government and politics play a huge role in this game. A high ranking general officer proves to be one the biggest pains in the game, and you feel it when playing this game. The connection this game makes is so personal, that it brings you closer to the game play. It makes you feel what the soldiers are feeling. When I was on the brink in a certain mission of getting successfully ambushed, I was 100% pulled into the story and kept thinking to myself, “these guys are done, they’re so dead,” but never wanted to give up and kept on trying. Danger Close did a good job of showing the scale of the game, showing what’s it’s like to be a team of four going up against wave after wave of RPG-holding assholes trying to kill you. It’s one of the few shooters I’ve played that kept me so entertained, and I wanted to know what happened so bad that I finished it in one sitting.
Danger Close brought a few good things to the genre that work really well with the game. One of them being the slide. Holding down the B button (Circle button on PS3) while sprinting allows to perform a baseball style slide which puts you into crouching stance at the end, which is perfect for getting into cover quickly. Another feature that made its way in is the Lean and Shoot, Danger Close’s version of a cover mechanic. Pressing the LB button allows you to stand perfectly still, and then moving the left thumb sticks from left to right allows peeking around corners to shoot. It’s a good alternative to a cover system used by Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas, and it works very well in the campaign. However, neither feature is included in multiplayer, and for good reason. Since Medal of Honor’s sprint system online works like Battlefield’s, where you can practically sprint forever, all you would need is people abusing the slide and the Lean to Shoot to create a bucket of problems.
Tier 1 Mode is nothing particular special, but it’s a fun way to replay the single player. It pits you against the time, where performing certain tasks such as getting melee kills or head shots stops the clock for a certain amount of time. The goal is defeat each mission as quick as possible, and really makes you think quickly about what to do. Jumping into this mode right off the bat of a purchase isn’t recommended, as you’ll have no idea what to expect, what weapons to use in what levels, or the amount of enemies you can expect in a certain area. Completing each mission under the par time gives players a huge reward in the space of a 100 point achievement (Gold Trophy). Besides that, Tier 1 has nothing else to offer. It lacks any type of checkpoint system throughout missions, which means one death ends the mission, which can prove to become extremely annoying over time, but adds to the difficulty of the game. It has potential as a future mode to be added to and improved upon. Not the most fun way to play the campaign, but interesting nonetheless.
There’s nothing too spectacular here in terms of graphics, since both use engines that we’ve seen in games before, but even then the game looks realistic, and DICE’s multiplayer snow maps look outstanding. In terms of audio, Ramin Djawadi outdid himself on this score, bringing a great sound to the game that never felt out of place and fit perfectly with the dark tone that game had. In terms of performance, I never encountered a glitch or bug in my playing it, nor did I see any lockups. The game was running at a great frame rate and never fluttered or slowed down. For a game using a heavily changed Unreal Engine 3 and new Frostbite engine that’s being phased out in favor of its 2.0 brother, both work well together to bring a different feel to each part of the game.
The first thing I dived into upon popping this game into my console was multiplayer for some odd reason. I remember playing the beta and not being too interested in it. After hearing about all the different game modes, I decided to just go with it and see what DICE had in store for me.
The game works in the way of Battlefield, where at its core, it’s a class system shooter. You choose from 3 classes, and go from there. Experience earned gets you upgrades to your weapons, such as scopes, extended magazines, and ammo that hurts more but is less accurate. It’s different from Call of Duty where you don’t have one level that gets all your gun upgrades. You have a level for each class. There’s your standard shooter class, coming with the team standard assault rifle. The Special Operations class comes with, you guessed it, your team standard smaller carbines, and the same with the sniper class. The problem I have with this is that the ceiling for each class is set at level 15, and even when combined, you’re only looking at 45 levels. For a game that I’m guessing DICE wants a long tail for, it seems strange that they decided to go with such a small level cap. This isn’t a big problem in hindsight, but also I’m sure adding more levels couldn’t have been such a big problem for DICE either.
In terms of the modes you have at your arsenal, you have four to choose from. Combat Mission has you fight through a team-based set of objectives in order to win. You either attack or defend, which makes me think of Rush mode from the Battlefield: Bad Company series. It works well, and it’s rather fun to play. The fact though, that DICE decided to bring one of their own modes in from one game to another didn’t sit well with me. If I go and pick up Medal of Honor, I expect to get something different from the stuff I already own. If I want to play Rush mode, I’ll go play Battlefield where it is much better executed. Besides that, Combat Mission is a great mode to play if you have loads of friends, or can find people online with headsets to talk with. It is a team-based mode, and you won’t get anywhere lone-wolfing it.
The second mode is Team Assault, where I don’t have much to say. It’s your generic team death match game type, but it rather enjoyable in Medal of Honor. This is where you’re going to want to hit the streets on your own, and rack up the points and raise your kill death ratio. DICE’s inclusion of kill streak rewards may seem like a rip-off of Call of Duty, and in a way it is, but they do it in their own way. After racking up the required amount of kills, you can choose between an offensive action or defensive action. The offensive kill streaks are things like Mortars and Hellfire Missile strikes, while defensive kill streaks give you things like UAV. It works well with the way the game is set up, although nothing is set in place to help those you might be struggling or to those who are new to the genre, such as death streaks, or a beginner game mode.
Sector Control and Objective Raid are the last two game modes, and they are the simplest ones to explain. Sector Control has you fighting against others trying to gain points from capturing flag points around the map. Maps change hands quickly, so this is a team-based game, but doesn’t share enough similarities from Combat Mission to keep me entertained. Objective Raid is a much quicker version of Sector Control and Combat Mission combined, and I experienced multiple matches where games ended within two minutes. As one example, as the attacking team, you need to run up hill towards your objective to place charges on weapons. It’s another mode borrowed from other military shooters, and brings nothing new to the genre.
The main problem for me from the multiplayer is that it struggles to find its own unique identity. Call of Duty has it’s quick realistic Team Deathmatch, and Battlefield has it’s team based large mapped battles. Danger Close included many great features in it’s part of the game, and essentially when playing this game, you feel like you got one of those two game bundles from back in the day, one being Medal of Honor: The Story and the other being Medal of Honor: Online.
The thing that made the multiplayer fun and playable for me was a lot of different options I had when playing. Not only did I have 3 quick classes I can choose from, they’re also many awesome different versions of support you can give your team when you’re doing good. Losing by a few points and need enemy positions? You can choose to go with the UAV instead of the Mortar Strike and vice versa. This is something I found really great, and really helped along the team based game modes like Objective Raid and Combat Mission, and with a full communicating team, it can be used really well.
The game runs off two different engines, two different menu’s, two different developers and the only things they seem to have in common are its locale, publisher, and its name. Unreal Engine 3 runs the campaign, and DICE’s Frostbite engine runs the multiplayer. Decisions like these are always bound to happen, and if EA decides to pursue this brand further, I can see the multiplayer improving a lot from the feedback of the community, and it can hopefully find its niche. As it stands now though, Medal of Honor’s multiplayer component is a fun game to play in the off-season, but as a holiday release, it comes off as minor league title that has the potential to hit the big leagues soon.
Danger Close impressed me with their single player effort in this game. I thought the only part of this game that was going to shine was the multiplayer but boy, was I wrong. Featuring crazy dudes in awesome beards, mountain sniping, crazy ATV levels, nighttime sneaking missions, and a helicopter level that gets you pumped up while shooting enemies to hell, this single player will keep you alert and entertained the whole way. While a short campaign, clocking in at a six to seven hour effort on my part on hard difficulty, nothing felt put in to pad the game, which is great. It works for what it is, each mission was thought out and scripted well, and the adrenaline keeps on pumping. The multiplayer is nothing game changing to the industry, but DICE did what they set out to do, and that was make a fun multiplayer component to Danger Close’s campaign. They took things that their studio was familiar with and added things they haven’t tried before.
In closing, look out for Danger Close in the next few years, as I’m sure well be hearing of a new Medal of Honor game soon from the potential I see in this title. While this game doesn’t scream Game of the Year, it screams great game and there’s a good time to be had here. Getting a few friends to play Combat Mission with is a plan for success, and experiencing the real, dark toned campaign is a must for anyone that is a fan of military shooters. It not only surprised me, but is in the top two of all-time military shooter story lines in my book. Fans of the series might need some time to get used to the game’s new setting and plot, but it’s all worth it in the end, and people new to series are in for a surprise and a good time.
- Title: Medal of Honor
- Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
- Developer: Danger Close (EALA), DICE
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- MSRP: $59.99 (consoles), $49.99 (PC)
- Release Date: Available Now
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this game was provided to DualShockers, Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.