Medal of Honor is a title with a highly esteemed pedigree, having its beginnings as one of the Playstation’s most beloved games while simultaneously being the reason that there was a period where virtually everything in gaming was about shooting Germans in western Europe circa 1944. When Allied Assault came out I was a spritely and bright-eyed 15 year old, and I have it to thank for my borderline weird adoration for all things World War 2, that is until Call of Duty popped up and showed everyone that what looked like a hard-as-nails Nazi-chewing God-send was actually about as brutal, realistic and fun as having a pillow-fight with the world’s most boring man in the surface of Neptune.
Unfortunately for Medal of Honor it’s probably going to stay that way if the last game is any indication, unless this latest in the franchise can reverse its fortunes.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter is a curious mixture of safe and experimental (mostly safe). The vast majority of the game is spent being barked orders at about who to shoot and where to shoot them, and in this regard the formula is wearyingly familiar. Most objectives are simple variations on the theme of moving from point A to point B and committing genocide during the trip and sometimes you’ll push a button. The action is mostly functional and the game can generally be trusted to work as it’s supposed to but it’s not going to win any awards for originality.
Where it may gain some originality tokens is in the surprise driving sections nobody told me about that kicked me so hard in the face with the fabled boots of joy that I completely forgot about all the boring uniform combat I’d been partaking in just moments before. “Why can’t there be an ENTIRE game that’s just this?!” I wondered, as I sped through the streets of Pakistan smearing market stalls and chickens across the pavements and roads as I went. It only lasts about ten minutes before you’re thrown back into the same old dusty grey shoot outs but it works as a nice distraction, perhaps too nice considering it’s a game I want to own now instead of MOHW, and it doesn’t really exist. Later on there’s even a stealth section that’s spent IN A CAR avoiding other cars by hiding in bushes until they go past and speeding off when the presumably deaf drivers aren’t looking directly at you. It’s not perfect, but isn’t that brave? Isn’t that a good direction to move in?
You’ll notice I’m not talking much about the story, and that’s probably because I’m not sure there really was one. There are characters, for sure, if you can call them that, but the most story I could find was that the main character’s wife doesn’t like that he’s a professional shooty man, which doesn’t seem like that much of an earth shattering issue unless maybe I’m missing something. I’m someone who actively looks for stories in video games, and generally I catch this stuff. Whatever story there might be it’s a thinly veiled excuse to have you shoot people in various locations, the most interesting of which being a terrorist training camp filled with hardwood transport vehicles for casual hijacking practice alongside shooting ranges filled with pop up targets that can genuinely get confusing and even that’s a nice mix-up when you look at how uniform the majority of the game is. Mind you the campaign still kicks the arse off of Battlefield 3’s campaign, not that that’s any kind of laudable achievement.
Speaking of environments, the graphics are quite nice and it runs well enough on modest hardware. Given that’s the same engine as BF3 it’s bound to have similarities but it does have a look of its own, being substantially darker and murkier. Particles of dust and mortar kick up when bullets slam into walls, explosions light up dimly lit streets and in-game models look detailed and realistic. The same can’t be said for the horrifying CGI women in the cutscenes, though. The first time I saw the main character’s wife and daughter I thought they were burn victims clean out of reconstructive surgery. They really are a pair of horrifyingly ghoulish creations and to be honest I’m baffled as to why their models were given the go ahead to be put in the game rather than deleting the files and destroying every computer that had been used to create them.
The multiplayer is a standard vehicle-free shoot out with a twist: each team is cut up into two-man fire teams to encourage team play. Fire teams can heal each other, re-arm each other and use each other as mobile spawn points, all the while earning extra experience for actually doing these things. Hopefully lots of people out there who DO take advantage of this well thought-out and implemented system, but I didn’t meet a single one, or at least was never on the same side as them…