Many developers and publishers have wanted to take from the Call of Duty formula ever since the critically acclaimed and commercially successful Modern Warfare entry hit store shelves. From a series that was once at the frontline (pun intended) of FPS recognition in the WWII setting, the collaborative efforts of Danger Close and DICE aren't afraid to admit this change in scenery is heavily influenced by their biggest competitor last generation, despite knowing this could fall under the title "Call of Duty clone". In order to distance itself from pre-release skepticism, Medal of Honor is based on the Afghan War and is promising a more "realistic" approach. With this focus on realism, the question now comes as to whether or not this is the next FPS to have or if it's just another average shooter in an oversaturated genre.
The single player campaign takes place in Afghanistan, in 2002. For half of the game, players assume the role of a DEVGRU operator codenamed "Rabbit", of AFO Neptune. For the remainder, the player alternates between the roles of a Delta Force sniper code-named "Deuce", of AFO Wolfpack, as well as Army Ranger Specialist Dante Adams of the 75th Ranger Regiment, and AH-64 Apache gunner Captain Brad "Hawk" Hawkins for an on-rails copter mission. Throughout this 6 month venture of setting up base in Afghanistan to the first US troops hitting the ground, you'll notice that the action feels more toned-down in credit to the source material. While this focused aim on setting up a recognizable atmosphere to the soldiers overseas is admirable, it usually boils down to the acronym-laden script that's just failing to impress after so many modern-era games being released.
Overall, MoH's (Medal of Honor's) story falls flat in so many regards that it's tough to find a bright spot. The campaign is under 4 hours, the few dramatic situations in the campaign are either shoe-horned in or fall flat, and constant jumping between characters makes the game feel like it has no direction. Although I've never served in the military, I have to question just how realistic it is for a suited General half way around the world to whimsically put lives in unnecessary danger just for the sake of the term "Rangers lead the way". The inconsistency in so many of the few story developments throughout the game leave the player to reserve his/her emotions for the beginning and ending lines presented.
The beautifully-rendered cutscenes and often jaw-dropping vistas are the high points in what seems to be average graphics overall. Visual bugs are rampant throughout the entirety of the singleplayer portion of the game. The framerate drops almost every time your allies are dropping bombs "danger close" of your position and textures pop in quite frequently. There was even one segment where your staging area impaired your vision thanks to all of the dust sweeping in from every angle, then became crystal clear in an instant. Although I've never heard this term, it could be described as environment pop-in. The visual aspects revolving around character modeling look good, and come with some solid physics; however, nighttime missions and times when lighting comes into focus are sub-par in comparison. MoH isn't necessarily an average looking game-for 2010, it just careens all over the visual fidelity scale; there's essentially the same amount of compliments and denunciations you could make for the visuals.
Where the game falters the least is in the sound design department (as expected with any game with DICE's involvement). Although it can be noted that the profusion of the word "f***ing" throughout the game can start to feel like a cliché, the technical design is nearly flawless bar the uninspired soundtrack. The sound of your ears ringing from a nearby grenade to the plethora of different artillery noises in the midst of battle has rarely sounded better. Even the constant radio chatter in the online loading screens shouldn't go unnoticed. The only weird quibble I have with the game is when your comrades decide to sound like they're talking through the radio or not. Sometimes everything you're making out with your squad is through the radio, despite you standing right next to them.
With an ongoing war as the setting, the creative ability of the gameplay could initially be worrisome because it could limit the gamer's overall enjoyment; however, that's not the case with Medal of Honor. While it can initially seem to be a more monotonous approach to shooting bad guys, this toned-down formula from the recent expectation in blockbuster video games can actually become more appreciated because simple events like a chopper going down have more impact. At the same time, you're still able to witness those intense moments when dozens of enemies fill up the screen.
While the overall approach seems to go off with few hitches, that doesn't mean the overall gameplay works as fluidly as it should. Although the controls work well, the level design will often leave you detached from being fully immersed. Getting from point A to point B normally requires you to hit the D-Pad more often then you should, and it's not helped by all of the invisible walls laid out before you. Simply put: If the level design wasn't so inconsistent, you could finish the game in less than 3 hours, even on hard difficulty-which isn't even challenging. To make matters worse, the rubber band enemy AI rarely puts up a challenge, unless they're in the dozens. Even though the friendly AI is handy, I was constantly annoyed by their bantering to complete X objective, despite me already finishing it or en route to finish it. While Medal of Honor's gameplay does work on paper, so many of those gameplay elements fall short of their desired goal.
Although missing any offline/online co-op option, Tier 1 Mode fills that desire for campaign replayability. The rules are as follows: complete each level in the fastest time possible without dying. Certain actions like knife kills, headshots, and consecutive kills slow down time for a few seconds. Being tied in with the EA leaderboards, Tier 1 automatically tracks a variety of different stats that are submitted upon completion of that level. The addictive nature of wanting to shave off seconds of your time to climb up the leaderboards will keep you coming back quite often. The only problem with Tier 1 Mode is you're constantly required to stay online while playing these levels. This became a problem for me when progressing through certain levels then suddenly being disconnected from EA's servers. Although this didn't happen often, it seems that making this mode available for non-online players should've been something of expectancy since the mode's inception.
With DICE working at the competitive online helm of MoH, the meeting of the middle road between Call of Duty and Battlefield comes full circle in this reboot. You have both classes-Rifleman, Spec Ops, and Sniper-and support actions (which are essentially killstreaks). Support actions either help the team through defensive or offensive means. While the offensive support actions are what we've typically seen in the recent Call of Duty games, the defensive support actions help your team through passive means, with flak jackets or improved ammo. You're also able to acquire these actions by either killing enemies, racking up kill assists, or by objective-based means. Although this encourages teamwork, there's really nothing beyond nuances that makes it feel like a shameless copy. While copying doesn't always mean the experience will be worse, Medal of Honor doesn't bring anything that hasn't been integrated better by its competition. Certain facets like bad vehicle handling and boring leveling show that most hardcore FPS fans won't enjoy the competitive multiplayer. If you're well acquainted with FPS', you'll probably reach Tier 1 Warfighter (Highest rank) for one class in a weekend-if not sooner.
Although the reboot of Medal of Honor is great news for old school FPS fans, this revision of the series could've been much better. Medal of Honor isn't necessarily a bad game. In fact, it's quite good in aspects that certain FPS fans may appreciate; at the same time, it has just as many bad/average qualities. It certainly attains some redeemable qualities that may satiate a few FPS gamers out there, but the overall lack of clear direction makes this one of 2010's biggest disappointments.
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