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Medal of Honor

Date: October 20, 2010
Author(s): Rob Williams

The market may be filled to the brim with war-based games, but few come from a series as reputable as Medal of Honor. After a bit of a break, the latest iteration has finally been released, and it prefaces some hyped competition, Call of Duty: Black Ops. Did EA do enough to make you forget all about that “other one”?



Introduction

Fans of war games on either the console or PC are in one of the best spots that a gamer could possibly be in, because it seems like there isn’t a month that goes by where there’s not some major title coming out, whether it be a first-person shooter, real-time or turn-based strategy or even a simulation.

On the FPS side, though, many gamers are beginning to feel that the war genre has grown a bit stale (alright, “beginning to” might be a poor choice of words), but for those of us who simply can’t get enough, there’s always the hope of a game that will come along to completely blow away our expectations. Is Medal of Honor one of those? That’s what we’re here to find out.

Unlike a lot of war FPS titles out there, Medal of Honor comes from one of the most successful series on both the console and PC, “Medal of Honor“. Yeah, it’s clear that creativity doesn’t exactly shine in all areas of development nowadays, with many companies using a default name for many popular games and movies (Rambo, Fast & Furious, etc), but to be fair to this particular title, it is meant to be a reboot of the series.

It’s been a while since MoH fans have been greeted to a standout game, and its EA’s hope that the latest iteration is going to do just that. Unlike all of the other MoH games to preface this one, the latest Medal of Honor takes place in the modern era, a la Call of Duty’s Modern Warfare series.

Medal of Honor

The fact that this Medal of Honor is meant to reboot the series isn’t the only thing that makes it interesting. No, another fact is that both the single-player and multi-player aspects of the game were handled by different divisions of EA. Danger Close, EA’s Los Angeles studio, oversaw the single-player campaign, while DICE, the EA-inherited Swedish company, handled the multi-player.

Like Infinity Ward’s CoD: Modern Warfare series, the latest Medal of Honor has you proceed through the entire game through the eyes of different characters. The primary is a Navy SEAL named “Rabbit”, and during the missions that have you play as a different character, there’s going to be a lot of interconnection going on. It’s rare when you are left wondering where most of your teammates are.

Medal of Honor’s story contains both fictional and real elements… real in that it’s developed with the help of world events, such as the September 11 attacks. The game starts you out during the period of the Afghanistan invasion, and you’re monitored/commanded by Colonel Drucker, who is constantly being given poor and incompetent advice by General Flagg – the guy who ultimately calls the shots.

The game sees you go through various parts of Afghanistan, and for the most part, the scenery doesn’t change too much during your five-hour tenure. You’ll be conquering both ground and air, and also be able to control some very cool vehicles – from ATVs to an Apache helicopter. Much of the game is a copy / paste job of previous MoH games or other current games… kill, kill, kill, and save the occasional teammate ass.

Medal of Honor

When I say “copy / paste”, I couldn’t be more serious. Most aspects of the game don’t seem original, and during it, I couldn’t help but think back to the Modern Warfare series. That’s not to say that Medal of Honor does nothing unique, but it doesn’t do much to stand out in any real way. The story is sub-par, with a lacking ability to truly connect you to any character (the five hour game time doesn’t help this either), and many scenarios seem uninspired.

Being that I’m a bit of a drone when it comes to this genre of games, story and familiar gameplay don’t bother me too much, because I usually just continue to eat it all up. The problem here is that Medal of Honor has a couple of major downsides that help make all of this stand out even more. If the game could be beat without encountering some of these small niggles, it could be that the game would seem a lot more fun.

I mentioned a “kill, kill, kill” theme a moment ago, and like no other war FPS I’ve played, this game gets monotonous quick. Again, this is no doubt amplified by the fact that this is an extremely short game, but I felt like I never had a true break from simply killing everything I could, either out in the open or down the sight of a scope. Only once was there a true sense of stealth, and boy, was it refreshing.

Admittedly, being able to hop into a mounted gun in the back of a truck, or into an Apache helicopter, helped ease the tedium a bit, but that can only go so far. If you die minutes into a gunfight, you will have to start it over, and trust me, that gets old fast. This brings me to another issue… bizarre AI, or instances where you’re killed and have no idea what hit you.

Medal of Honor

A major part of this problem is the lack of direction in the game. Compared to a game like Modern Warfare 2, Medal of Honor is more of a simulator, because it doesn’t baby you in any way – and I mean this. As an example, one level has you trying to advance towards a building that has someone firing almost constantly at you. Even if you have your crosshair right on the shooter’s head, pulling your trigger is useless. I died four or five times during this scene and couldn’t easily figure out what I was supposed to do.

As it turns out, I was supposed to move to a precise location in a very small area, where it would literally trigger my AI teammates to continue along. It wasn’t too long after this instance that I realized this would be a common occurrence. There are many times during the game where you need to run over a certain precise location in order to actually continue along. Worse still, there are times when oncoming combatants seem infinite – literally – until you hit this trigger.

Continued; Final Thoughts

At the same time, Medal of Honor could only be more linear if the entire game took place in a single hallway. There are very rare occasions when you are allowed to choose between two paths, even if both seem totally accessible. You’ll run into many occasions where a path your teammate just went down is inaccessible to you, despite only being blocked by a 1 foot high ledge. There are many, many invisible barriers here, which is very unusual for a game like this.

On the upside, there are many different weapons for you to take advantage of, from the typical manual pistol to an AK-47 to a rocket launcher. In terms of special and more exotic weapons, there is a lot of that as well. There’s one sniper rifle, for example, that has an incredible zoom, and because it can shoot so far, there’s always a delay in your kill. Being that it’s ultra-powerful, it can literally decimate the head of anyone finding themselves in your sights – a second or two after you pull the trigger.

There are also many guided weapons as well, where you can use a laser to direct the gunfire from air fighters, with the projectiles either being bullets or rockets. A knife also finds itself here, and is readily accessible for quick kills. However, it’s unlikely you’ll see much use of it outside of multi-player.

Medal of Honor

In terms of real depth and difficulty, Medal of Honor offers little. As a general rule, I play any new game first with the middle of the road difficulty, which in this case was medium. Given this, I expected a bit of a challenge, but it sure never found me. Most of the time when I died, I felt like I died due to a fault of the game, whether it be a grenade with less than a second warning or a death where I don’t even know what hit me. Or the best one – dying because you get caught on some invisible blocking object for a couple of seconds.

Then again, there’s the lack of actual direction that can cause death after death until you clue into what’s going on. During a helicopter-based mission, you must make sure to wipe out all of the rocket-equipped people on the ground, and here, I died a total of three times, even though I thought I was free and clear. As I flew out of the level, it never failed that I’d get shot down.

The reason for these frustrating deaths was due to me being oblivious to the fact that the helicopter I was shooting from had missiles built in, and it was only by accident that I hit the “G” button and saw one fire off that I clued in. At no point do I recall the game telling me about this missile, and even if it did, I wouldn’t have likely heard it due to the character voices usually being overpowered by enemy fire.

Much of what I’ve ranted about so far might come down to a matter of opinion, but there are many things that I believe could have been altered just a wee bit to make the game much more enjoyable. For such a short game, I was surprised that I died as much as I did, and if it wasn’t for that, the game would have only been a four hour game. A four hour game… for $60. That’s a hard one to stomach. If those four hours were mind-blowing, then sure, but there was none of that here.

Medal of Honor

To make that price tag even sweeter (sarcasm), the game finishes in such a way that it’s undeniable that DLC is en route, and given that the game is published and developed by the king of DLC, Electronic Arts, this all comes as no surprise.

To be fair, I didn’t touch up on the multiplayer at all, which is pretty well half of the game. I played through a couple of rounds, and after seeing starkly similar environments to the ones I just spent a hard five hours in, I just couldn’t get into it. If you enjoy the look of the trailer for the game, our screenshots, and envision multiplayer, that’s pretty much enough to sell you on it.

As you’d expect, there are various MP modes to take advantage of, and thanks to a robust leveling system, you might just get addicted if the eight maps grab you that strongly. As you level up, you gain access to new weapons, ammo types and of course, attachments. Unlike Modern Warfare 2, Medal of Honor allows people to create dedicated servers, which is to be commended.

Once the SP game is over, you are able to go through it again via a “Tier 1” mode, which is essentially the game with an amped up difficulty. Think harder than hard. It’s a test of your skill and patience, and intertwined with it is friends support, so you can compare the best times to your peeps and even see specific data such as how far they made it into a particular level before dying. For those who love to be competitive with their friends, this could extend the five hour game time significantly.

Medal of Honor

In the end, Medal of Honor to me doesn’t hit much of a mark. For multiplayer diehards, there’s going to be a lot more gametime to be had, but for me, I couldn’t get into it. Could it be that Modern Warfare 2 spoiled me? It’s hard to say, but I certainly didn’t get the same feeling here as I did with that title. And at the same time, when I beat MW2, I immediately beat it again. Here, I have no desire to play the SP mission again anytime soon, if ever.

Medal of Honor isn’t a game I decided to review for the sake of it, but rather a game I’ve been personally waiting months for. I even refused to download the beta or read previews because I wanted everything to be a surprise. Well, you could say I was surprised… just not in the way I had hoped.

For those looking for a stop-gap measure to lead you to another game, MoH is certainly good at that, but for $60, the price is unreasonably high unless you are a devout multiplayer gamer. If you don’t fall into that category, you’re safe to pass, unless money is no object. For the rest, Black Ops is right around the corner.

Overall Score: 65%

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