Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Developer: Danger Close
Publisher: EA Games
Released Date: October 26th
There are two things that are certain in the video game world; people will copy other people's ideas and Nintendo will make a lot of money. Medal of Honor has certainly fallen into the former category recently, but let's just hope Medal of Honor: Warfighter can not look so much like a certain video game franchise that rhymes with Fall dove Muty.
Medal of Honor had very expensive and humble beginnings as a video game pet project with Steven Spielberg, director of such masterpieces as Always and Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The franchise fell by the wayside to some degree somewhere in the mid-naughties and then decided to just crawl on its belly until someone noticed a very grizzly looking man on a greyish looking cover.
I got to sit down with some of Sydney's video game journalists and play a PC code of the upcoming FPS title from EA and despite all my ribbing and negativity, I will say I enjoyed my two levels of Farweighter. Sorry, Battlefighter. Sorry, Warfield. Sorry, Fighter.
While not the first level in the game, Shore Leave leaves little to the imagination when it comes to the storyline and where this level is headed. You start on a shore, and then you must leave. But in all seriousness, you're in Somalia and taking out some renegade pirates who threaten your life and others. The level starts after a high octane sequence where you're jumping out of the plane and cracking mildly amusing jokes with your fellow warfighters. There's a middle finger flipped, some more joking then you jump out of a plane and into enemy waters.
The game has you running in the shallow water, being all squad like then looking for cover. Here we have your standard bread and butter. Shoot guys, run to cover, shoot more guys run to cover. If only someone got out the hundreds and thousands and sprinkled them somewhere on the bread, then I might be somewhat excited from all the brown, grey and desolation you spread on my sandwich, Warfighter.
You start taking out Somalis left and right, all in head gear and armed to the teeth with AK-47's and what not, before making it to a building. This is where things get exciting as you climb to the second floor and can breach and clear a room. This isn't too different from the usual slow motion action sequences seen in your other FPS titles. The biggest difference is how you breach the room and also the unlockables you can get, depending on your approach. You can use a Tomahawk to crack open the door and if you're good enough with your headshots, you can go out Gordon Freeman style and use a crowbar.
The game does have a headshot reward counter which seems to note any time you turn your enemies head into a bloody pulp. I tried to see if there was a nut shot counter but was unable to find it. Once you have breached the room, you will be given a quick sequence where you can take some people out in an adjacent building before calling in a minor airstrike. However, when you're prompted to do this, you have a large broken wall in front of you and a path to the adjacent building.
This is what usually annoys me with highly linear FPS titles. I feel as gaming has evolved that we embrace a more autonomous and open-ended series of video game decisions and game's that stagnate that process, unless telling a heavily structural story, have got to rethink their design solutions. I know as the market has catered for more open-world titles, that we as gamers are looking for a wider experience, but I hate the idea that when give the option to blow up a building and then put an explosive invisible wall in front of me, I can't just run out there and kill people. There is literally nothing stopping me from making a run out to that next section, except that I die the second I step more than five footsteps out. It's awfully designed in that respects. An alternative solution would have been letting me cross over to that next section, realising that I can't get in it without the building being levelled, then being repeatedly prompted to use the call-in function.
Anyway, the point is you blow up a building. You proceed across a small path and get inside the building where you take control of a Johnny-5 from Short Circuit. The game gives you a robot with a gun and then let's you loose inside the building pinching off any remaining Somali terrorists. The robot is easy to handle, you can shoot repeatedly and while I did get stuck in a few areas, if you look for where you can roll your little robot tracks over and a few convenient walls of story to roll through, you should be fine.
After some more running around in a broken building, the final sequence takes you to the roof of another building where you need to take out some snipers who are targeting your helicopters who are trying to be make sure... they can leave. This was actually my favourite part of the level, other than controlling Johnny-5, of course. You're set up outside a blown up wall and your bearded partner spots some people with rocket launchers. You can take them out but you also have to account for distance and height. You may look like your reticule is just above their nose, but really you're firing to the left of the right shoulder.
This is where realism goes slightly awry in some video games. I think what they creators of Medal of Honor should have utilised is the realism of their Frostbite engine which makes the Battlefield games so dynamic and less time worrying about whether or not people will take the sniper distance, wind resistance, height difference, what shirt their wearing and whether or not they had cereal for breakfast before they fire their first sniper shot. This level is okay.
With a quick cut scene, which I won't really spoil, but the set-up of the level of Hot Pursuit is you're chasing down the EA executive who keeps green lighting Need for Speed games and holding the rights for Burnout over a lit flame. But in all seriousness, Hot Pursuit is a much more exciting and action packed level than Shore Leave. For one thing, you can hit three chickens while you're driving.
A quick set-up is given as you're in a car, hoping to get the cell phone (do people still say that?) from an operative who is trying to get away in another car. The chase is on as you high tail it out of the harbour and into the streets. Taking some sharp turns left and right, through market places and dense traffic, you'll have to think on your feet and try and ignore the idiot passenger/person in your ear.
The sequence feels comfortable in the game and it's actually a lot of fun. There are some minor action movie beats, and it does hit and miss as you travel through the streets, such as the scattering of people, the wisecracks and the “oh you've lost him in traffic, but not really” moment. I will say this, the interior of the car is the best looking interior, I've seen for any game ever.
That's not a joke. While you don't really have more than a few seconds to take in your living space, you will see the crafting of the dashboard, radio and air-conditioning. I was amazed that I was more bemused with the fact that each dial looked more realistic than the frightened people I was avoiding in the game's traffic.
The game really does look amazing, from facial features to gun shots to seeing an entire building crack and tumble to the earth. The Frostbite engine looks really good on Medal of Honor and I hope the rest of the game utilises it. Something somewhat off-topic, I do remember looking at the menu when I started playing and it reminding me of how the Goldeneye levels were set up. Also while I know it's obvious this game has multiplayer, I was unable to try it today.
The sound design for the game, both music and sound effects wise is top-Minecraft creator. The game's roaming helicopters, the cracking buildings and the smashing doors all resonate with realism. While there was a minor out of sync moment, the game tries to create an action packed atmosphere with its score's pounding bass and orchestral strings. Warfighter is like Jessie J, it sounds and looks real good is all I'm saying. However, unlike Jessie J, Warfighter is at times too similar to its FPS cousins and due to its dark, muddy textures, I'm worried that a strong story-driven game will not stand out at the end of this year. I know it's obviously too late for them to change anything or much, but I really hope we stop this glut of grimy FPS titles soon and focus on the next cool thing we need to run into the ground: Dinosaurs.
I will admit, I had a lot of fun with Warfighter and fans of the Medal of Honor series will definitely be brought back with this title. The reboot was a misstep to some degree, but I think it was setting up an updated franchise more than just copying the Mall of Footy model. Medal of Honor has always been about the storyline and what happens to the people who are taking the world into their hands. Sure, you could say the same thing about Battlefield and Call of Duty, but their fragmented storytelling and strongly one-sided geo-political mucking around can only last for so long. I know I'm willing to give Warfield – er, Warfighter a chance when it drops later this year.