Game: Medal of Honor: Warfighter
Developer: Danger Close
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
Not being a major fan of modern combat shooters (give me jetpacks and plasma rifles any day), I went into Medal of Honor: Warfighter with an open mind. I wasn’t interested in comparing it to Call of Duty or Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, or even EA’s own Battlefield 3, and certainly wasn’t prepared to pick on a game just for being the underdog. The problem is that Danger Close – and morse so, EA – make Warfighter such an easy target.
Hamstrung by its own marketing campaign before it’s even out of the paddock, Danger Close’s shooter is a fatally flawed and inconsistent experience, and should really have been taken away at birth and left in the woods. I really wanted to like Medal of Honor, and all of its pre-release posturing and promises of realism had almost convinced me that I would.
STORY: Alarm bells rang immediately, however, the first time I saw the words “Inspired by Actual Events” at the beginning of a mission – and then for every mission thereafter. Danger Close really need to realise that it takes so much more than the authentic recreation of actual warzones to make a game realistic. From the opening scene it’s clear that the story Warfighter believes it’s telling is different from the story it actually is telling.
We’re presented with Preacher, one of several protagonists we play as in the unnecessarily hyperactive plot, arguing with his wife over the phone. “War is Hell,” says Danger Close. “Look how it is destroying this man’s family! Down with war! Now go kill a few hundred terrorists with blockbuster special effects and patriotism!” What is intended to be hard-hitting human drama comes across as heavy-handed, obvious, maybe even cliched. It’s a shame, though, because the script is actually very competent and well written. If only the storytelling were of as high a quality as the dialogue.
In the field Warfighter fares no better, bouncing you from one soldier to another in an unnecessary aping of better titles. One moment you’re Preacher – the guy the cutscenes want you to empathise with, to care about -and the next you’re Stump, winner of the award for ‘Worst Military Nickname Ever’, who you’re never given a reason to give a crap about. Then occasionally you’re a US operative infiltrating a group of “Middle Eastern” terrorists by performing badly in a pointless filler mission that makes you run an obstacle course after you’ve already played enough not to need a tutorial. Oh, and you control an assault robot, too, which is an equally superfluous section shoehorned in to eek out a little more runtime.
Despite posturing, pouting and domestic disputes, Warfighter’s storytelling fails to hit the lofty mark for which it aims and ends up as just another generic tale about big men in boots killing bad guys. If EA hadn’t spent so long trying to convince people of Warfighter’s realistic portrayal of war, it might be more tolerable than it is. As it stands, the pursuit of terrorist leader, The Cleric, is simply too bland and unoriginal to maintain interest.
GRAPHICS: It’s never a good sign when a game’s main selling point is what it looks like, but if Danger Close got anything right, it’s the visuals. DICE’s Frostbite Engine has already been seen in all it’s shimmering HD splendour in Battlefield 3 and Forza Motorsport 4, and so there’s little shock and awe in Warfighter’s aesthetics, but it may be enough to win over those gamers who still base their purchases on appearances alone.
Environments are highly detailed, and lighting effects are skilfully used to create the illusion of atmosphere even when there really isn’t any. An early stage sees you, as Preacher, fighting through the streets of a random Middle Eastern city as a flood tears down buildings and makes combustible rafts out of cars. Rain lashes the “camera”, palm fronds blow in your face to block your vision and blazing lightning matches the muzzle-flash strike for strike. The powerful weather effects create a richly detailed picture of a cityscape at the mercy of nature, and it’s a standout moment in a game sorely in need of them – it just isn’t enough.
SOUND: Gunfire, explosions, shouted expletives, whirring helo blades, the whistle-gasp of a plummeting bomb, thundering fighter jets rattling the crumbling bricks of a dying city; Medal of Honor: Warfighter’s sound direction is 100% what you’d expect it to be. The discordant music of warfare creates a soundtrack of its own, and Danger Close have done a good job of capturing the aural essence of conflict. Played in surround sound with the volume dialled up, Warfighter’s ambient sound is almost enough to redeem it. Almost.
It’s all rounded off with intense, stirring music and impressive delivery of the script. If I were to score Medal of Honor: Warfighter purely on graphics and sound it would be rolling out an impressive figure indeed but, alas, I am not; and nor should you.
GAMEPLAY: War, as aforementioned, is Hell. Unless you’re fighting Warfighter’s war, in which case war is actually just a bit of rough and tumble with zero consequences and very little actual peril. For a game that wears its dedication to realism like a badge of honour (sorry, honor), Warfighter is actually about as close to the horrors of real warfare as Bulletstorm.
I could simply list all the things Medal of Honor does wrong, but that would take ages, so I’ll just focus on the things that really let Danger Close down in the realism stakes. First of all, you always begin a level with a couple of rifles and a side-arm – all well and good, yes. However, in several missions, one of your rifles has actual infinite ammo, meaning that the other weapons are rendered superfluous. Even the gun with the long range scope is unnecessary, because the auto-aim function means you can blow the little feathery balls off of a crow at 2,000 metres with your eyes closed. Even if you want to mix things up, your squad-mates or fireteam buddies are walking ammo dispensers, and will top you up ad infinitum from their bottomless pockets of plenty. I tested this by firing at a tree for around 5 minutes and requesting ammo every time I ran out. Also, the tree stayed up despite my riddling it with around 1,000 rounds at point-blank range.
During almost every moment of the campaign you’ll have someone with you, usually Mother, Preacher’s mentor / partner. Frankly, if America had a hundred soldiers like Mother there would be no war; because he is indestructible. I actually watched a grenade roll to rest directly under his giggle-berries and explode, and he didn’t even flinch. Talk about your balls of steel. He also makes for some great mobile cover; just like in real war.
Not that cover is a premium, really, unless you need to regenerate your super realistic health that isn’t displayed on your HUD. It’s not a premium because enemy A.I. is on a loop of pop up, shoot, switch cover, lob grenade, charge at you. It has the sophistication of whack-a-mole and turns every mission into a soulless shooting gallery wherein your two-man army easily mows through between 30 and 60 fully armed and trained insurgents.
Interestingly, the breach and clear mechanic is great to begin with. Pressing square will see your squad stack up on a door before you choose the method of breaching and rush in, guns barking. The action switches to slow-mo, and every head shot adds to a little tally that opens up more breaching options such as using a crowbar, shotgun or localised explosive. The issue I take is that it’s completely and utterly pointless. For one thing, you usually need four head shots to unlock a new breach, and so Warfighter gives you four terrorists to shoot at every single time. The method of breach is purely cosmetic too, though how you take a room full of soldiers by surprise after taking three full swings at a door knob with a hatchett is beyond this reviewer. Why not simply randomise the breach each time instead of giving the player control over something so elementary?
There’s very little doubt that Medal of Honor: Warfighter was rushed like crazy just to hit some kind of release window before CoD-vember, which is less Danger Close’s fault than EA’s. For example, one particular mission sees you rescuing civilian hostages, which is actually quite an enjoyable stage, but once you have them in your care, a cutscene pops up and gets them safely to the evac boat for you. Why you can’t play that section yourself is anyone’s guess, but it’s likely because Danger Close were forced to streamline missions and then chuck in mini diversions like controlling the robot to pad out the runtime. Ironically, spending a few more months in development and coming out around next year’s summer release lull would have served Medal of Honor well, and we might not be left with such a half-arsed game.
MULTIPLAYER: You might be expecting Warfighter’s online element to be its saving grace, but it really fares no better than the solo campaign in terms of quality and originality.
You begin by selecting your nation, which is intended to instill a sense of patriotism as you play but is more likely to lead to complaints about racist remarks from over-excited and over-patriotic players. As you play you’ll unlock more classes to choose from, which is kind of counter-intuitive when you want the best character possible and you have to wait to unlock the class you want. You can tweak cosmetic details and your gun can be upgraded and modified with scopes, sights, barrel extensions, stabilisers and decals until you’re happy with your stylised weapon of death. Compared to its contemporaries, Warfighter isn’t the most comprehensive multiplayer game, but there are enough distractions to make it feel fuller than it actually is.
The game modes are the usual selection of multiplayer objectives, but in Medal of Honor: Warfighter you’re put into pairs (a little bit like Battlefield 3‘s four-man squads) with a “fireteam buddy”. While that sounds like the title of a cute cartoon about a little girl and her pet rabbit who travel around burning down people’s homes, it’s actually Warfighter’s one real stab at originality in the multiplayer. When you die, you can respawn next to your partner and get right back into the thick of it. It also encourages teamwork as you cover each other to advance on the enemy. That’s the theory, anyway. In reality clipping issues and a plethora of minor bugs form their own fireteam to get you killed over and over again as you sprint around bland, uninteresting environments getting owned by foreigners.
LONGEVITY: I played Medal of Honor: Warfighter’s campaign on normal and finished it in three sittings totalling just over 4 hours. I’m all for games cutting the filler, but Warfighter seemed to keep the filler and removed some potentially interesting sections instead. The multiplayer will keep you going for a spell but, let’s be brutally honest here, November will see the arrival of both Halo 4 and Black Ops II, and there’s very little chance anyone will be playing Warfighter when they arrive.
The missions contain no collectibles, alternate routes or decision-making, and so the campaign has zero replay value and nothing to entice you back for more.
VERDICT: Lazy and rushed, Medal of Honor: Warfighter is everything a modern combat shooter shouldn’t be. The mercifully brief campaign is lacklustre and unbelievably shallow, and the multiplayer, while adequate for its purpose, lacks the originality and addictiveness of its piers. Not the worst game this year by far, but one of the most disappointing, Warfighter could – and should – be the title that hammers the final nail into the franchise’s coffin.
Shoddy A.I., pointless distractions and lazy design can’t be hidden by shiny graphics and admittedly competent scriptwriting. In an arena dominated by better war games, some even fired from EA’s own gun barrel, Warfighter flounders and comes across as a poor imitation of its more impressive counterparts. Utterly disappointing.