Medal of Honor Review
Game: Medal of Honor
Developer: Danger Close/DICE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Medal of Honor is one of the most anticipated (and possibly most controversial) games to be released this year. But let’s not forget that the Medal of Honor is also the most prestigious medal awarded to US servicemen for valour and honour (or valor and honor if you’re American!) – and that’s exactly what this game is all about.
The game instills a sense of patriotism in the player, and pride towards the servicemen who are awarded the Medal of Honor for “outstanding courage, conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty…”. I’m a big fan of first person shooters and I’ve never played a game that felt so true to life. By the end of this title I was practically ready to sign up to the US armed forces – and I’m not even an American citizen! This is why before I get into my review of the game, I wanted to address the controversy around its release.
I’m pretty sure those that actually play the game through will agree with me that there is not one part of this game that offers any disservice towards the military in any way. The bravery and camaraderie of the armed forces is portrayed in a responsible and respectful manner. The multiplayer gameplay does have two sides to play on and one of them is The Taliban (aka OPFOR), but this is not encouraging people to sign up to jihad. In most games someone needs to play the enemy (and this game makes sure you’re aware the Taliban are indeed the enemy). Anyone who’s ever played a shooting game should surely understand this, you have the Allies and the Axis, the good guys and the bad guys, that’s just the way the game is played.
In fact. you don’t even have to be a gamer to understand this concept, I’m sure most people have played a game of cops and robbers at some point of another (I know I’m not the only one to use that analagy, but that’s because it fits so well). Cops and Robbers isn’t about encouraging children to put on a balaclava and rob a jewellery store, it’s about chasing the bad guy and bringing him to justice. This is exactly what Medal of Honor is about and most other FPS games for that matter. I’ve heard it said that EA encouraged the media controversy around their game in order to boost publicity, however I think it’s far more likely that the mainstream media saw a story and ran with it blindly, in the way they often do when it comes to video games. It always (usually) comes down to ignorance. Anyway, let’s move on to the review.
STORY: I would not even blink if someone told me that the storyline in Medal of Honor wasn’t actually fiction and was in fact based completely on real events. Whilst playing this game I felt like I was a part of current events, it’s incredibly immersive and realistic.
It’s refreshing to get a Medal of Honor game that’s not based on a Word War. WWII games were fun back on the orginal Playstation, but these days they’re becoming a little played out.
The game actually begins immediately after the September 11th terrorist attacks in America. We’re taken on a journey of intelligence gathering and invasion of Afghanistan. Throughout the story we’re presented with a range of characters in different outfits of the military. We play as Deuce the pro delta-force sniper , Rabbit the DEVGRU Operator, Army Range Adams and Captain Brad “Hawk” Hawkins gunning from a Boeing AH-64 Apache. The first portion of the game is spent with Rabbit and his team (Mother, Voodoo and Preacher), as they locate and eliminate a huge number of Taliban insurgents in the Afghanistan mountains. After that the games alternates expertly seamlessly between the thee other characters.
Ex-SAS and best-selling author Chris Ryan has written a prequal story to the game, in the form of a book, to be released separately. Having been involved in countless real-life covert and overt operations, Chris has commented numerous times on the realism of Medal of Honor, something highly apparent after reading the book.
GRAPHICS: Fantastic! That’s the first word that comes to mind when thinking about the graphics in Medal of Honor. Everything you see in this game gives a sense of realism, from the bearded character models to the Afghanistan rubble. Scenery is often destructible (more so in Multiplayer than Single Player) and really amplifies the thriller aspect of they storyline. When your cover is literally blown in front of your eyes, it’s an amazing sight.
I found the animations quite brilliant in their role too, enhancing the games mood. Soliders move around with macho bravado or stealthy light-footedness dependant upon the situation and the Taliban almost scurry across the mountains of Afghanistan, fighting to stay alive.
In certain instances throughout the game, when a player gets badly hurt you’re faced with a kind of bullet-time slowdown. This gives the player a chance to headshot as many enemies as possible with their pistol – it looks and feels great.
There is the odd graphical glitch here-and-there, but certainly nothing game breaking. Generally, Medal of Honor is a great looking game.
SOUND: The score in Medal of Honor was produced by emmy-nominated composer, Ramin Djawadi. The music sets the perfect mood for each scene. At times, it is quite brilliant. There are some familiar voices in this game, including Mr Voice Actor himself; Nolan North. Looking past that, the voice acting present in the game is of a highly quality and very much believable.
GAMEPLAY: Games these days tend to strive towards a more interactive cinema experience than a video game, but where a lot of them go wrong is by including too much cinematic material. When playing a game I want to do just that – play. What I don’t want to be doing, as a player, is watching hours of uninterruptible cut-scenes dictating the story to me. I think Medal of Honor struck this balance perfectly. The game is a truly interactive cinematic experience in that whilst playing, you feel a sense of attachment towards the storyline, and while the game may be linier, it is you the player who is in control, not a bunch of pre-rendered animations.
I never had a chance to get bored during the campaign mode, every act featured different methods of gameplay, whether that be on foot, sniping, shooting out of the passenger side of a car with a fat machine gun, anti-vehicle weaponry, quad biking, long range sniping, stealth combat or gunning an apache. The variety was vast and it was awesome. It didn’t feel abstract either, because at the end of each instance you’d switch over to one of the other characters, but it would be related to the mission at hand. That could mean rescuing the previous character or helping provide them with cover. All the missions were different, yet interlinked. One minute you’re hunting silently, the next minute you hear “GO LOUD!” and all hell breaks lose…it’s great fun.
The ammo system included in the game is quite refreshing. The fact that if you don’t want to, you don’t have to pick up another gun throughout the whole game. As long as you still have your assigned weapon, you can approach a team member and request some of their clips. This becomes an extremely useful and highly valued feature. Of course, if you pick up an AK47 or any other Taliban weapon, your team mates won’t have any matching ammo to help you out – so you usually end up sticking with the weapons you’re initially issued with.
There are a few minor gripes, such as the button config mis-match. In Medal of Honor it’s not possible to customise your button layouts, you only get to chose from a selection of pre-defined layouts. I was also kind of annoyed by the buddy boosting that went on throughout the story, why is it that I always need a boost up to the next platform from my squadron, but they’re usually perfectly capable of climbing up on their own? It might sound stupid, but when you’re as immersed into the game as I was, it can leave you feeling a little inadequate. I imagine this was more of a level design issue than anything else though.
However the pros far outweigh the cons with this game. It’s the little details that really caught my attention. The authentic military chatter confused me for a minute, but once it clicked, I was sold! “Lima Charlie? – ahhh, loud and clear!”. The constant running is simple yet brilliant. In other games you’re repeatedly tapping the left analogue stick to run, every few seconds, it’s so frustrating. In Medal of Honor you tap L3 once and the characters runs as far as you want him to.
The cover system is user friendly, you usually run/slide into cover behind blocks of rubble or rocks. I much prefer this type of manual cover to the automatic lock-on types, which are quite popular. The AI does tend to ruin your cover a little sometimes, by trying to take same position as you, getting in the way whether you were there first or not. To slide, you just press the crouch button whilst running; simple, but always fun. Oh and I mustn’t forget the headshot icon. As I said earlier, it’s all about the liitle details. Having a clear distinguishable icon pop up every time I take an enemies head off is always a good thing, especially when realism gets in the way of having “BOOM! HEADSHOT!” sound effects.
Medal of Honor is essentially split into two very separate games. There’s the Single Player game, along with Tier 1 mode (single player with hardcore settings) by Danger Close and then there’s the Multiplayer game by DICE. Although both games are delivered under the one package, unfortunately they don’t really feel like one.
The Multiplayer game feels a lot like the latest Battlefield title, but that’s kind of inevitable really, since it’s not only using the same engine, but coming from the same development house. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing, Battlefield is brilliant! DICE’s Frostbite Engine offers really high-end graphics, but it could be argued that they’re not quite up to par with those of the Unreal Engine (used in the single player game) and the differences don’t stop there.
The multiplayer game lacks the details I was refering to earlier in the single player game. These aren’t major issues, merely lots of small issues – which is still not a good thing. For instance, there’s no prone in Multiplayer, something that has become crucial in online gameplay of other modern combat FPS titles. I’d love to know the decision behind leaving it out. The slide-to-cover function is also missing from Multiplayer. By the time you’ve completed the Single Player this has become practically second nature, so I was a quite disappointed to find it MIA (that’s missing in action, for you non-military types). The running mechanic feels different in Multiplayer too. It’s still great that once you press L3 you’ll sprint until you tire, but it feels a lot more restricted. By that I mean if you’re not running in a perfectly straight line, you’ll automatically resort back to walking – there’s apparently not much room for turning, and strafing is out of the question.
The differences get worse still, especially when it comes to the controls. I mentioned earlier how there are a number of button layouts to chose from, well these layouts differ between the Single Player and the Multiplayer. This can be highy annoying at times when you attempt to melee an enemy and end up dropping a grenade! This just screams of a lack of collaboration between the two studios.
It’s not only the differences from the Single Player game that are letting the Multiplayer down. There’s the spawn killing issue, where enemies spam mortars over spawn areas, resulting in instant death upon spawn. Then you have the fact that there is no offline multiplayer (no split-screen or system link), a feature that is absolutely shocking for a game to exclude in this day and age.
The lack of a decent radar is also a slight negative. Show me any screenshot of Medal of Honor online gameplay and highlight the player’s position on the radar. It’s not easy! The player is a white arrow, just like every other player on their team. It’s not exactly ideal for quick-glancing, which is what a radar should be used for. There’s also no mini-map or preview of the next map. There is only a vote button to veto it, which is pretty hard to do unless you remember all the maps by name. Customisation isn’t very deep in Multiplayer either. There are unlockable weapons and attachments, which work really well with the experience system, but it would have made a huge difference had there been more options to customise the weapons or even provided a selection of player models to chose from at the start of the round.
I don’t want to sound too negative here, multiplayer isn’t all bad. In fact it’s not bad at all – it’s a really good addition to the game. But the problem is exactly that; Multiplayer feels like an addition to Medal of Honor, rather than a explicit part of it. The destruction is incredibly cool, blowing up huts and walls to buildings that the enemy is hiding behind never gets old. There’s even the odd vehicle in Combat Mission mode, giving the game a touch of that Battlefield greatness.
LONGEVITY: The single player game itself offers roughly 6 hours of enjoyable gameplay the first time round. However, you’re going to need to give it another run through if you want to get all the achievements or trophies. Once you’ve completed it though, there’s the never-ending goodness that is the Tier 1 mode. That will keep you going for a while!
The Multiplayer achievements can be gathered in a minimum of around 8 hours. Making the total game “completion” time around 14 hours. Not bad, but I would have liked to see some long-term Multiplayer achievements in there somewhere too.
The various multiplayer modes do offer hours and hours of fun though. Combat mission is the closest thing to a multiplayer story mode, offering 5 objectives to defend or destroy. This is the longest game type and can often take up to 20 minutes. Objective raid is a shorter, much faster paced version of Combat Mission, offering only 2 objectives and usually lasting around 5 minutes. Team Assault is your standard, but much loved Team Deathmatch mode and Sector Control is a hold-and-defend game type, a la Domination. There’s also a Hardcore game mode, which will randomly select one of the previous game types, but on harder settings (i.e. friendly-fire and a lack of radar).
VERDICT: Rating this game was an unbelievably difficult task. It’s almost easier to rate the Single Player and Multiplayer modes as seperate entities. Giving them a combined rating, now that’s a toughie. In the end I settled with the very pleasing, yet possibly quite controversial score you see below.
The great storyline, gameplay and general feel of the game far outweigh the cons. After all is said and done, even the Multiplayer great fun – it just gets out-classed by the Single Player mode. Medal of Honor should definitely be on your list of games to buy this Autumn, especially if you’re starting to get a little fatigued with Modern Warfare 2 or Halo Reach and fancy something new to tide you over until Black Ops. Medal of Honor may be short, but it’s quite brilliant.