Medal of Honor: Warfighter or Warfailure?

Platform: PS3
Also On: Xbox 360 /PC
Developer: Danger Close Games
Publisher: EA
Rating: M (ESRB) / 18 (PEGI)

After a long vacation from releases, Medal of Honor has returned with two releases in the last couple of years and it looks like it’s bound to compete in the military shooter arena.  All signs point to a long stay as with the latest release, they have now incorporated the series into EA’s Battlelog service and stats can be tracked alongside your Battlefield 3 progress.  In addition, they appear to be releasing this series in alternating years with Battlefield 3 in what looks like an attempt to compete with the alternation of the Modern Warfare and Black Ops games.  Or whatever Activision and Treyarch do next.  This is a bold move, but Danger Close is bringing back the Medal of Honor games and is looking forward to the challenge.

Unlike the 2010 release of Medal of Honor however, Danger Close created both the Single Player and Multiplayer parts of Warfighter using the gorgeous Frostbite 2 engine. In Medal of Honor 2010, Danger Close made the Single Player while DICE created the Multiplayer part of the game. So Warfighter is the opportunity Danger Close needed to prove they are a top level developer. But did they succeed?

As any game that has both single Player and multiplayer I look at each part of the game separately, as many players only really prefer one or the other and purchase decisions can be affected.

Single Player Campaign

Danger Close and EA are looking to bring something different to the table of shooters with the Medal of Honor series.  In past years, the series was based on real life soldiers who actually earned the highly respected medal.  The recent releases are based on some actual events, however it’s mostly based on fictional characters and trying to tell a compelling story of realism taking in tactics, communications, and weapons into high consideration.  They also consulted with actual Tier 1 operatives, which lead to some controversy over punishment by the U.S. Armed Forces, but I’m going to leave that for another topic.

The soldiers of Medal of Honor 2010 make a return and that’s great.  I really liked those guys and it’s good to see them return, in what looks like a continuing story of their lives rather them some random new guy with each release.

The Frostbite 2 engine once again shows it’s strength, and visually Warfighter is one of the better looking games I’ve played this year.  Everything from the models, textures, environment and destruction is gorgeous to look at.  I played through the campaign twice, and both times were a visual treat.

The voice communications in this game is top notch, and accurate.  Almost to the point to where if you have no military experience it may seem like a bunch of jabbering, those who do have experience will enjoy it and notice the difference as opposed to other military games.  The tactics are tight and accurate as well, especially breaching doors which is done maybe a little too often but provides multiple breach options.  However it doesn’t seem to matter what kind of door it is or the situation, they are just there.  The audio for the weapons, music, vehicles and everything else is top notch and really adds to the experience.

Medal of Honor also tries to send home the message as to what soldiers experience emotionally on the battlefield as well as at home.  This message, compared to other military shooters is delivered well, but it does fall a bit short.  Once again the idea here is better understood if you have military experience, have family who serve or served, or are just a straight up a military buff.  Those players can relate to the soldiers and family members they’ve known throughout the years and the impact of this story can really be felt by the middle of the game.  For players who do not, the only way to truly let the story hit home like it should is to put some imagination to work and fill in the gaps themselves.  This is a disappointing aspect because the story is what could set this game apart from the rest, and with that, the story should have made sure to drive home it’s point.  This is one game that could have benefited from more cutscenes, especially in the beginning to establish a better caring for the characters.  Had they done this, the characters could have developed the attachments found in games like Mass Effect or The Walking Dead and the story would have hit home good and hard.

The campaign is short.  Even on Hard I completed it in about six hours, and obtained every single player trophy except for Hardcore completion.  Hardcore is true hardcore, you have one life to complete the entire campaign, and if you die you start over from the very first level.  This is kind of neat, however it bridges that conversation about if games should be truly realistic.  I made it about halfway through, but didn’t die thankfully.  I may go back someday and return to this.  I just don’t have that much time to invest and I wanted to get to the multiplayer part of the game.

Multiplayer Mistake

I am one of the few people I know who loved Medal of Honor 2010’s multiplayer.  Even more so than Call of Duty and it was my close quarters combat game when I wasn’t in the mood for the large scale battles of Battlefield 3.  This time, instead of DICE creating it, the project was handed to Danger Close and after about two hours of multiplayer I was wishing DICE had done Warfighter’s multiplayer as well.

Warfighter has the same modes of play as the previous game, and couple of new modes, however none of it feels good all.  The map layouts are boring and overly simple.  It plays as if, rather than create the map and then decide where to put command points, they place those points first and then designed the map around them.  I played six different maps and they all had a very old design feel to them.  Nothing like modern games that have a realistic layout in design to them.

One new thing they attempted was putting everyone in two-man fire teams.  While this is a neat idea, it’s another idea better left for real life and not video games.  Unless you have a friend playing you could end up easily at the bottom of the scoreboard.  In one match I had 3400 points and was the highest scoring player in the game.  However my fireteam buddy only had 400 which put our fireteam in 3rd place overall knocking me down towards the bottom of the boards and denying me two trophies.  I understand the teamwork focus which is great, I love teamwork based games.  However this should have been an option as a game mode and not the standard squad layout in all modes. One good point is the netcode seems solid and hit detection is spot on.

Now let’s take everything I said above in the single player about the visual and audio in the campaign, remove it from the multiplayer.  The difference between the two is mindblowing.  So much to the point that I thought I needed to download an HD texture pack or something.  It was like they removed all of the textures and audio from the game, only leaving the models behind.  Then they must have taken those models and filled them with .jpg files from a SOCOM title on the PlayStation 2.  I don’t know what happened, but it wasn’t good.  Maybe it was framerate concerns, but if that is the case the game was not ready for release.  However I’m sure it was pushed out to be ahead of the Call of Duty and HALO juggernauts.  Well it didn’t pay off here.

The menus as well are a mess, and even on screen icons that pop up showing rank and special actions like mortar strikes or smoke screens are boring and uninspired.  They are nothing but two color images in nothing but flat black and white.  It didn’t help that spotting enemies results in basically a wallhack where they are outlined in glowing red and can be seen completely behind walls and buildings.  This also actually makes it harder to determine if they are an immediate threat or on the other side of the map.  Add to this your fireteam buddy is outlined in glowing green.  What was a visual masterpiece in single player has become a washed out texture mess with glowing people everywhere.

Conclusion

I loved Medal of Honor 2010, and even played long enough to obtain all but 2 single player and multiplayer Trophies and max out my rank.  I was hoping Warfighter would be my next multiplayer FPS game for the next few months.  I thoroughly enjoyed the campaign, but after a mere two hours of multiplayer Warfighter resulted in a trade in to the game store.  And I have no desire to revisit it later.

The single player campaign is very short, but I found it a must play.  Especially if you are a member of the military, a veteran, or a military buff and love to read the stories of soldiers.

If EA wanted this to alternate with Battlefield 3 to tagteam the Call of Duty behemoth this was their chance.  This was also the chance for Danger Close to not only prove they were capable of handling a large franchise alone, but to make a name for themselves.  Unfortunately as the sales suffered horribly, and those who bought it are let down after the campaign is done, rather than heroes they may end up casualties of war.

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