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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Once the premier console military shooter, the Medal of Honor series has lost some of its luster this generation with a couple of less-than-inspiring offerings. Hoping to battle their way back to the frontlines, Electronic Arts has enlisted two development squads (Danger Close for the campaign and DICE for the multiplayer) to help completely reboot the franchise. Can this representation of the current war against the Taliban bring Medal of Honor into the modern era of first-person shooters, or is the game still struggling to get to higher ground?

Since the game isn’t in stores until today, the majority of this review will focus on the single player campaign. Starting up the game I was greeted by a military quote and then found myself riding inside a helicopter. That’s pretty familiar territory for this genre, but the chopper ride does a good job showing off how much work has been spent on recreating the Afghan countryside. In particular, the lighting and particle effects really shine while highlighting the mountainous terrain. So much so, that I can forgive some of the rough textures. Okay, enough talk about the sightseeing. We’re here to get on the ground and kill the Taliban.

Yes, despite the controversy in renaming the insurgents in the multiplayer mode, the Taliban are most definitely the opposing force in the campaign. Playing as Tier 1 Operators and Army Rangers, you are tasked with locating and rooting out these militants from villages, caves, and hillsides through a variety of methods. Maybe it’s just me, but like many military games, the way this variety is presented is starting to resemble an Old Spice commercial. By that, I mean that it constantly feels like I’m getting placed in different situations without a great deal of flow between them. “Look at me. I’m on a helicopter. Look again. I’m in a Humvee. Look down, back up. I’m driving an ATV. Look at me now. I’m calling in air strikes. What’s in your hand, back at me, I have it. It’s a sniper rifle. Anything is possible. I’m on a horse.” Wait, wait… I got a little carried away, that last one doesn’t happen.

What does happen, fortunately, is a stream of intense action and firefights in rapid succession. This hampers the storytelling aspects of the game but it’s thankfully fairly easy to keep track of who is who; for the majority of the game you are placed into the boots of one of three soldiers: Tier One Operators Deuce and Rabbit and Army Ranger Adams. There’s a clear difference between the missions and activities you embark on while playing as each of the different specialists. Tier One operations occupy much of the story, and these are more tactical and stealthy endeavors with a squad of two or four teammates. Since the teams are small, these missions succeed in discouraging players from going in loud and allow for some interesting moments of flanking and calling in aerial strikes on identified targets. There are several firefights can’t be avoided though, and these operatives are certainly capable of looking down iron sights and headshotting Taliban as they peek out from destructible cover. The cover system is actually a little more in-depth than most first-person shooters, as you can slide behind hard spots and lean to the sides to avoid full exposure. Aside from that, these bullet exchanges play out similarly to Medal of Honor’s contemporaries and your squad mates are actually adept at taking down their share of combatants.

The Army Ranger sections are structured in a much more guns blazing fashion and are some of my favorite moments in the game. This is perhaps because I felt more vulnerable with bullets flying everywhere and cover quickly collapsing around me. There are some great moments of providing suppressing fire to allow your teammates to close in on embedded machine guns. This gameplay type is satisfying and stands out as a unique experience amidst a lot of the familiar, yet well done, events that are encapsulated in the five-hour campaign. Yes, the single player mode is concise, but aside from the loose controlling (and frame-rate dropping) ATV section, the entire game is action on top of action. Outside of the campaign, there is also a Tier 1 Mode that is based on playing through each of the single-player levels as fast as possible, leaderboard included. There’re no checkpoints in this mode and the difficulty is upped, so this is for those who like a challenge. I do find it a little odd that Tier 1 Mode rewards players for skilled kills like headshots or melees by pausing the timer for a few seconds. It seems dangerously close to turning this into a Score Attack arcade mode and contrasts with the overall reverence shown towards the subject matter.

I’ve played around two hours of online multiplayer, so I’ll give a few thoughts on it, but it will take significant longer to know if Medal of Honor is going to be an online hit. I will say that it has good framework despite not allowing you to slide into cover or peak out of it as you can in the campaign. It offers the persistent online leveling that unlocks new equipment for three different classes: Riflemen, Special Ops, and Snipers. It also has a perks system that rewards players for kill streaks with either offensive or defensive Support Actions like mortar strikes and UAVs. Medal of Honor supports up to twenty-four players across four different game modes: Team Assault (team deathmatch), Objective Raid (bombing raids), Sector Control (territory capturing), and Combat Mission. Combat Mission is my favorite mode, and revolves around a team goal of either protecting or capturing five consecutive objectives. These matches can be lengthy, but the gameplay offers a nice mix of combat and teamwork although there are currently only three maps for Combat Mission. As for the remaining three modes, there are currently five maps and I find them to be well done, with lots of different paths and opportunities for different elevations. Unfortunately, with the opportunities for vantage points, snipers seem to have the upper hand on most maps. I know I was sniped numerous times after taking a mere few steps from a spawn point. Then again, in other matches I was able to sneak up on snipers as they were occupied with my teammates. To succeed at multiplayer, it’s going to take a mix of classes on each team; without competent snipers, winning seems daunting. There’s also a Hardcore mode that cycles through the three game types (not including Combat Mission). Truth be told, it seems like this title could offer a solid online game experience, but the number of maps and gameplay customization options is limited when compared to other first-person shooter options. I should also mention that in my brief time with the multiplayer, I did encounter one match with lag that made the game unplayable. This will hopefully not be an issue when the servers are more populated.

Medal of Honor is a commendable reboot of the franchise and Danger Close and DICE have taken great strides in catching the series up to its competitors. The single player, while skimpy on story and length, is an enjoyable and extremely varied ride. The multiplayer seems poised to compete well in the market with fast-paced combat and well-designed levels, but the lack of game options and limited initial maps is concerning. Though not feature-rich, Medal of Honor is successfully back into the fray and positioned as a viable FPS option once again.

Overall I give MoH a 9/10 


  1. Based off of Singe Player Story mode: rent or buy?

  2. If you are just playing story and not the online, rent it. Buy if you want the multiplayer

  3. sounds bad ass. Ill probably rent it.

  4. I might get it from gamefly..but thats it. :D

  5. These graphics rival anything else out on the market for this genre. Hope the gameplay lives up!