Medal of HonorESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: First Person Shooter
Developers: Danger Close (Single Player Campaign)/DICE (Multiplayer)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Single player campaign mode
Online Multiplayer (2-24 Players)
HDTV - 480p/720p.1080i/1080p
In-game Dolby Digital Audio
Despite the “play as the Taliban” controversy in the weeks leading up to the release of Medal of Honor, when examined as the video game it is, it is just another battle based shooter. The latest first person military shooter from EA Games could be considered two games in one. The single player campaign feels very different from the online multiplayer. This is not surprising as two different developers had a hand in the development. The question that begs to be answered is: “does it work?” I feel the answer is “kind of, but it could have been so much more.”
I played Medal of Honor on the Xbox 360. The graphics are expectedly sharp. Having played EA/DICE’S Battlefield: Bad Company and Bad Company 2 to death, less than stellar graphics would have been a surprise. Both Danger Close and DICE have created credible environments that enhance the battlefield and add to the realism of the conflict. That being stated, I find a contradiction in my view, and it is one I find dominates my experience with this latest Medal of Honor. Yes the single and multiplayer look the same, compliment each other well, and are cinematically crisp, but they feel like different games. It is for this reason that I am reduced to offering an evaluation about the graphic qualities of Medal of Honor to the simple grade of pass. They work, they look great, they are textured and they are a realistic representation of what I perceive Afghanistan to look like. But they don’t make the game great on their own.
The timbre of the battle scenes and the quiet of the more “stealthy” aspects of the single player campaign certainly add to the realism. The audio in the multiplayer works well too, as you are assaulted with the frenetic cacophony of battle. The crispness and clarity of the environmental sounds are so vivid that I found I was relying on the sound of my “enemy’s” voice to be a better locator than the mini-map. The intro to the single player campaign has sounds that set a tone and build tension as the voices of “news reporters” relay the horrors of the World Trade Centre and Pentagon tragedies of 9/11. From the first sound Medal of Honor grabs you and makes it very clear you are about to do battle in a conflict that is very real and is ongoing. The scripting and voice acting in the single player campaign are good, but cliché. The names felt like they were right out of a mid-forties Audy Murphy movie than the current middle eastern conflict. Overall the sounds of the game are good, but not stellar.
As I mentioned earlier, Medal of Honor is really two different games. At its heart it is a current real-world FPS, and the tension is immediate as you are driving through the streets of Kabul. The game plays to a definite sense of realism. The thing that dominated my thoughts after the first chapter was: "what's new?" and my answer was, “not a lot.” Relying on darkness to add to the suspense, for me, it felt so been there, done that.
Developed by Danger Close, MoH’s single player campaign begins right after the vents of 9/11 in 2001. The missions at first seem intense as the realism supports the notion that each chapter is replay of actual events, which is how I felt after being ambushed on the streets of Kabul. When I was fighting from cover-to-cover through the hangars at Bagram Air Base or flying over hills in an ATV, the game felt real. The guns shoot well and hitting your squad mate up for ammo is a nice addition, but the melee mechanic feels weak. The use of multiple view points is good and could lead to more than one play-through. For me the sense of realism wore off as I progressed through the campaign. The inclusion of the Tier 1 mode of the single player campaign, which pits the player against the clock as they replay the missions with the goal of beating the par time, did little to make me want to replay the game.
Things really changed when I went to try the multiplayer. I loved and played to death DICE’s most recent outing, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and its strength was the online multiplayer. Therefore, I had high hopes for DICE’s treatment on the multiplayer side of MoH. The controversy prior to release regarding taking sides in the multiplayer requiring you to play as the Taliban, and being set in a current conflict, may cause some to find it distasteful or unsavoury. At the risk of over simplifying or appearing insensitive to the real life combatants, somebody has to play the enemy. With only eight maps, four multiplayer modes (Team Assault, Sector Control, Objective Raid and Combat Mission) and three classes (Rifleman, Special Ops or Sniper), and even with unlocking weapon upgrades as you level up much the same as BF:BC2, my experience felt unsatisfied. The maps are small, so on one hand MoH is action packed, but on the other hand the matches feel short.
One area where I feel the game stands apart from any Call of Duty multiplayer experience I have ever had is it seems to reward teamwork as opposed to the “Lone-Wolf” attitude I felt on COD games; the result being I felt less frustrated and more satisfied at the end of a round. But overall the multiplayer lacks the appeal of the BF:BC 2 experience. One area that EA shines with this outing, as opposed to the Battlefield versions, is the servers for the multiplayer seem to be far more robust. Gone are the frustrations of being arbitrarily and without reason being booted from a match due to server failures.
I had some preconceived notions that EA Games’ Medal of Honor would be a really good game. This was all based on the great time I had with the Battlefield: Bad Company games. After playing Medal of Honour I would have to rate the game as OK. It plays well. The variety of different characters I got to play, from navy Seals, to army rangers to Tier 1 undercover operatives, was fun. The premise that the best laid plans of any operation can SNAFU big time advance the tension of the story, but they do feel far too scripted and linear. In the end I was satisfied, but this could have been so much more.