Medal of Honor has always been a game that I enjoyed playing. In 2010, I took great pride in giving the highest score to that Medal of Honor release, which I felt was unappreciated amongst the reviewer community. For whatever reason, a good game was released and most people let it slip by (I even felt like it beat out Black Ops that year). It had a fun single-player campaign and a still-to-this-day addictive multiplayer campaign that was quickly thrown together by the good folks at DICE.
So, to say that I was excited about Medal of Honor: Warfighter would be a terrible understatement. It was a game I was looking forward to and one that I felt had enough time to get everything right. The question begs, did they get everything right?
Come find out.
The reports you're hearing about the campaign being disjointed and quick are very true. The story set up by the folks at Danger Close surrounds a group of soldiers that have been involved with a series of events that jump between present and past. The present cutscenes give hints that something has gone terribly wrong, as the past cutscenes play out that bad scenario. The story as a whole isn't very compelling as you feel nothing for the characters, and even worse is that the story doesn't have strong ups/downs as a proper movie should. One of the finer points of the Modern Warfare series is that the gamers can connect with the characters. Everyone knows who Soap is in the CoD series and it's that type of connection which starts and maintains a high amount of entertainment value in campaigns. No one simply wants to go through the motions and prepare themselves through the campaign mode for the multiplayer portion of MoH. Regretfully, MoH's campaign is nothing more than preparation.
The campaign is stale, it lacks a certain amount of 'neat' quality like the 2010 edition established. In Medal of Honor (2010) you had a purpose, you were driven by a story and every little 'neat' gimmick that was thrown into the game fit perfectly in the overall campaign's scheme. From sniping folks across two mountain sides, to mowing down enemies in a Blackhawk, and even towards the end when you're fighting for your life in the snowy mountains; it was exciting, death-defying and fun.
Warfighter, like I stated above, seems really stale. You'll find moments where you'll be asked to snipe from a hotel or drive down someone who has just killed a contact of yours, but for the most part there's nothing new here. There's no intense purpose for your characters to push through and prevail. It just seems like a series of disjointed missions. For me, this is a worse feeling than I had with the first Black Ops game. Danger Close really took a step backwards in terms of gameplay for the campaign mode.
As for actual gameplay elements, despite what you might hear the A.I. in the game isn't that bad -- well at least on one side of the ball. I'm impressed by the NPC A.I., as you get quite a bit of help from your fellow soldiers in the game, something that was carried over from Medal of Honor (2010). When you're under heavy fire and you're preparing to move forward, you can count on your guys to help with the push 70-80% of the time. That's impressive considering the amount of enemies you'll be facing in the game.
Speaking of the enemies, it is true that the A.I. for the opposition leaves something to be desired. You'll have repeating moments where the enemy will stick their head up continually during a firefight, allowing for you to get a headshot. You'll have moments where the enemies will rotate from firing, firing wildly behind cover and putting their heads out there. Regardless, the overall A.I. for the enemies is not that great. It certainly could be worse, but it's definitely not good.
Shifting gears a bit, the weapons loadout and options in the campaign are pretty solid. You get a nice selection of weapons to go along with the story. You'll get to fire EBR-JTF-2, AG3 and a variety of other goodies. You won't find a shortage of arms when it comes to MoH, which a great. You will find spurts of entertainment through your weapons and their usage. Again, most of your campaign, especially when it comes to the armory, is to prepare you for the MP experience.
As for presentation, the game uses the Frostbite 2 engine, which was prevalent in Battlefield 3. You get a lot more details, sometimes over saturation during wet scenes (the stealth, night mission in the pouring rain will make you feel drenched). The environments you see in the game, which include buildings, sprawling landscapes will seem absolutely enormous in Warfighter. The lighting, dust and even the shadows are done well. Even the acting for the game is solid. Visually, audibly there's little you won't like about Medal of Honor: Warfighter. If there was a bright spot in the game then this would be it.
At the end of the day, the campaign mode seems like an afterthought. While most first-person shooters are starting to treat campaigns more and more like this, Warfighter seems to really make the 'afterthought' stand out. It's lifeless, it doesn't grab you and make you want to complete it. It simply seems like it was put there as MP training and nothing more. It's definitely a mere shadow of the 2010 game.
One of the knocks that the Medal of Honor (2010) game received when it arrived was how horrible the beta was for the multiplayer experience of the game. DICE was very sensitive about this when I met with them during a trip out west in 2010, but in the end it turned out good. While it certainly couldn't rival the complexity of the Black Ops MP experience, it did bring some simplistic fun that could be called a rich man's Battlefield 1943. If you've never played 1943 then you need to drop the $9.99 on PSN/Xbox Live and get it. It's nothing complicated or in-depth, but it is quick fun online.
I digress, so 2010 was a rushed job that turned out well. Warfighter seems to be a methodically put together MP experience that just completely missed the mark. The very first thing you'll notice in the game is how incredibly restrictive it is for rookie players. You have virtually no unlockables at your disposable, which creates a terrible disadvantage to you early on in the game. You'll find yourself constantly dying because your not packing a good enough weapon to make a dent on the opposing players. Unlike the 2010 Medal of Honor, and pretty much every FPS in the last 5-7 years, you're not rewarded at the beginning for trying. You don't get to build your arsenal up to the point where you can compete properly. As any scale will show you, the leveling up at the beginning should be fast and then slow down towards the end (essentially making it more difficult to level up as you get higher up in the ranks). You basically have to continually die and scrape for points to slowly make your way to a respectable character packing the right heat. It's the complete opposite of how a MP experience should work. This is how MMOs work, but not FPS multiplayer experiences. I've been playing for four straight days on MP and I just upgraded two of my character types to one new weapon a piece. That is insanely slow with little to no reward during gameplay. Certainly you could say that I'm bitching/moaning about not being very good at the game and demanding a quick return. Nay, nay, I'm good at FPS games, but this one its just exceptionally unfair to the point of frustration when it comes to scoring/upgrading. This, of course, leads me to the a connected point with this particular subject; uneven player matches.
If you play a Quick Match then I could understand the possibility of getting matched up with someone ranked higher than you. Should you decide to go the usual route and specifically ask MoH to find your a game in Team Deathmatch then the system should go out and find the most evenly matched set of players possible to fit your level. It's not right to bring in considerably highly ranked players to go against newbies. That's like asking NASCAR drivers to go race against a Saturn Ion owner. There's no way in the world that the Saturn Ion is going to win, and the experience will more than likely leave a bad taste in the owner's mouth (if the closing of the Saturn plant didn't already). This is how I felt when it came to starting up MP in Medal of Honor: Warfighter for the first time. Sure there has to be a certainly amount of 'adjustment' time for the gamer to go into Warfighter's MP experience and get use to everything, but 3-4 days later the gamer should be beyond that point. There should be some point in the MP experience where a gamer will say, "I got it now", but from my experience with Warfighter that never came to pass. To be fair, the uneven fights weren't the only issue adding to the lost and frustrating feeling that this MP produces.
One of the most frustrating, if not THE most frustrating part of the Medal of Honor: Warfighter MP experience is how looking down your sights actually puts you at a disadvantage. Most of my 'killers' in the game were shooting from the hip. Most of my kills will came from shooting from the hip. Looking down your sights will waste your time and put you behind during a shootout. Unless you're going to be a sniper, you have to shoot from the hip to score any points during the match play. I'm not saying that once in a while your sights won't help, but 60% of the time you're going to perish by becoming more accurate with your firing. Why is this the case? The Medal of Honor released in 2010 rewarded players with accuracy and damage by staring down an enemy through the gun's sights. Warfighter is the complete opposite, as it doesn't reward such accuracy. That simply goes against any FPS on the market right now. Even Call of Duty, which contains fast/furious arcade-like playing, rewards the gamer when they're trying to be more accurate. It's not as solid as a Battlefield 3, but at least CoD conforms to the mold when it comes to this method.
With all of this said, there are some very positive steps taken by Danger Close on the MP side of things. First up, the amount of details they put into Medal of Honor: Warfighter's MP experience is insane. You've got hookups to Battlelog, you get to methodically track all your stats for each type of character, as well as your medals and rewards. Danger Close made sure that if you wanted to see what you get/got when you get to a certain amount of points that it's detailed out for you. The menus they provide are incredibly intuitive to go through and it feels like they've put a much needed amount of complication on the MP experience side that they didn't have in 2010.
As for inside the game, there are two particular elements that is super cool. You can 'buddy spawn' in the game or 'fall back'. Buddy spawn allows you to hitch a ride with a teammate during battle. You spawn on him in real time, which looks just as cool as it sounds. The only caveat to this is that if your teammate encounters an enemy then your spawn time resets until the enemy is dealt with (or your teammate dies). The opposite of that is 'fall back', which starts you in a safe area of the map you're residing in away from enemies. It's the choice that pops up when no buddies are available. As simple as it might be, they are both very neat concepts that are executed correctly.
Another plus on the MP side of things is you have far more types of soldiers to choose from in comparison to the 2010 Medal of Honor. In Warfighter, you get six types of players, each with their obvious good/bad points. You can choose from a Heavy Gunner (slow), a Sniper (only good from afar), Assaulter (quick hitting, easy to kill), Demolitions (just like it sounds), Point Man (excellent weapons and very good with the Apache), and Spec Ops (cool stuff, really good stealthy). Each character comes with a variety of unlockable weapons, support actions (lots of them) and different customizations that make your characters unique. Much like the menu system, the amount of changes you can make to your soldiers, their weapons and support actions is extremely detailed. There are lots of different ways to spec out your military folk.
Yet another plus on the MP side of things is the different maps you will encounter. Much like Battlefield 3, you're going to find very huge maps for your games to take place in. You'll find yourself in a broken down city, a training camp and even a village (with a bridge) in the middle of a jungle, just to name a few. Each one is huge, each one has its own positive and negatives to it. All of them seem to allow for a lot of running, gunning and multi-level usage. The only drag about all the maps (and this is every one of them) is that they seem a bit flatter than what we've seen in 2010, or even in the Battlefield series. You only go about two levels deep with any of the maps. So don't expect climbing large towers like in Battlefield. Don't expect scaling edges of buildings to find the perfect shot as a sniper, like in Medal of Honor (2010). You pretty much get a sprawling set of maps that have a bland flavor to them. There are plenty of places to set up shop to use your variety of characters, but these maps won't achieve anything new in comparison to other FPS.
To wrap up the MP section of this review, let's discuss MP experience game modes. Here's what to expect on the MP side of things:
Combat Mission -- In combat mission, the away team are the attackers, while the home team are the defenders. The away team has to attack three points/objectives of the home team. If they get 2/3 objectives then they win. If they don't then the home team wins. It's simple stuff and it's fun. It's sort of like demolition in CoD, at least the same concept.
Sector Control -- If you picture a 'king of the hill' with teams then you understand what you get with sector control. You basically fight the other team for control of certain points (north base, south base and center base). By controlling each point, you gain points on a meter. The first team to fill their meter wins the game. It's like capture the flag, but only if the flags were stationary. You've seen this before in games like Battlefield 3.
Hotspot -- I had a chance to play this yesterday and enjoyed it. There are five potential targets on the map. Once the game begins, the computer will select which target is 'active'. Both attackers/defenders must rush to that target and try to take control of it. The attackers will try to plant charges on the targets to blow them up. The defenders must prevent this from happening. It's pretty stuff and it adds some excitement/flavor to the MP experience.
Home Run -- This is essentially capture the flag, but with a twist. You only get one life in the game and you become a spectator once that's over. It's a neat, very quick type of game.
Team Deathmatch -- You know what this is.
Real Ops -- Real Ops is interesting because you basically have no HUD whatsoever. You're playing as if you're really out in military situation with only your senses to guide you. In addition to flying blind, you also have the ability to hurt friendlies in this game. So, check your fire and make sure they're on your side before you start going 'Rambo' on anyone. It's truly made for the seasoned MP gamer.
There are certainly options, and good ones, when it comes to playing online with Medal of Honor: Warfighter. If you can somehow overcome the frustration of getting killed constantly then you may find some real value here in these games.