Medal of Honor
EA's Medal of Honor series is dormant no longer, returning with a modern reboot to compete for a share of a currently relevant and popular market in the modern day shooter sub-genre. Concentrating on the more realistic portrayal of warfare, Medal of Honor succeeds in creating a thoughtful and alternative title to the likes of Modern Warfare 2 or Bad Company 2, but in this quest for individualism fails to fully engage the player in all the right ways. However, there are sparks of brilliance to be found in Danger Close and Dice's latest offering, whether it's enough to threaten the current market leaders however, is looking unlikely.
The biggest problem in the singleplayer campaign is the narrative. Lacking a strong story Medal of Honor initially comes off as a selection of loosely related missions with the intension of delivering a message more so than a story. It certainly creates a realistic and respectful presentation of what warfare is like in Afghanistan - complete with mistakes and their consequences - but unfortunately it falls short of creating a gripping tale to engage the player. To its credit, however, the delivered message of camaraderie and communication issues along the chain of command is subtle enough not to offend but obvious enough to make you think about and understand the soldier's struggle. Playing as a selection of Tier 1 operators you undertake missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan, partaking in a variety of different operation in the early stages of the conflict. The variety is great, with a decent selection of skirmishes, stealth missions, vehicle sections and other staples of the FPS genre. Pretty much all the boxes are ticked for content including a selection of excellent set pieces that either provide further variety to experience - such as piloting an apache - or deliver interesting bouts of drama to pull you in. most of these set pieces have been seen before in similar titles but the realistic undertone Medal of Honor provides, allows them to standout proud against anything produced elsewhere. Unfortunately the aforementioned disconnected narrative fails to string these all together effectively and the line between realistic and fun is crossed over into the former a little too often.
An abundance of professionally delivered military lingo and appropriately ranged skirmishes set Medal of Honor up as a more realistic and serious FPS, and whilst this can compromise the fun it certainly achieves a unique character. The less realistic regenerating health and an abundance of enemies to mow down is still present but it's refreshing to find an FPS that understands the appropriate distance parameters involved in using guns. The problem with this focus on realism is that the campaign can feel predictable and routine at times, with you and your squad moving over terrain in mostly linear levels, taking cover and shooting grouped enemies from range, rinse and repeat. With only the occasional set piece occurring to shake things up the repetition can lead to more than a few dull sections. What also doesn't help is an incompetent enemy A.I., one which lacks accuracy, tactical awareness and self preservation, making the long range battles far too easy. The friendly A.I. fairs a great deal better but this combined with the enemy A.I.'s problems - as well as allies providing you with practically unlimited ammo when asked - results in a easy ride on the normal difficulty setting. If you're looking for any kind of challenge at all, then hard is your best bet.
Six to seven hours is all you'll get out of the campaign but this brevity means it doesn't overstay its welcome, and the addition of the Tier 1 mode provides replayability with a much greater challenge. Tier 1 mode allows you to speed run through completed campaign missions with reduced damage absorption and no checkpoints, posting completion times on an online leaderboard. It's a pretty brutal but fun mode, and it's a unique way of encouraging replays. Of course it's in the multiplayer where Medal of Honor really gets its longevity from.
The multiplayer is certainly fun but suffers slightly from a limited amount of modes and maps, and its team oriented experience will be initially off putting to some. The lone wolf, however, still has a part to play. The multiplayer is dynamic in terms of victory conditions based on player actions. The small maps allow a well organised team to dominate one minute when moments later a couple of lone wolfs are able to completely tear apart their opposing team's cooperation and position. It's remarkable how two completely different approaches to play can coexist and cause such a tug of war for dominance, and this is one achievement that few other FPS titles can claim. Whether this is the result of a conscious design choice, a complete accident, or because of the community, is yet to be seen, but for the time being it sets Medal of Honor apart with individualism and flare.
In fact the multiplayer as a whole successfully sets itself apart with individualism. Striking an excellent balance between Dice's own Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Infinity Wards's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Medal of Honor sits firmly in the middle, offering up a taste of both rivals experience. This unfortunately means it's a master of neither. The small maps come off as restricted compared to Bad Company 2's and the range of modes shares the same fate when compared with Modern Warfare 2's. What Medal of Honor offers instead is a highly focused multiplayer. Team Assault provides frantic skirmishes pulled off effectively with their non-linier small maps, and things are made increasingly more frantic with consecutive kills being rewarded with special tactical abilities such as mortar strikes or increased armour. The remaining object based modes Combat Mission, Sector Control, and Objective Raid provide something more structured that benefit from fast pacing and well designed - but still small - maps. Additionally, RPG elements are included to level up each of the three classes - Riflemen, Special Ops, and Sniper - to unlock equipment and weapons, and for those looking for a more punishing multiplayer, Hardcore mode is available for all except Combat Mission. There are problems with hit detection however, especially so when firing close to building and object edges but other than that there are no major problems. There's an obvious focus on team work throughout the multiplayer and whilst the lack of modes and maps - and how small they are - is a shame, the tight focus does mean it provides a great experience for those who prefer a more team orientated setup. For the majority, however, it will fail to replace player's current favourites, with all modes on offer also being found elsewhere, but it certainly provides an alternative for those looking for it.
Medal of Honor certainly has some great elements and ideas but they aren't brought together in the most convincing way. The campaign lacks widespread appeal due to aspects of its realistic setup and narrative, and the multiplayer is too focused to draw a substantial crowd from the established shooters already out there. However, as far as reboots go it's a good first outing that could well pave the way for the series' follow-ups. It's not the triumphant return many expected but there is definitely another horse in the race.
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