2007’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare changed the way we looked at war in the medium of video games. Infinity Ward’s acclaimed shooter brought the genre to modern day with gritty realism and an unapologetic look at what it meant to be at war in the modern age. Think of it as the video game equivalent of Apocalypse Now.
Now, EA’s Medal of Honor reboot has the potential to do it all over again. While most war titles tiptoe around the current conflicts in the Middle East, EA has chosen to dive in head first. Sure, the name may have been changed (EA changed the Taliban in the game to the “Opposing Force” in certain parts of the game amidst a sea of controversy from soldiers and activists), but the sentiment is still there. Sadly though the title never does the source material justice and what you’re left with is a paint-by-numbers first person shooter that shows only glimpses of what it could have been.
Right from the start, Medal of Honor shows immense promise; opening directly after the events of September 11, you’re a member of an elite American military squad given the task of finding – and eliminating the Taliban force. What starts off as a promising tale of modern conflict though, quickly descends into a ham fisted display of army stereotypes. There’s the cigar chompin’, grizzled sergeant issuing orders; and of course there’s the team’s wildcard that disobeys them because he knows better. Undoubtedly though, the game’s worst transgression is with how it treats the conflict it uses at its setting. Gone are any gleams of humanity that has come with this war in favor of the “kill all the bad guys” bravado we’ve come to expect from modern first person shooters. EA was traversing risky and unexplored territory with Medal of Honor, but they chose to take the safe route, and the game suffers as a result.
For what it’s worth though, Medal of Honor’s campaign is paced exceptionally well. Playing through, I never got the feeling that missions were dragging on, and straight forward first person shooter moments are often broken up at just the right time by tense and cinematic moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat. EA has done a great job creating a cinematic tale here that seems to move along at just the right pace. There are moments however where that cinematic quality gets in the way of gameplay. Medal of Honor’s mission structure is built firmly on the chatter you’ll hear between your squad mates and yourself, but sometimes you’ll find yourself unable to progress through certain points in missions until you hear the entire conversation carry out. This can be even more frustrating when you’re having a problem clearing a section and each time you load you have to listen and let dialogue you’ve already heard play out. The game itself is strikingly linear, and the AI will go to remarkable levels to get you to stay on the path laid out for you. There’s definitely a way that the developers want you to experience Medal of Honor – and they’re not afraid to show it to you.
Unless you’re playing on the highest difficulty, Medal of Honor’s roughly six hour campaign shouldn’t be much of a challenge for most familiar with the genre. Enemies seem to be proficient at shooting and taking cover, but they’ll often stick out their head from cover at the most inopportune times. Those looking for more of a challenge are encouraged to try out Tier 1 mode, which tasks players with completing missions against an always ticking clock that freezes, or gets time added to it when you perform specific tasks, like melee kills and headshots.
Of course, this is still a modern first person shooter, which means that where it will earn its salt, and write its legacy is in its multiplayer suite. Playing like a mix between the multiplayer modes of the Battlefield series and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Medal of Honor online features small maps and big weapons, ensuring each game is frantic and fun. Much like other similar games, you’ll be able to earn rewards including new weapons and armor for your success in the game’s multiplayer suite. Medal of Honor’s online component is exceptional and will likely become a highlight for gamers with itchy trigger fingers.
The Blast Factor: There’s a lot to like about EA’s Medal of Honor reboot if you’re able to look past some of the more disappointing aspects of the game. Though the game never truly reaches the potential its source material allows for, you’re going to want to experience the superb pacing and visuals – not to mention the distinctly addicting multiplayer suite. Sure, it’s not everything it could have been, but given the expectations, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.