When I think of Medal of Honor, I think of a great single player experience, with intense battles, set in the gritty World War II era. However it was no real surprise to me to see the franchise rebooted after its three-year absence on the gaming scene. What with Call of Duty and Battlefield leading the way, it was only a matter of time before I would pick up an M4A1 rather than the rifles of yesteryear. Medal of Honor returns in new modern guise, brining an explosive single player campaign and a not to shabby multiplayer experience. More on that later, but first let’s tackle the single player campaign.
The game is set in war torn Afghanistan, fresh after the 9/11 attack in 2001. Throughout the game you take part in a number of military roles during their fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In each mission you’ll be either on foot breaching rooms in tiny towns or ducking for cover in airplane graveyards. And in true Medal of Honor style there will be moments where you’ll gunning on rails; whether it be in a jeep or in an Apache gunship flying through enemy airspace, firing hellfire missiles at enemy strongholds. A few rendered cut-scenes usher you through the somewhat thin storyline that runs throughout the campaign. In true Modern Warfare style each mission has you jumping between different military factions in the overall campaign, some of which are great, yet some are just ‘okay’.
Sadly, some missions have you saying to yourself: ‘Have I played this before?’ The answer is yes, you probably have. Quite a few too many missions have come straight out of the Call of Duty Modern Warfare book of single player experiences. Missions like following your colleague as he marks off targets for you to shoot, yes, we’ve done that. Fight in a disbanded airplane graveyard, been there before. Take out far away targets whilst looking through thermal imaging cameras, loved it, but we have all done that before too.
Let’s be honest, redoing those types of missions make for a great experience, but it would have been nice to add some originality or even a twist to something that has already been done many times before. Having said that though, there are some great moments that has come from Medal of Honor’s single player missions. Combat in the mountains of Afghanistan does bring, literally, a fresh new angle in gameplay, where vertical angles of attack come into play that can result in some quite intense battles. There are also moments in combat where you have to just fall back whilst covering your behind, and it’s moments like these in the campaign that adds some originality to the game, but it is just a shame there just wasn’t more of it.
Throughout the game there were moments where I did discover some fairly obvious bugs that should have been caught during testing, or at least patched prior to its release. Spawning enemies are nothing new in a game, however 99% of the time you don’t see them appearing in full view as they do in Medal of Honor – it can very quickly bring the impression of the game tumbling down. There were also moments were the AI just wasn’t triggering in time to my actions. This allowed me to run up and stand next to an enemy who is still crouching behind a rock, waiting for some script to trigger it. Other than these quirky and at times laughable issues, I had a lot of fun with the single player campaign however, whilst playing in normal difficulty, I was very surprised to be finish with it in just over four hours; that said, when I think back to previous Medal of Honor titles, they were also similar in length. Although short, the single player campaign has had a lot of attention put into it. Even if some ideas were a little borrowed, it didn’t feel tacked on and it does stand up by itself, but this game does comes in two parts and the other part is its multiplayer.
It is becoming quite common in games today where the single player and multiplayer modes can be created by different developers, sometimes using different game engines. This is relevant in Medal of Honor’s case, where the single player (developed by Danger Close) uses Unreal Engine 3, where as the multiplayer mode was developed by DICE, using their stellar Frostbite engine, last seen in Battlefield Bad Company 2 (BFBC2). Medal of Honor had my immediate attention when I first heard that DICE would bring their talents to the multiplayer side of Medal of Honor, however, sadly it is a mixed bag of good and bad. Overall the maps, modes and overall foundations of the online mode feel a little rushed with many features cut, missing or avoided.
Being a huge BFBC2 fan, I was hoping we would have the same experience in a new mountainous setting, with some different weapons and vehicles. Instead, we have a watered-down Frostbite engine, resulting in a very mild online experience, with maps similar in size to those found in Call of Duty Modern Warfare. Due to the size of the maps, vehicles make a very minor appearance in the form of a few light tanks that do not traverse that far in the maps that they appear in. Another game-changing feature to the Frostbite engine – Destruction 2.0 – is also missing. You can’t explode walls as found in DICE’s more realistic and much more fun BFBC2 online mode. So my overall impression is that this area may have been a little rushed to market, or the team involved may have had no time to get to grips with all of the Frostbite engine’s features to make it in time for release.
Although the maps have been well thought out, with some intense combat only a few paces away, only a few BFBC2 gameplay elements are there, such as ranking up, ribbon collecting and the unlocking of weapons and attachments. But overall, Medal of Honor’s online experience leaves me fairly disappointed and a bit empty, craving for more substance that I know could have been implemented, but is sadly missing. If I am honest, it is a mode I won’t be signing back into that often, if at all, especially where I can always get the fully featured package served to me in Battlefield Bad Company 2, or Call of Duty if that is your bag.
So is Medal of Honor a game worth recommending? Certainly, if you want to experience an explosive single player campaign, which from start to finish is a thrilling ride that is also a rich feast for the eyes and ears, regardless of its bugs and quirks in particular missions. On the multiplayer side of things, I would be a little hesitant to recommend the game just for that. It depends if you come from either CoD MW2 or Battlefield Bad Company 2 camps. If you were to merge the two together, you would get close to understanding what Medal of Honor offers online, but water this impression down a lot, as it still leaves you wanting much more than what is currently being offered. With its short campaign, and lacklustre online experience, I think a rental would be a safe bet, and I hope the next instalment of the franchise awards us with some originality and increased development time to make us gamers feel truly honored.