In EA's multi-brand attempt to keep up with the franchise juggernaut known as Call of Duty, the publisher has cued up a new installment of Medal of Honor. Like the previous installment, Medal of Honor: Warfighter attempts to be an appreciation letter to the real life special operatives who help preserve freedom. Yet how does that translate in the context of a poorly designed campaign narrative and a mediocre multiplayer mode?
- Familiar multiplayer modes
- Engaging driving sections
- Useful multiplayer buddy system
- Poor multiplayer menus
- Pointless breaching upgrades
- Unremarkable single player
- Scary mother and daughter
Medal of Honor Warfighter Review:
Much like 2010's EA's Medal of Honor reboot, Medal of Honor: Warfighter looks to be the foil to the Call of Dutys and Battlefields of the first person shooter market. Light on the summer blockbuster theatrics or sensational vehicular acrobatics, the series seeks to carve a brand that emphasizes authenticity, but not necessarily realism. Warfighter attempts to build on top of the adequate foundation laid by the previous game, reprising the selling point of basing missions on real events.
See The World
While there was much to appreciate in the single-setting focus of Afghanistan in the last Medal of Honor, this sequel takes a chance in being more like the majority of other recent military shooters by going with the world-traveller approach. From Somalia to the Philippines to Eastern Europe, Tier 1 Operators' missions feel more like a collection of vignettes as they globetrot to wherever they're needed. Granted, there is a narrative that strings these missions together, but it's a very flimsy string that is short on cohesion with poor uses of exposition.
If you're one of the few who actually remembers the cutscene teaser after the coda in the previous Medal of Honor, you'll be treated to some sense of continuity, although it's not the first playable chapter in Warfighter. It's a seemingly quaint scene where two characters are discussing the merits of the local tea, but what they're really doing is waiting for their target. The ensuing chase and gun battles are some of the very few highlights of the campaign.
Don’t Worry! I’ll Drive!
Demo-worthy showcases of the Frostbite 2 engine can be found in the story's two car chases. Co-developed by folks behind the Need For Speed series, you can feel a sense of gravity and vehicle suspension that is seldom found in other FPS driving sequences. The dust and mud that gets throw on the windshield adds to the experience, as well as the subsequent activation of the wiper blades. At best, the complementary music and the persistent sense of urgency makes these sections feel like something out of the film Ronin or the Bourne movie series. It's just too bad that this section had to end with a Metal Gear Solid-inspired sneaking mission. Yes, you use a car to drive around and hide from other cars and use radar to see their field of vision.
It's a questionable section, but it pales in comparison to the more detrimental issues that plague this campaign. The sound effects of several scripted explosions are delayed (not because sound travels) and many enemies do not take cover even after their current cover spots are destroyed. You can tell that developer Danger Close made an effort to make enemy AI movements reasonably unpredictable; it's just too bad that the studio didn't improve on the AI's situational awareness. I managed to snipe at least 50 enemies because the upper halves of their heads were exposed even though they were technically behind cover. It's also annoying when the game takes control away from the player whether it's to finish off the last steps of a foot chase or an automated fistfight. Lastly, the AI-controlled squadmates are inconsistently helpful; they can pull their weight in some missions while being utterly useless in others.
Let Me Tell You A Story . . . Or Not.
Beyond the gameplay, the story is actually worse than the squad-driven narrative from the previous game. The campaign is partly told through prerendered cutscenes with a heavy familial theme. Worse yet, the mother and daughter who are prominently featured in these intermissions appear to have come from the near bottom of the uncanny valley, which doesn't cut it for a 2012 AAA release.
The biggest disappointment is that the most cohesive and entertaining portion of the campaign isn't experienced until the last three chapters. In a game that spans 13 chapters, the "just wait, it gets better" excuse just doesn't cut it. It's also worth mentioning that an earlier chapter is designed to take less than a minute to beat.
Often a welcome and brief deviation from the standard gunplay, breaching was a feature in the last Medal of Honor and also played a part in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3's show stealing E3 presentation. The breaching events in Warfighter are excessive, partly due to the inclusion of a new and inexplicable unlocking system involving different ways to break down doors. You start off with a no-nonsense reverse kick, followed by the subsequent flash grenade throw, and then you're in a slow motion sequence where you have the chance to pull off several headshots. Each headshot works toward unlocking other breach methods, whether you'd rather strap on explosive tape to the door or just hack away at the doorknob with a melee weapon. Designed around a half-circle radial, this user interface's slickness is reminiscent of Assassin's Creed's weapon/item menus. So it's all the more puzzling that there's really no point to this feature. Seeing your NPC buddies breach in different animations isn’t anything special and some methods are even less time efficient than that default reverse kick.
A History Lesson With Friends
The multiplayer places a huge emphasis on nation allegiances. Judging by all the text detailing the background info of each special forces team, Danger Close really wants to show off how much research they put into each of these groups. But what does that mean to the player who simply wants to jump into some straightforward FPS multiplayer? Every operative in every nation squad has a different set of weapons, gear and uniforms, making this part of multiplayer an overly complex premade loadout menu. Yet this design is misguided, especially when you don't have the opportunity to experiment with different loadouts. Once you choose your initial assault soldier, you're stuck with him and have to gain experience before accessing other troops.
On top of choosing a country, you also have the option of joining a platoon, Warfighter's clan system. A platoon can have as many nation affiliations as possible, and players from the same country can be on opposite sides in a match. It is as confusing as it sounds.
Much of this confusion stems from Warfighter's multiplayer UI, which is a poorly designed mess where practical information is hidden under pop-ups of over explanation. Good luck trying to get a full understanding of nation allegiances, the Fireteam Bravo system, and the post-game statistical breakdowns. Not only is there a shortage of clear and concise information, the common text size in the menus are annoyingly small, even for players with large screen televisions.
Another aspect of the multiplayer that seems unnecessarily convoluted is a token redemption feature that requires you to visit the Warfighter website. There you redeem multiplayer performance tokens toward points for your affiliated country, adding to a worldwide leaderboard. The country with the most points at the end of a weeklong "season" wins. It was hard understand why this could not have been automated through the game itself. If visiting the website was meant to immerse me further in the "Warfighter Experience", having to take that extra step in redeeming the tokens ended up having the opposite effect.
These menus are so unattractive that navigating to the actual multiplayer gameplay feels like a minor relief. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long to discover how unremarkable the game modes are. Bringing nothing new to the table, the familiar suite of formats range from Team Deathmatch to two kinds of bomb arming/defusing missions. Sector Control is Medal Of Honor's take on Conquest while Home Run is a multi-round take on Capture The Flag. There's added tension to Home Run since it's the only mode that doesn't feature respawns.
To Warfighter's credit, the environments are unique enough that you never get the impression that Danger Close heavily copy and pasted art assets and set pieces between the single player and multiplayer modes. The maps are notably improved over the levels in 2010's Medal Of Honor in terms of offering a wider spread of verticality and a better balance of indoor/outdoor environments. Where Warfighter critically lacks are in the map sizes, which can make mid-match spawning a challenge, especially if you make the mistake of spawning from a helicopter, an experience that I never found advantageous.
Your best chance in spawning and actually staying alive is through your Fireteam Bravo partner. By sticking close to your pre-designated partner, you can heal, share ammo, and gain extra experience points when performing well. You'll also gain an added sense of awareness with the ability to see your buddy through walls, ideal for flanking strategies.
War Is Over
Like the last Medal of Honor, Warfighter's attempts at authenticity won't be lost on most players, but it's hard to maintain that sense of appreciation after discovering and contending with the flaws in the gameplay. It says something when the best parts of a first person shooter are the car chases. Tactical sections are forgettable and only made me crave another playthrough of this summer's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. Beyond the cumbersome menus, the multiplayer is a decent way to spend time adversarially, but it's difficult to imagine its suite of modes will be able to compete with Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 in the coming weeks.
Want more information on how we score reviews? Read the "How G4 Reviews Work" article here.
Editor's Note: Medal of Honor Warfighter was reviewed using a PC copy of the game; however, we also played the Xbox 360 version, and found no differences. If further investigation reveals any differences between the PC edition and the Xbox 360 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.