Medal of Honor Warfighter GDC 2012 Preview -- Bringing the Battlefield HomeBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Mar 06, 2012
It’s a well-researched and rehearsed line, but it also happens to be true: Medal of Honor Warfighter is the most ambitious and expansive Medal of Honor game to date. As the developers at Danger Close told us during the game’s GDC press event, the driving force behind Warfighter’s ambitions is not only telling the personal stories of the highly skilled operatives responsible for some of the world’s most advanced military operations but expanding that narrative onto the global stage.
As such, every single mission in Warfighter takes inspiration from actual real world military events. This “ripped from the headlines” approach is what Danger Close hopes will make Warfighter stand out among the ever increasing pack of military shooters on the market (not the least of which is the studio’s close partner DICE and its Battlefield series). And this time around, there's no single event that will be driving the story, but rather multiple threads weaving together to form a more elaborate overall narrative.
Warfighter will also expand the theater of war beyond Medal of Honor's mountains of Afghanistan and into other parts of the world where the threats and violence are just as real and just as much of a danger to global stability as the groups and conflicts familiar to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of world news.
To introduce us to Warfighter’s new Frostbite 2-powered vision, EA booted up the game, and gave us our first look at an in-game mission.
When the scene opens, we’re waist deep in water in the lobby of a spacious, seemingly high-end restaurant in a typhoon-destroyed village in the Philippines. We’ve been sent into to extract some hostages being held by a local terrorist group known as Abu Sayyaf. Working alongside Filipino special forces, our operatives have been given the greenlight to retrieve the hostages with extreme prejudice. And that’s exactly what they do.
As soon as the scene begins, it’s all out chaos. The Frostbite 2 engine does what it does best: create the sharpest, most spectacular-sounding battle scenes around. Explosions rock the space, splintering the predominantly wood frames and dividers that hold the room together. Bullets kick up water as they tear through the debris that floats all around the soldiers who return fire against enemies on ground level as well as in the rafters above. Grenades give off a deafening roar as they blast water up to the ceiling. It’s madness.
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Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Huh. This sort of all-out military mayhem sounds an awful lot like Battlefield. Doesn’t EA often refer to Battlefield as the ‘hammer’ and MOH as the ‘scalpel’ when talking about their differing stylistic approaches?” First off, very astute observation, and tying it together with the whole moniker thing was spot on. But while you definitely raise a good point, this portion of the demo, the scene detailed above, is actually the tamest part, so let’s circle back on this topic in a second.
Once our squad has cleared the ground floor, they move upstairs to clear out more enemies that continue to pour into the place like late guests at a wedding, trying to be all subtle and suave. It’s no use, though, as they are quickly mowed down and/or blown up by our operatives. Towards the end of this section, the gang regroups by a door and the EA rep driving the demo chooses the “flashbang” option to clear the next room—he could have C4-ed or kicked in the door as well. One our NPC pals cracks open the door and tosses in the flashbang, which triggers a slow-mo breaching sequence (like you’ve seen in countless other military shooters before) that results in several perfectly placed headshots on the hostage holders inside.
With the civilians in tow, the group meets up with some extraction boats outside to take them to safety. Wait, did someone say “boat?” I sure did! And you know what that means: it's on-rails, balls-out action sequence time. Whoo-h…wait, question in the back. “Hi. Guy from earlier again. Weren’t we supposed to be seeing the ‘scalpel’ game?” Oh right. Well, here’s the thing.
When you have the power of the Frostbite 2 engine behind you, and you need to get hostages out of harm’s way, a pulse-pounding, explosion-filled boat chase through a flooded city with buildings collapsing all around you is something that just needs to happen. Sure, blasting apart entire buildings and shattering tanker trucks into hundreds of gorgeously rendered flaming pieces that rain over your head as you zoom underneath an overpass doesn’t sound very “scalpely,” but from what Danger Close seemed to insinuate from its discussion about the importance it places on authenticity and realism, this sort of high-octane set piece won’t be the norm; at least, I hope that’s the case because otherwise it would fly in the face of what Danger Close is setting out to do with Warfighter.
Aside from the gameplay demo outlined above and the choice bits about being inspired by real world events, the reps on hand didn’t delve too much more into the single-player experience. From what we saw, it looks like a less lense-flarey Battlefield 3 (although there was still some; in fact, some of the lighting and smoke effects were even better than they were in BF3, and the sound was once again just phenomenal). How Warfighter will differentiate itself from BF will be the biggest question over the coming months as we move towards the game October 23 release.
On the multiplayer side, Danger Close was staying even more tightlipped, with the exception of making the genuinely surprising revelation that the team took true inspiration from EA’s FIFA series when crafting the multiplayer experience. Specifically, the notion of national pride and “playing for the home team.” As a result, players will be now be able to choose from 12 different special ops units from 10 different countries in multiplayer. As Warfighter executive producer Dan Greenwalt explained, “Polish kids don’t grow up wishing to be a member of the American Special Forces; they grow up wanting to be Grom commandos.” Grom being the Polish equivalent of America’s Tier 1.
This sense of elite military warfare extends to the single-player as well, since you’ll be fighting alongside the Tier 1’s of a variety of different nations as you fight to save the world yet again. And the fact that the story itself was crafted by over two dozen actual Special Forces agents while oversees and facing down death on a daily basis is sure to give the Warfighter campaign a level of authenticity and emotion not seen in other titles in the genre.
I would hope this means more “low key,” tactical missions that favor tension and precision over bomb-tastic action, but it’s the latter that seems to make the big bucks, so we’ll see how that goes. One thing is for certain though: if you like your shooters that are easy on the eyes and ears, you’ll definitely want to keep both attuned to Medal of Honor Warfighter in the coming months.