Thursday, 27 January 2011

An honourable game of medals

Medal of Honor (2010)

The Medal of Honor (yeah, that’s the US honour without the u) franchise has been around for years. I remember being totally hooked on the first game on PlayStation 1, and it was one of those titles that really put WW2 on the gaming market. Eleven(!) years later and many (far too many) WW2 games later, both from the MoH and the Call of Duty franchise, the time period is finally being moved on from.  The new thing now is Modern Warfare, and the new MoH is wanting in on some of that cake.

First off though, the development has to be mentioned; the main singleplayer is developed by an inhouse Electronic Arts team called Danger Close and they use the Unreal Engine 3 for that mode. The multiplayer however is developed by DICE and uses their Frostbite engine. In other words the two modes look, play and feel different, they are in fact two completely separate games! I will review each one separately.

The singleplayer. Moving away from WW2, this MoH game takes place on a two day campaign in Afghanistan. You fight the Taliban as various US soldiers. The game starts off actually quite tame, and I wonder why they chose this mission as the first. It has a far too long and non-interactive intro, at least they could have had a training mode before it! However, the game quickly picks up pace after this. You attack and old Russian airfield, take part in large fire fights in mountains, go on a shooting run with an Apache AH64D and do some really exciting sniping and night missions. The variety is excellent, but they are short-lived. A lot of the more varied missions could have been longer, because they are original and have a huge entertainment level. You get a feel and taste of them and then they are over and never revisited.

The team have captured the look and feel of Afghanistan perfectly; the texture work on mountains is particularly fantastic with a natural colour and tone, the lighting and the weather effects are great too. The animation on enemies is a little sloppy though, especially annoying is the way enemies take far too many bullets to take down. The sound in the game is fantastic, so are the voiceovers and military radio chatter.

The game controls well, it lets you duck, crawl and even slide into cover. A great plus to the fact that you can alter the fire rate of weapons. The weapons look and feel heavy, but they don’t take down enemies as powerful as I hoped for. The freedom is another downside. While all the environments look fantastic, they all feel very restricted. There’s always a route to follow, in our days with huge free areas in most games this feels restricted. It probably appeals to beginners on FPS games, but if I've got a mountain in front of me, I want to go where I want! EA needed only to take a look at the Battlefield Bad Company games to know what I'm talking about!

All in all the game is solid, it feels like an authentic Afghanistan experience and it’s impressive that EA have dared to let the game take place in a conflict happening today. In fact it makes the game a must to play now, so you can experience and understand what is going on in a real-life conflict, rather than some old war you've only seen black and white photos from. Regardless of this though, the game is far too short, you are finally getting into the controls and getting used to the fighting when it’s over. At times the experience is a four star game, at its lowest it’s a three star game. I’ll give the singleplayer a benefit of its great ideas.



Bring on the multiplayer! I don’t have much positive to say about the multiplayer. It’s a frustrating experience. In principle it’s not a bad idea, it takes a shot at being something between Call of Duty 4 and Battlefield Bad Company 2, but it falls kind of in-between the two chairs. It feels like a sloppy Bad Company 2 at times with terrible spawnpoints, incredible amounts of lag and a weird way of detecting who kills/dies first. The open mode of the multiplayer with the largest maps isn’t really anything up to BC2’s similar mode and therefore you simply should play that game instead. The close combat maps and more CoD-like maps suffer from the sluggish feel of the shooting and the terrible way it spawns you up in areas where the enemies are. Kudos however, to the fact that there are no annoying perks and other stupid “super natural” abilities. It’s a clean old-school shooting game.

The gameplay controls completely different from the singleplayer game. This is BC2 gameplay and for people only familiar to the singleplayer of MoH it’s gonna make them learn everything from scratch again. You can’t even crawl on the ground on the multiplayer! The design choice for this is so strange and questionable. Compliments for the use of sound and sheer amount of action though, DICE’s Frostbite conquers this perfectly again.

All that said, the multiplayer does work for a few hours, it has an incredible steep learning curve and beginners of online gaming should stay far away. It will give you a few great rounds and it has a few different modes to play around in, but beware of frustration in the long run.



As a package I would recommend either the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare titles or the Battlefield: Bad Company titles over this game. Go for it if you like more authenticity and actually want to get some knowledge on how the Afghan war looks and feels. Buy it for the singleplayer in other words, not the multiplayer. Next time though, EA, I want a longer game and I want the multiplayer to be the same engine/developer as the singleplayer!

(This article was first published on Monday, November 01, 2010 on my original IGN blog.)

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