Medal of Honor Review
By Gaetano Prestia
There’s no shortage of convulsive and dynamic FPS on the market, a genre that now dictates a game have its own distinguishing features that help distance it from the hoard of generic titles on store shelves. In the same way Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare brought gamers into a modern battlefield and away from the tiresome World War II setting, Medal of Honor tries to recreate itself with a re-branding, entering into an environment it can call its own. The representation of a real-life war between two real-life opposing forces is executed with enough pizzazz and adoration to propel Medal of Honor to greatness. However, it’s brought down by a number of impractical elements and a balancing act between realism and virtuality that falls a little flat. Driven by a well-paced campaign and a highly competitive multiplayer component, Medal of Honor isn’t perfect, but it’s well worth fighting for.
The single-player campaign in Medal of Honor takes place in Afghanistan as you join forces with the American military to hunt down and kill opposing Taliban forces (are we still allowed to call them that?). Having the action take place in one location right throughout creates a sense of equanimity not experienced in other recent flashy conflict-based FPS. The real-life setting feels far more grounded than any fictional location we’ve visited in other games, helping execute a premise that is associative with contemporary social dilemmas regarding war and religion. However, the plot pushes things out of balance slightly with its cliché-ridden and corny dialogue, despite the cutscenes generally offering good lead-up to the action you take part in. Furthermore, Medal of Honor quite idiosyncratically focuses aggressively on the characters, never really delving into the complexities of the conflict at hand. This, however, paves the way for deeper character development, despite the fact we move from soldier to soldier throughout the experience.
The campaign is a fusion of heated conflicts and quiet infiltrations, brought together by familiar gameplay mechanics than any novice FPS gamer should be able to grasp without a problem. The plot weaves in and out of locations and characters as you progress through war-torn environments, leading you through ravaged ground battles and rescue attempts, balanced out well with air support guidance objectives and a vehicle sequence.
Unfortunately, the campaign is held back by two restrictions that can leave the experience feeling slightly outdated. Invisible walls stop you from venturing off too much during a mission, and this can leave the experience feeling a little too linear. While most FPS these days push in you in a specific direction, Medal of Honor tries a little too hard to keep you tied up, as if the developer only wanted you to see specific things. There’s limited freedom in being able to really embrace the landscapes, which definitely confines the experience. Then there’s the chatter between soldiers, which can lead to a roadblock in the middle of a mission until you’ve listened to every single last word of dialogue. Most of the banter happens on the run, but there’s the occasional moment where things come to a complete halt and you have to sit and wait while a group of guys stand around talking to one another.
The two aforementioned restrictions force the game to branch off from the realism instilled through the conflict that is taking place throughout the game. The real-life setting of Afghanistan is offset by these development choices that act as a strong block against the progression of the verity in the narrative. Furthermore, the enemy AI borders moronic, randomly stepping out from cover and coming at you from predictable and noticeable locations. They aim and shoot well though, so don’t underestimate the power of a terrorist with a machine gun.
The campaign is perhaps a little too easy because of the predictability of the AI, even on the harder difficulties. It’s going to take you about six hours to complete, which is pretty standard for a FPS, but the Tier One mode throws in a considerable amount of worth. This mode has you timed as you play through a mission, with headshots, kill streaks and melee kills giving you a time bonus. It’s an addictive mode that has leaderboards, which will no doubt act as the game’s Special Ops mode. It’s a challenging experience that dictates precision and patience.
The multiplayer component in Medal of Honor offers 24-player matches across a number of familiar modes, including deathmatch, raid and objective-based missions. The classes in rifleman, special ops and sniper have their own set of guns and special equipment for you to unlock as you rank up. The maps are well designed for the most part but noticeably small, so hopefully any future DLC will address this and throw in some larger maps. The ranking system also works well; with the ability to stock up on support actions such as enhanced body armour and unmanned aerial vehicle surveillance.
There’s a deep sense of realism when you head online, with the sounds of footsteps coming up from behind and the blistering sound of bullets plaguing the maps. The sound is quite superb throughout the entire game but seems to shine in multiplayer, as it ups the tension quite considerably and forces you into being the cautious, planned-out soldier you need to be when actually out in a real conflict. The high quality audio really does have an affect on the experience, and it’s led to a hardcore and very challenging online experience. Medal of Honor is not for the weak at heart, and it’s going to take you a number of hours before you get even remotely close to feeling confident entering into a match. The learning curve is steep to say the least, so take that as a word of warning if you’re expecting an accessible multiplayer experience where leveling-up and headshots come as easily as a swipe of the knife.
The Final Verdict
Medal of Honor might not be perfect, but it does so much right in offering a genuine conflict-based FPS experience. The attempt at consistent realism is lost through the moronic enemy AI and game roadblocks, but the campaign is paced well enough to put it up there. The controls are accessible, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this game is a breeze. Multiplayer will haunt you for a while, as it’s a hardcore bombardment of challenge and explosive action. Tier One adds a great level of competitiveness, even outshining most of the multiplayer modes. If you need something to tie you over until Black Ops, or if you’re after a more realistic, challenging multiplayer experience, you can’t go wrong with Medal of Honor.
Medal of Honor does plenty right to warrant a purchase amid a number of issues.