2012-11-01

Medal of Honor Warfighter – It’s Like Turkey Bacon

by Yo Snyder

So you have Call of Duty filling the “Michael Bay” niche of shooters,
Battlefield taking care of squad-based, vehicular destruction niche,
Ghost Recon handling the tactical niche, and Halo dominating the sci-fi
shooter niche. That means, in order for Medal of Honor to stand out in
any significant way, it needed to find it’s own place in the modern
world of shooters. In this case, it seems it’s staking out the “based on
the real-world” niche for shooters. Indeed, Medal of Honor Warfighter
is purported to be based on “actual” spec-op missions by various elite
forces around the world. It certainly tries to present and more grounded
and realistic presentation to everything, to the point of almost being
stoic and dour at points. But hey, at least you won’t confuse it with
one of those other shooters…for the most part.

First, I have to say that this game looks really good. The cut scenes
and characters look like something out of a mo-cap (motion capture)
Hollywood production. It’s “uncanny valley” territory. Unfortunately,
this story, which tries to humanize the world of “special-ops” and give
us a peek at the people behind the missions, is so mopey and morose that
it quickly get tedious to watch. I’m a military brat myself, so I know
the toll that life can take on a family, and my dad wasn’t even in
special-ops, so I can’t imagine how much more distressing that must be
for a family when someone has to be gone but you can’t know why or when
or even if they’ll ever return. Still, the whole “I’m out” but then the
threat turns out to be too big and personal that the result is “I’m back
in” plot line is just a little sad-sappy and hard to enjoy. But as I
said, it looks amazing.

However, good looks can only get you so far, as I well know (just
kidding). When the shooting begins, despite being the “realistic”
shooter, its shortcomings become immediately apparent. First, unlike in
Ghost Recon, whenever you have a team or even just a partner, they
aren’t that much help. I found it frustrating that despite being a part
of an “elite” force, often times my teammates would be standing and
shooting someone in the face but still unable to kill them. There were
times in Ghost Recon where I hardly had to pull the trigger because my
team was so efficient. Say what you want about the impact of that on
gameplay, at least I felt like my “elite” team was actually elite.
Secondly, in the portions I played, enemy A.I. seems acutely aware that
it’s only purpose is to line up and die. That’s what they do. I never
really felt like they were out to kill me, just slow me down while
providing some excitement and targets for me to shoot. Finally, this is a
very straight forward shooter. Tactics and thinking are not required.
Go from point to point, breach the occasional door, take to the
occasional on-rails vehicle sequence, and shoot every things that pops
up. I will say that the car chases were kind of fun, and a nice change
of pace. How often do you have a shooter where the vehicles are actually
responsive and handle well? Not very often, but they do here.

Now,
admittedly, I didn’t get to experience much of the multiplayer. If you
rent the game (as I did through GameFly), you of course will need to
purchase an online pass to play the multiplayer portion. You get a two
day trial, but unless you don’t have anything else to do for forty-eight
hours, that’s really not a lot of time to delve into the multiplayer of
any shooter. Still, in the brief time I did get with it, I experienced a
multiplayer that tics off all the appropriate boxes that a shooter
needs for this kind of mode. You have your various classes, which do
indeed have some distinct abilities. You can customize your weapons and
loadouts, and one nice things is when you unlock something, like an
attachment for a weapon, it’s unlocked for every weapon in that same
class. It’s a small difference, but has a pretty big impact on weapon
customization. I liked it. And of course you have little “perks” that
are rewarded for stringing together a good run. You get a choice of
either an offensive or defensive perk, which adds to the strategy of
what to call into the battlefield. Again, a small change that makes a
fairly significant difference to the flow of the game.  The flow of the
games in multiplayer is a bit slower and more deliberate than in other
shooters. It definitely pays to check your corners in this game instead
of just sprinting headlong through the map. However, weapons felt a bit
underpowered, especially the ones you start with. 

Now, I didn’t finish Warfighter,
and as I said, I had minimal time with the multiplayer, which is why
this is all about my impressions and not a full-on review. Medal of Honor Warfighter
is a pretty looking shooter, especially when it gets out of the desert
for levels like the one in the Philippines during a tropical storm. The
cut-scene characters are especially impressive, almost to an Avatar
level…almost, but not quite. The rest of the experience, however,
felt merely average. It succeeds in giving this series the “realism”
edge to help set it apart of its competitors, but outside of the story
and the mission parameter and the jargon-heavy dialogue, the overall
experience is one that’s very familiar and in some ways a bit too
limiting. If this series is going to be the “realistic” shooter, why not
embrace that even more and leave behind the contrivances for gameplay
of the Call of Dutys and the Battlefields? This game is like having
turkey bacon instead of actual bacon; for the most part it’s pretty much
the same thing, but it doesn’t taste quite as good.