The first instalment in the Medal of Honor series hit the original Playstation in 1999; and after 10 years of Second World War themed shooters of declining quality, mega publisher EA mandated a reboot to reinvigorate interest in this storied franchise. From memory, my only experiences with MoH games was on the PSone as I struggle to engage with the WWII flavoured shooters typical of the series. The lastest Medal of Honor title is based on the conflict in Afghanistan, and I must admit the change of subject matter elicited the desired response. Well, the change of subject matter and, as previously mentioned, the fact that DICE (of Battlefield: Bad Company fame) was tasked with developing the multiplayer offering of the title. Now after having spent as much time as I can bear trudging through the caves, peaks and valleys of an inhospitable foreign land, let us explore the curious failure that is Modern Warfare Too.
Familiar Roller Coaster - Medal of Honor moves along at a brisk pace and features some memorable scripted events, elaborate set pieces and solid vehicle sequences. The core action is not entirely original, but for the most part you should find it engaging. The first level is particularly riveting, with several "wow," moments.
MoHdern controls - MoH employs a control scheme similar to that found in the Call of Duty games, with sprinting, melee attacks, aiming, grenades and firing all mapped to a comfortable and familiar controller layout. There are also some new additons such as the ability to peak out of, and slide into cover. This allows for some welcome flexibility in how players can approach firefights, and I wouldn't be surprised if these innovations are adopted by future console FPS releases.
A friend indeed - The AI of your companions is competent and at times formidable, racking up what I would argue was a greater kill count than I would have managed over the course of the campaign. Unlike other FPS titles where your comrades are almost purely for show, the Tier 1 Operators and Rangers are just as deadly as what I imgaine their real-life counterparts would be.
Boom, Headshot! - This is somewhat of a quibble, but every time you manage a headshot, a little icon appears on screen (where depends on the difficulty). For a game that seems to be attempting to differentiate itself on the basis of its genuine settings and characters, I found this macabre notification bemusing.
Identity Crisis - MoH's multiplayer offering tries to strike a balance between the experiences found in the Modern Warfare and Bad Company franchises. Occasionally it all comes together, with some balanced classes and enjoyable modes like Combat Mission and Objective Raid offering strong, structured warfare. It all starts to fall apart when DICE attempts to create Modern Warfare-esque deathmatch and domination matches. The maps are too small, and poorly configured for these match types with players often spawning only to be killed almost instantaneously. It's not an outright failure, and I am sure there are those who will thrive in this brutal, unforgiving alternative to the better-established competition.
Blair Witch - The single player campaign is almost a direct rip off of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare titles; with a narrative that switches between characters with very strong signposting when the perspective changes. The story in MoH is thankfully nowhere near as melodramatic as that found in the MW games, but it also severely lacks direction. When the final, painfully cliched question is asked at the end of the campaign, I couldn't help but feel as though I had achieved nothing.
Afghanistan, beautiful one day - The single player component of MoH is one of the most visually inconsistent in recent memory. Powered by the Unreal 3 Engine, I was amazed at how often the game moved between stunning and just short of abhorrent. In the mission titled Belly of the Beast, during an exhausting firefight, the crumbling wall which I had used for cover soon became reminiscent of a surface seen in Duke Nukem 3D. The stone wall was covered in a veneer of heavily pixelated textures that harked back to FPS titles of an age long since past. Sure the mountain ahead was teeming with attackers, and amidst the hail of gunfire and explosions the frame rate remained consistent, but MoH is packed with visual quirks that severely detract from the experience. Another example, whilst sneaking up on a shepherd, I noticed the textures on his herd of goats had failed to materialise. They were blank, four-legged creatures that did not belong in a game hyped to compete with the ridiculously popular Call of Duty franchise.
Another refill - When playing on the Normal difficulty setting, you can request ammo from your companions at any time, as often as you need it, provided that they are carrying the same weapon. While at first this appears to be a convenience, I eventually found that it killed any sense of tension and at times even contradicted what my comrades were saying. Once again drawing from my experience in Belly of the Beast, my commanding officer kept repeating that our squad was out of ammo, but then he handed me another 300 bullets so that I could maintain fire. Further to that, your pistol has unlimited ammo. So, even if you decided to equip yourself with weapons procured from the enemy, worst case scenario meant that I could only fend off the Taliban hordes with my magical pistol.
After you - Medal of Honor loves to make you wait. Whether it's waiting for your squad to breach a room, or mount an otherwise unspectacular obstacle, these scripted sequences and invisible walls served to frustrate and at times, unintentionally amuse me. There were several instances during the campaign where some characters failed to acknowledge their cue and commence a scripted sequence, meaning that I spent several minutes waiting for my AI companions to open a door or jump over an obstacle before the action could proceed. Twice I actually had to reload the last checkpoint and hope that my allies would remember their part in this fractured tale.
Please sir, may I have some more? - MoH's competitive multiplayer offering features only eight small maps in which to wage war. Some of these maps can only be used for certain game types, further highlighting the lack of breadth of experiences on offer. In Combat Mission mode especially, you should develop a sense of deja vu very quicly. When you compare MoH's stark offering to that of its competitors (especially DICE's own BF:BC2), it becomes very clear that this is not all that it could've been. This lack of content isn't limited to the multiplayer offering, with a single player quest that lasts about 4 hours. You can replay missions in Tier 1 mode and compare ambient achievements with other players online, but there were very few segments of the campaign that I would care to experience again.
5/10 - With an enjoyable, though almost entirely derivative single player campaign and an inconsistent, however playable multiplayer component; Medal of Honor offers a dignified, enjoyable and ultimately, unneccesary experience. While there are plenty of disappointing design choices on display, there are times when MoH is just as flashy and refined as the competition. For those who haven't played any of the Modern Warfare or Bad Company games, you will probably find a lot to love in this title. Those who have engaged with the competitors however, will more than likely find that they would be better served saving up for the next instalment of their preferred franchise. Nothing new to see here!