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Medal of Honor is a game that garnered skepticism from the start, with a trailer in the Spike VGAs that looked unnervingly like Modern Warfare 2; a trend in games that was appearing at the time. Things got worse for the fledgling remake when the multiplayer beta came out, where critics and players alike bashed the game for the apparent lack of quality and originality, myself included. Being an optimist, I tried to look at the possibility of the positive things that could come out of Medal of Honor. Very few details on single player had been released, meaning that the single player could be good, or alternatively go the other way, with my hopes resting on the former outcome. Now that it’s finally come out though, Medal of Honor is exactly what the beta made it out to be: a poorly constructed, unoriginal, and thoroughly boring game.
The big advertisement gimmick that Danger Close has been talking about in previews and interviews is the realism of the game. The team did interview American special operatives during development, and as such, there is a more grounded feeling to the gameplay and level design. Bullets have a feeling of impact as you shoot enemies, and the weapon modeling is accurate in singleplayer, with recoil, bullet penetration and sound design. There’s also leaning, sliding into cover, and a “bullet in the chamber” ammo mechanic. While this does allow the game to feel more “authentic” than other first person shooters on the market, this doesn’t warrant the game to promote the title of “realistic”. Enemies are dumb as a doorknob, allies have an inordinate amount of ammo (1020 bullets per ally to be exact) to hand out to you, and the story has many jarring moments that take you out of the game and back onto your desk.
The story isn’t really a fully structured narrative, rather, it’s a series of events loosely tied together with multiple perspectives. The game takes place right after the Afghanistan war starts, when the war wasn’t at it’s peak, and troops were just getting sent in. There’s real life events, like the taking of Balgram Airbase. There are three characters in the game. There’s the perspective of Rabbit, a Tier 1 operative within AFO Neptune, where stealth is never used, and you’re put through many linear shooting sections, with little to no fun to be had, which unfortunately takes up the majority of the game. There’s the perspective of Deuce, the Tier 1 operative of AFO Wolfpack, where you work alongside Dusty (he’s the guy with the huge beard you’ve seen so much in advertising). There’s only two missions with this guy, but both of them are some of the more unique missions in the game, such as a sniper level where you shoot Taliban thousands of meters away from you. The final character is Sargent Adams of the US Rangers, where again you only have two missions to play as him. These levels were some of the most boring, where the objective is to sit still and shoot enemies for 5 minutes straight at times. While jumping between characters, the game finds the time to show a conflict between an arrogant superior officer thousands of miles away, and a Colonel at Balgram Airbase who just wants to do his job. The dialogue is good in missions, but the conflict between the Colonel and his superior is cliched and hammy to say the least. There is no plot really, just that you are fighting in Afghanistan and that there are things to do. It evolves into a rescue and escape mission later, but if you were expecting a memorable character driven narrative, you’ll be disappointed.
While the gameplay is solid, the real killer of singleplayer enjoyment is the level design. Transitions between missions are jarring, there is little to no creativity in the levels. If you’ve played a military shooter in the past 5 years, you’ve seen these objectives. Man a vehicle. Man a turret. Place charges on the anti-aircraft turret. Shoot everything in your path. Many of these objectives only appear once, as if the developers were using a checklist for their game. Most of the time in Medal of Honor, you will be shooting enemies from afar, waiting for them to stick their head out of cover. Even these sections are handled poorly, with obvious looking pathways cut off by invisible walls, and invincible enemies at times geared towards moving the plot forward in the desired directions. It’s all a pretty clunky affair.
When you’re done with singleplayer, you can get into the game’s competitive online multiplayer, which seems like a completely different game. It runs on a different game engine, the controls are different, and it was developed by DICE rather than Danger Close. In fact, the game’s differences are almost jarring after playing the singleplayer. There’s no lean, prone, slide into cover, or “bullet in the chamber” mechanic, which is strange. The controls vary a lot too, even for basic actions like aiming down the sights, which shows the lack of communication that occurred between DICE and Danger Close in the development of Medal of Honor. Besides all of these differences, there’s two things that remain very common for both the singleplayer and multiplayer: unoriginality and a bland feeling. The multiplayer is an uncomfortable mix of Modern Warfare and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, coupled with some glaring technical issues. The hit detection is off, as of this review it is very easy for your team to be spawn camped in the “sector control” game mode, and unlocks and weapons feel boring to shoot and upgrade. The first upgrade you get for the rifleman class is an extra clip of ammo, and the sniper starts off with no scope with his sniper. The invisible walls issue pops up again in multiplayer, and the map design is subpar. This all adds up to a boring and buggy experience. Make no mistake, the most fun I had in Medal of Honor came from the multiplayer, but that’s not saying much, and it came in very short bursts.
The presentation in Medal of Honor is strange. The game can look great at times, but the frame-rate and texture pop-in gets in the way far too often. The second level of the game in particular has a hard time loading in textures, with white geometry replacing the ground textures from time to time. Even when the game is running at a smooth frame-rate, it’s running at around 40 frames per second on my PC. Any time too many explosions, enemies, and bullets are on the screen, the game takes a hit. This happens all too regularly. The animations are smooth one second and stiff the other; natural lighting looks great while flashlight lighting looks flat, the whole game is just a mixed bag. The one thing that is uncompromisingly good about Medal of Honor’s presentation is the soundtrack. The soundtrack is great in singleplayer, with Middle Eastern rhythms and an orchestra. The music is good in multiplayer as well, though it only plays in the menu screen and the loading screen. One thing that is weird about the game, is that for a game that endorses beards so much, beards don’t look that great in Medal of Honor.
Medal of Honor is a game that only hardcore Call of Duty players who are tired of Modern Warfare 2 should buy, and only if they have money to burn. The singleplayer isn’t going to turn any heads with a length of 4 hours, and the multiplayer will only last you a few hours at most, which is only if you enjoy the core gameplay. With boring level design, boring multiplayer, and decent gameplay, Medal of Honor is a completely average and mediocre release that will neither offend nor be praised.