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Medal of Honor Beta Impressions

The Medal of Honor preorder-only beta just ended, and I wanted to share my thoughts on it. If you don't know yet, the Medal of Honor multiplayer is a mix between Modern Warfare 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Whether or not this is a good mix is subject to opinion. Personally, I think that the mix does not work very well. The things that made Bad Company 2 and Modern Warfare 2 unique have been lost in Medal of Honor, and as a result, the game is less than it could be. In Battlefield: Bad Company 2, the destructible environments made the game more dynamic, and in Modern Warfare 2, the perks made the game more customizable. These are both things not in Medal of Honor.

The things that are in Medal of Honor are rudimentary. There are three classes, three weapons per class, and three customization slots per primary weapon. Each class has a primary weapon (rifle, submachine gun, sniper), an explosive (grenade launcher, rocket launcher, C4), and a pistol. You level up and unlock attachments for each class by playing that class. This does reward what class the player uses, but it unfortunately leads to less experimentation, and reluctance to do what's right for the team in objective based modes. If there was a tank that needed to be destroyed, some players may choose to not switch to the rocket launcher class because they want to unlock a scope for their rifle. This is not a good thing.

There are some good things about the design in Medal of Honor. All the classes feel like they could hold their own, and this is one of the few games where the pistol isn't trash. The killstreak rewards system is cool, too. To get the first killstreak, you need to get 40 points. These 40 points include the kill points as well as any other points you earn, like assists, headshots, and so on. Once you get that killstreak, you can choose between a defensive or offensive support. So you could choose a UAV or Mortar Strike. This system rewards those who play well, and the choice between different supports can let you choose between strategies. 

That's when the laundry list of bad things in Medal of Honor pop up. The killstreak system, while good, brings up some supports that are very hard to use properly. The mortar strike has to be called in by looking in binoculars and triggering the strike. This sounds good, but there are very few high grounds for the offensive team in the objective based map, so I ended up looking at an area and hoping that it would call in the strike in the right area. This brings up the problem of the maps. The maps in this game don't support the gameplay very well. The objective map, the better of the two, easily allows the defensive team to snipe the spawn point of the offensive team, and this leads to inescapable deadlocks, though the tank could help. Unfortunately, most of the beta community refuses to use the tank. The weapon unlocks system also leads to imbalance and grinding for attachments that should have been on the gun in the first place. For instance, the sniper rifle. When you think of sniper rifles, you think of scopes, it's undeniable. The sniper rifle in Medal of Honor, at it's default level 1 state, has no scope. It has a red dot sight. This means that people that grinded through the beta could easily snipe other snipers due to their superior scope, which gave the other team the upper hand. The rewards for leveling up in Medal of Honor are paltry when they aren't necessary, like an extra clip of ammo or a red dot sight. Nothing like the heartbeat sensor or thermal scope here. 
That's just the design of the game, but the gameplay has issues as well. The weapons feel strange, with little recoil and stiff reload animations. Killing enemies is difficult, as they take 25 rounds of ammo from a rifle, 3 shots from a sniper, 6 shots from a pistol, or a very well placed explosive. It's just not fun to fight bullet sponges. This issue is a bit artificial as the other players are experiencing this handicap too, but it's annoying nonetheless. The spawning system is strange too, with the ability to spawn near team mates in the objective map, but not the ability to choose who to spawn near. This means you can spawn into death traps, or much farther from the objective then you'd like. It's unusual to see the same spawn system that worked so well in Bad Company 2 work so poorly in Medal of Honor, when both were made by DICE. Once you get over all of these issues, the game can be kind of fun, with a great sense of scale due to sound effects, mortar strikes, and weapons that can fire at long ranges. This is something Bad Company 2 did well, and it's something Medal of Honor does well too, except for the fact that there was only one vehicle in the beta. 

I ran the game on my PC, which can handle all of the latest games on relatively high settings. Unfortunately, Medal of Honor in it's beta phase doesn't look very good at all. Low anti aliasing, blocky geometry, stiff animations, and very, very, VERY bad death animations are all part of the package. There were several times when I thought I saw an enemy standing up, but it turned out it was just a dead body that was still standing up. Nice. 

Of course, this is all in beta, so of course some rough edges are to be expected, but the beta pushed some limits on my tolerance. During my playtime, the game crashed about 20 times, I was disconnected from the server about 30 times, the sluggish default mouse sensitivity reset itself at the beginning of each round, the chat system was broken, the respawn timer had a tendency to disappear, and lag was present. 

Even without the myriad of technical problems, I doubt that Medal of Honor will be a compelling multiplayer experience. The customization is just too limited and imbalanced to attract Modern Warfare players, and the scope of the game is quite reduced from Bad Company 2. This could be the first time that DICE phoned in a multiplayer product, and I'm sad because of that. Hopefully, the multiplayer will be improved by October 12th, and the singleplayer campaign won't suffer from the same gameplay issues. Hopefully. 


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