Review: Medal of Honor

Top Tier.

Rebooting and reseating the Medal of Honor series was an obvious move for EA this year, following the unprecedented critical and commercial successes of the recent Call of Duty games; indeed, shifting the focus to the ongoing war in the Middle East (in particular that of Operation Enduring Freedom) is both canny and necessary, the game managing to create plenty of recent attention-grabbing column inches simply by virtue of its setting and the choice of combatants.

Speaking of combatants, whilst Medal of Honor’s multiplayer game might well be launching with a day one patch to blot out the word ‘Taliban’  there’s no such censorship in the game’s single player mode: this is an understated, considered America versus a faceless, characterless Al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan.  Coincidence and real life parallels are unavoidable; in an attempt to accurately portray the actions, tactics and techniques of the various US Special Forces (refered to in the game as ‘Tier 1’)  there’s no point in developers Danger Close pulling any punches – doing so would ruin the atmosphere.

Atmosphere that an ageing, stretched Unreal Engine 3 desperately tries to convey.  On the whole Medal of Honor looks just about good enough – the draw distances are frequently impressive and the attention to detail can be great, but animations can feel canned, there’s the usual texture load waits indicative of the engine (including one hysterical close-up of a goat), the frame-rate’s not great (hovering around 30 FPS) and various objects flash in and out of your periphery, occasionally revealing enemies and locations that should have remained hidden.  Locations are varied, but given the locale expect lots of mountains and desert before the game is over.

That’s not to say it’s not a diverse, interesting game because for the most part the story arcs and criss-crosses more than enough to keep up your attention: you’ll be playing the part of two Tier 1 operatives and, as a pace changing (and unexpected) switch, a marine – the game’s overlapping paths are a nice touch and the game’s conclusion neatly ties up all the threads.  There’s not quite enough differentiation on the loading screens (or the action itself) to make the Special Forces characters stand out, but the sections with the marines are cleverly placed.

The Special Forces featured in the game are tasked with the sort of missions that normally punctuate other genre titles rather than populate them: marking targets, sneaking around in the dark and – yes – waiting, giving Medal of Honor its own identity and verve in an increasingly busy market.  And whilst the heavily scripted story revolves around you and your squad, interludes and cut-scenes attempt to expand the plot to a wider scale, including one particularly nasty, resonating friendly fire incident that echoed many news stories at the turn of the century.

Players will come away from Medal of Honor with their own favourite sections, but a desperate last stand against impossible odds and a fraught, expertly designed helicopter section are obvious highlights in a game that concentrates on the humanity of the soldiers rather than the war around them, always keeping the player at the centre .  There are few dull moments, and even when the action is dialed down low there’s always the promise of big things around the corner – the only low point the game’s ultimate conclusion.

Ending aside, Danger Close have excelled in creating a sense of tension and expectancy, the subdued, hushed crawls through the dark tinged with excitement and uncertainty.  Carefully measured (and silenced) headshots making way for a pitched battle aren’t rare with first person shooters, but Medal Of Honor sports some stand-out moments against some overwhelming odds, often played out in laser peppered night vision.  The enemy AI isn’t brilliant, mind, and occasionally that of your squad hits a rough spot (they can miss, repeatedly, from mere feet away) but on anything other than easy it’s a real challenge for the right reasons: the combat is fresh, quick and deadly, and Medal Of Honor gets this bit exactly right.

The game sometimes struggles with effectively communicating objectives, though – a bizarre problem with such a linear, point-to-point campaign.  Your next location can be muddled and out of sight (and the HUD requires a tap of the d-pad to show even the most basic information) and one particular target marking exercise – highlighting enemy emplacements for an impatient hovering air support – required a couple of attempts to pass purely because it wasn’t clear what the player was supposed to do with the basic acronyms presented on screen and the flickering pixels in the distance.

AQ, RTB, SOFLAM: just a handful of the many abbreviations you’re expected to either know coming into the game, or pick up quickly – the chatter between soldiers (and the chain of command omnipresent over the radio) authentic but commonly indecipherable, even with subtitles.  Consessions to the laymen aren’t expected in a game trying to be gritty, objective and realistic, of course, but be prepared for some of Medal of Honor’s weaving, lingo-laden plot to pass over your head, even if the overarching theme rings true.

Continued on the next page…

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59 Comments

  1. Fantastic

    • this got torn to shreds on ign

      • And rightly so, it’s crap.

  2. Great review. :-)

    • It is a good review, but 1 thing about it i don’t get. Listed again as a negative is the fact that the game is very linear. Show me a fps that isn’t. It’s not a negative for a game like this, it’s not intended to be sandbox, i can’t think of many fps that aren’t linear – both modern warfare’s have been 100% linear, that was never listed as a negative for them.

      • Would have been if I’d have reviewed it. CoD was massively overscored.

  3. looking forward to this alot

  4. Do we know if the included ‘beefed up’ frontline has trophies or not?

  5. Cracking review nofi. along with the other published reviews, ive decided to hold off for now. With cod coming soon and GT5 along with AC brotherhood. Ive got too much to purchase. How long was the campaign? was it the reported 4-5 hrs? i can imagine the multiplayer being battlefield BC2 with new maps. Thats what i got from the Beta anyway.

  6. Excellent, sounds good and exactly what I was looking for from this game (BC2 without the embarassingly terrible single-player portion) :D Wish I didn’t have to wait for Christmas for it though :(

    • By the way, off topic for a second, but did someone at TSA put the “andUandU” bit under my username? Not a problem, I just can’t remember doing it haha!

      • Well if there is a problem… Jim’ll fix it…lol

      • God that comment i made makes me feel old..

      • I wouldn’t feel too bad. I’m 23 and knew exactly what you were on about meaning I’m stuck in the times! ;)

  7. Absoloutely brilliant review nofi, I think you have just tipped me over the edge into buying this at the weekend. Can you give me a rough idea of how many hours you can expect to get from the single player campaign on normal (i.e. not doing all the Tier 1 challenges)? Or a comparison of length compared to MW2?

    I ask because I know I wont be using the online much anymore when Black Ops comes out, so for me to buy it it needs a strong and decent length single player.

  8. nooooooo! I’m going to have to buy it :(

    ;)

  9. I was hoping to see some more information about the multiplayer. But good review either way. Thanks

    • Not sure if you have a 360 but there was a really detailed vid on there a few days ago with the devs talking about the multiplayer modes. I’ll see if I can find a youtube link for ya

    • “…taking out multiple enemies without dying yourself (which manifests itself as your ‘Scorechain’) allows you to use special offensive and defensive items designed to alter the course of a match…”

      Translated = contains ‘killstreaks’ and ‘perks’

      • Yeah I’ve seen a Predator missle used in some multiplayer footage. Not quite sure how I feel about that at the moment given I’m not a fan of CoD…

      • There’s a video of the different offensive and defensive awards here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gq0Vyja3uJI

        The explosion from the tomahawk cruise missile is disturbingly pretty.

        I like the idea of being able to choose a defensive or offensive strike to use and that it’s points (not necessarily number of kills) based.

        Having said that, I’m still far more thrilled by the prospect of Battlefield Vietnam.

  10. Already bought it on the PC and may well get it for the PS.

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