The gameplay itself, thankfully, is familiar and comfortable. Triggers shoot and zoom, throw grenades and lean; the stick is clicked to run, and reload, jump, interact and change position are all on the face buttons as you’d expect. No surprises, no learning curve. Aiming is solid, decisive, quick and precise, the iron sights and gentle auto aim as useful as ever and as your accuracy and skill is somewhat amped over your usual soldier’s attributes (given your character’s position in the military) sniping is a particular delight, especially when doing so over hundreds of feet.
Where the game fails to hit the top spot is in its scripting. The player is continously led from one area to the next, from one objective to another, and whilst this creates a flowing storyline and ensures the pacing can be controlled, if you attempt to subvert the game’s course in any way (either accidentally or otherwise) problems can occur. We’ve seen AI running on the spot and trigger points failing to kick into life with members of your squad simply stood around, posed and waiting for you to adhere to the preset paths. It breaks any sense of an organic, evolving mission, reminding you that Medal of Honor is really just a game.
What the rather on-rails linear routing does do, though, is enable the clever ‘Tier 1’ mode, an interesting addition to the main game that challenges the player to go back over a completed level on a harder, more restrictive setting and be scored based on their success. The time taken is obviously a key factor, but there’s other aspects too (like the number of headshots) and each discipline has its own leaderboards. You must be logged on to play Tier 1 mode, presumably to stop cheaters, and it’s a really clever way to extend the life of the game.
So whilst the single player offers plenty of entertainment, it’s in the game’s multiplayer mode that things really shine. Medal of Honour’s online portion is an entirely seperate beast (literally, it doesn’t even carry over your Invert setting), developed by DICE (Battlefield) and using their own Frostbite engine rather than Epic’s, it not only looks different but plays a little differently too, even if it sticks to the same basic core principles (such as setting and control) as the single player game. If you’re familiar with Bad Company 2, you’ll be right at home here.
Offering a number of modes, the 24 player matches are – from what we managed to sample – frantic and packed with adrenaline – with the speed a welcome shift of emphasis from that of the campaign mode. The replacement of the Taliban for ‘opposing force’ was seemingly in text only, too, and with the two sides apparently balanced in terms of firepower (even though there’s a few subtle differences) we had a few great matches with some already highly skilled players. There’s some destruction carried over from DICE’s prior FPS, too, although don’t expect to be razing buildings with grenades.
As with other similar titles around just now, the more you put into the multiplayer the more you’ll get out of it – your rank determines what options you have in terms of weaponry and your skill on the battlefield at 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. We didn’t hear much mic chatter, but that’s par for the course when the game is still pre-release and hardly uncommon on the PS3 anyway.
An ambitious game, then, with a real emphasis on developing the characters. By the end you’ll have experienced two desperate, powerful days through the eyes of the US Military, from the Hua of rushing Marines to the poised, silent scope on the sniper rifle of a Tier 1 operative. The story is grounded, rooted and human, played out amidst many others but never losing sight of the men on the ground, the decisions they make and the consequences that occur as a result. Not perfect, but powerful, engaging and – in the latter third – as gritty as they come…
- The guns look and sound great
- The slower pacing sets the game apart from the others
- Inclusion of Frontline on PS3 is a nice gesture
- Multiplayer is massive, with stacks of options
- Tier 1 mode is cool, with lots of replayability
- Some sections are utterly fantastic
- Unreal Engine 3 feels dated, visually at least
- The single player is very linear
- Some of the AI is disappointing
Medal of Honor’s leap to the current has been handled well – there’s a solid single player here with some stunning set pieces and the clever Tier 1 mode will no doubt see some serious competition down the line. However, the real star appears to be the multiplayer mode, which despite limited playtesting looks to offer an entirely fresh portion of the game. Activision might have a Call of Duty just around the corner, but hardcore shooter fans will find enough to enjoy with EA’s pre-emptive strike to make the purchase more than worthwhile.
Please note: the PS3 version of Medal of Honor also includes an updated, HD version of Medal of Honor Frontline. This was untested at the time of going to press and thus has not been factored into the score above.