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.

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  1. In all honesty, I was really looking forward to this. I however, am now not going to buy it. There are a few things from this review and others I have read today that have put me off it, for now at least. First is the single player length. I’m sorry, it’s just not long enough. I have heard a reported 4-6 hours, which is ridiculous for a full priced retail game. Secondly, the use of Unreal Engine 3. If I had known this, I wouldn’t have got my hopes up. Its just not worth buying a game with this much framerate drops and pop-in. Thirdly, the story itself. From what I have read, there is little to know character development, something which this game has advertised. Even the multiplayer is too BFBC2 for my purchase. I love BFBC2, but I already have it, and I would rather play that.

    So sorry guys, count me out for a meet if there is one on Friday.

    Sadface :(

    • I’m right there with you. I had this on pre-order but have cancelled it this afternoon.

      I was getting a little nervous about the game having an NDA until today when it releases in America and now I can see why they put it in place. Entice people with a rehashed MOH classic, put a BETA key in there as well and hold back all reviews until release day. Nice tactics EA! Thankfully the release date for Europe is a few days after the USA so we get chance to cancel pre-orders.

    • The single player length is fine, the time is packed with great action and /very/ little filler, and the Tier 1 mode is going to give you oodles of replayability.

      The Unreal Engine 3 is fine for the most part, there’s only one or two spots where the textures are really bad, and it’s heavily modified anyway – some of the vistas and lighting effects are wonderful.

      And as for character development? I saw plenty.

    • Don’t WRITE sadface!
      Sorry but I hate that almiost as much as people who SAY lol.

      • I’m sorry sir, did what I said offend you? I didn’t realise it was such a big deal when someone says that. My bad.

        Or do you mind when people say that too? :D

  2. great review, cant ait for mine to come (probs sat), the mp looks great and from what ive read the sp sounds pretty slid as well. bye bye cod!

  3. Much better and more balanced review than IGN, good job TSA :)

  4. Maybe just me but a lot of this review was negative. Ive been looking forward to this game, im still getting it mind, just that i think il walk into it with a lesser expectation now.

  5. Glad to see this looking so good. Will be getting hopefully tomorrow if all’s well.

  6. Great review and pretty spot on too, i’ve been playing this since friday (perks of the job) and the single player i felt was pretty decent other than a poor (and too soon) ending, was really just getting into the game when it was all over (6 hours or so and i was taking my time)

    Multiplayer is a real disappointment, like BDBC2 you can’t lie down (like you can in the game) and i’m still working out how to selectively shut up the random childish shouts and grunts from those with headsets and microphones.

    I was really looking forward to MoH and hoping it was going to be my game of the year (well until black ops comes out anyway) but overall it’s pretty disappointing.

  7. Im really impressed you didn’t mention or try to compare it to MW2 even once in the entire review , on other sites reviews they are not nearly as good as you guys .
    As an FPS fan i worry about any new FPS review that some rabid Acti fanboy will say it sucks because you cant turn as quick and that it’s broke (remember the fuss over Guerilla games KZ2) .
    Sadly i had to cancel my pre-order today for MoH due to money restraints and I am so gutted to perhaps miss out now on the BF3 beta .
    If anyone dislikes the BF series and doesnt want the code please contact me .

  8. great review nofi roll on Friday.

  9. mines going back to shopto
    cmon some one bring out a cod beater.

  10. im looking forward to this still, mine should arrive tomorrow if royal mail are to be trusted but either way itll be here by release date.

    as for the game using the unreal engine i dont see that as a problem, enslaved odyssey to the west uses it also and that looks amazing…

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