The Problem With Warfighter

Medal Of Honor Warfighter might be the best shooter you’ve ever played, but if early impressions and the way the game is delivered are carried through to the rest of it, I’m somewhat doubtful this is going to be the case. It’s not terrible, it’s really not, but from a franchise accompanied by a huge amount of hype and advertising dollars I expected an experience second to none, with flawless presentation. That, as you’ll read, simply hasn’t manifested itself in the finished software.

The first thing that hits you is that this is apparently unfinished, especially in terms of presentation. The menu system is too slow to react, it’s ugly (and shoved into the top half of the screen for no particular reason) and navigating around it contradicts much of what makes a decent menu system work well. The introductory level is about as on-rails as anything of late, and yet still manages to be confusing in direction by throwing everything from planting a bomb to battling a helicopter at you in the space of about ten minutes.

You’ll be stealthy, you’ll shoot loads of bad guys, you’ll fire rockets, you’ll dodge exploding tankers. And yet after that, when the game suddenly introduces some back-story and flips the lead character around for what feels like a cheap shot at some red-top headlines, it then decides to tell you how to move, look and shoot. Despite the fact that you’ve just gone through an entire level previously doing exactly that. Bizarre isn’t the word for a training level that doesn’t come first.

[videoyoutube]That cheap shot? Having the player as an insider in what looks like a terrorist cell, whose final task is to storm a mock plane and take out the pilots. It’s not pushed on you like the way the dirty bomb going off in the latest Modern Warfare was, but that’s more down to the execution of the idea rather than the idea itself. It’s difficult to say whether developers Danger Close wanted some column inches on this or not, but I guess they’ve managed to get at least one out of it.

It’s not shocking, it’s just a bit lazy.

And then, the story shifts around again. We’ve barely got to know anyone so far, and yet Warfighter’s content with throwing us back into the action. It’s relentless, in the sense that it never really knows when to settle down and just play. Instead, you’re tossed from set piece to set piece, from silencer to rocket launcher, pistol to sniper, without barely any reasoning or explanation. Indeed, one sniper section is so unpredictably woolly I had to attempt it four times because the scripting was getting the better of me and my guy apparently can’t shoot straight. On Easy.

On the fourth time, I failed (the building I was in apparently fell down) and yet there I was, still sniping away, in complete silence. Apparently I need to know about ‘bullet drop’, but then that’s a tutorial that was missing from the gameplay, fixed post-release in a downloadable 200MB patch. Another instance was on a door breach – one of the characters couldn’t be bothered joining us, so the game froze. That patch, which comes with the game on day one, is essential, so if you’re offline only you’re going to be missing out on some killer bug fixes.

I appreciate that a huge amount of money has no doubt been spent on getting the game to gold to release on the date EA have been touting for months, but it’s been at the expense of a smooth player experience, and I’m only talking about the single player – the fixes for multiplayer are numerous and, crucially, untested at large. A patch can’t fix everything (or at least this one doesn’t) and when you’re spending £50 on a brand new game an expectation that it’s going to work properly without having to download additional stuff shouldn’t be dismissed.

It also smacks of a larger, industry wide issue that is becoming ever more prevalent: release first, patch later. Technically fine, in principle, but for the end user it’s fragmenting and disruptive, and means that those without online are forced to stick with the version that’s obviously not quite ready.

And how did a game with so many bugs get past Sony and Microsoft’s certification process? Apparently, if you’re a big studio with a big game, it’s not that difficult, especially if you’ve got deep pockets. “Microsoft & Sony will give you a waiver if you promise to have the Day 0 patch, ask nicely, are a big game, and pay a little,” said Manveer Heir, designer at BioWare (via OHP). Is this really fair for consumers, and is it fair for other developers who would normally be knocked back by QA – something we’ve witnessed on the PlayStation Store (at least here in Europe) time and time again.

For a top-tier publisher to have committed this to release when it clearly needed a little more time in the oven seems like it was done to meet a release date deadline rather than any particular level of standard. EA’s games can carry an amount of polish and refinement that other publishers only dream of, but this one has slipped through the net in an attempt to grab the shooter crowd before the other guns come out to play. It might succeed, especially if the multiplayer aspect holds up, but I guess we’ll just have to wait see.

Medal Of Honor Warfighter is out today. Review soon.

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37 Comments

  1. 24 months development time is too short between games in a series. Good things take time. Huge marketting budgets and enormous development teams don’ t really help when your foundation is crap and things are rushed. Todays customers expect more, COD players might be the exeption to the rule here.

    • I dIsagree with take your time all i can say is look at duke nukem that should have been flawless but turned out crap.

      • Problem with DNF was that was it changed hands so many times that the whole thing just got diluted & ended up a shadow of its former self.

        Besides which, i don’t think he was meaning more than a 10+ year dev cycle, just more than 2. :)

        A long development time does not automatically mean ‘bad game’.

      • You can blame George Brousard, the man who owned 3D Realms, for the Duke Nukem disaster with his unrealistic quest for perfection. He was constantly scrapping the game and the engine it was running on for the newest tech that kept coming out, by the time he knew it ten years passed, 3D Realms became bankrupt and sold off and then eventually Gearbox stepped up and got the rights and released it.

  2. The problem is that they assume that all consoles have an internet connection. Whilst this might be true for the majority of the install base, it isn’t the case across the board & i can’t help but feel that those who do not (or can not due to geographical reasons or whatever) have an internet connection are getting royally screwed.

    Even though i have an internet connection, the very least i expect is that the product works out of the box on day one. I really shouldn’t have to sit & wait for a patch of undisclosed size to download before being able to access my game.

    I think the moral of the story is that whilst technology means that you can patch your game now (which is good for those games where additional things are added or a small non-gamebreaking bug which slipped through QA is fixed), you should try to avoid one out of the box. Don’t set your release date too early & if the product isn’t actually ready, don’t release it until it is. Fans of the series will wait if a better experience is promised.

  3. This is a real shame as I was going to be buying this. There were similar issues with MoH 2010, the checkpoints being invisible lines on the floor and the game didn’t progress until your whole squad had crossed it. There were times though when one of your squadmates didn’t want to cross the line and the game just stuck. Frustrating if you’ve just cleared a difficult bit on hard.
    Anyway, I may still get this, it was going to be for the mp anyway.

  4. What disappoints me most is that from the MP I’ve played I can honestly say all the issues I’ve encountered are exactly the same ones from when BF3 launched so it’s nice to know they’ve learnt from that experience! Falling through the terrain, getting stuck on scenery, VOIP hardly ever working, sound dropping out etc etc.

    As bad as that sounds tho’ they have been isolated incidents (apart from VOIP) so not enough to ruin the experience.

    only played the first 3 levels of SP and that has so far been more fun than BF3 too, but then that’s not saying much…

    • I didn’t think DICE did the multiplayer this time?

      • No, but it’s the same engine (frostbite 2) and undoubtedly there was some support from DICE. Equally EA as publisher and tester should also have made sure the same mistakes weren’t repeated.

      • To my knowledge, DICE had absolutely no involvement this time, Danger Close just used the Frostbyte 2 engine.

        Therefore it’s likely that Danger Close have just suffered the same problems that DICE had to work out in the beginning. Why the two couldn’t talk & work that out however, is beyond me.

        & to say that EA should have ensured that the same mistakes weren’t repeated doesn’t really register with me, considering they were prepared to send the game out unfinished just to meet the deadline. ;)

      • Oh come on, you really think they just said “here’s the source code, good luck”?! DICE will have a technology team responsible for developing the engine and liaising with other teams using it (internal and external), assisting with development/issues and feeding back improvements into the engine. So just because one of the game teams wasn’t involved doesn’t mean there was no involvement.

        The fact that the issues I encountered are exactly the same as BF3 suggests that the fixes weren’t transferred back to the core engine, or the fixes noted in their wiki or whatever for other teams to learn from.

      • I think you are giving them wholly too much credit! :)

      • Possibly am, but I know that’s generally the arrangement at a number of other game devs (codemasters for example) so it would be surprising given it’s position as mandated engine of choice within EA teams if they didn’t.

        Then again little really surprises me these days, as a professional software dev I’m amazed by the sheer number of shoddy implementations, rollouts etc. It’s like no one has any pride in their work anymore…

      • No one beats the Swedes (DICE) in accuracy and their dedication to perfection. It’s in their nature. So if some else did the multiplayer it probably shows.

      • Things like getting stuck on scenery and falling through terrain have nothing to do with the engine used, but the level design and geometry which the developers create. They’re indicative of QA not catching these issues during beta testing, or not having the time to put all of the necessary tweaks in place.

        It doesn’t help that on launch day you have tens of thousands of people trying to find glitches and exploits, compared to the vastly smaller QA teams.

        VOIP and sound dropping are dependent on the engine, but since these are still current issues in BF3, and I expect that the limitations of consoles having 512MB of RAM have played a big part in that holding over.

      • Actually I’ll debate that one… The terrain is part of the engine – FB2 uses height maps which are procedurally generated into a mesh at runtime (see their GDC paper on it). Therefore if the engine is generating meshes with accuracy issues (thus creating holes in the geometry) then it is up to other parts of the engine to compensate. In this case the collision detection should be using multiple test points rather than one that just happens to fall on the crack (in my case I spawned, then fell straight through). That’s why in a lot of games when spawning you hop, because they’ve spawned you slightly above the mesh so you drop onto it rather than risk floating point errors in the collision detection putting you under the geometry and thus either falling or being welded to the spot.

        As for the sound, if they’re memory constrained then they need to do something about it – use lower sample rates, play less sounds whatever. Bad Company 2 didn’t have these issues though, nor do many other games on the same hardware…

        And yes, knowing just how games are made does suck much of the magic out of it! :(

  5. Think of the outrage if manufacturers of cars or household products behaved in the same way, products not working, products that stopped working after 5 years ( the shut down of motorstorm pacific rift still hurts). The sales of those products would plummet. We, gamers, as a group, accept far too much. Demand more. I understand that if all your mates buy a crap game the group pressure to get it as well is difficult, but some times you just have to take a stand.

    • Well its like making a car, selling it new, and before it coming out telling everyone that they need their car fixed before they can actually drive it on the road.

      Its absolutely ridiculous and I hate the way the games industry is going with patches.

  6. Outrageous in my opinion releasing a game that HAS to have a 200mb patch, yes most people are online and can download it but thats not the point. It shows the game is half made and not tested.

    For me thinking about buying this, has turned to a definite no. I don’t want to be putting money into crap designed games and to those publishers think its ok to bring out a poor game with lots of bugs.

    It’s not on, and those with half a brain should stand their ground and not buy this game, and wait for COD if they need a new FPS.

    • It’s an admirable stance, I took the same with BF3 season pass but realistically a hand full of people voting with their wallets out of hundreds of thousands who don’t care isn’t going to do much.

      In this case the poor reviews and reduced sales predictions are going to have far more impact on EA’s management since that is what they understand.

      • I did the same with BF3 too, I didn’t buy any DLC, because the game was half made and had to have constant patches. With each patch it changed the game and new problems cropped up.

        People had the balls to buy Premium too, absolutely madness in my opinion. But like you said, hopefully the poor reviews will make people start thinking for next time.

  7. I am loving the game at the moment and I am not a crazy COD fanboy (Although I have bought them all as my mates all play them). I think it is decent, the online is decent and reminds me more of a faster paced version of BC2 (less the ability to destroy all scenery).

    I do agree with the faffing about with a day 0 patch though. I expect my game to be fully playable from the start. Rest assured though, doing this sort of release is not just based in the gaming industry. you will find all sorts of industries do this sort of thing. Safety Critical ones probably don’t but many many others do release things into the public domain before they are fully functional and with constant changing of background software, patching gets more and more awkward!

    • Exactly, I don’t think it deserves all the bad press it’s getting. TBH some of the reviews are appalling, I’d be ashamed if I were the authors.

  8. So if the multiplayer is running on frostbyte 2, why can’t stuff be blown up/destroyed?? :S

    • I destroyed a fence last night so it can… Frostbite 2 doesn’t have the same overall level of destruction as the first version, apparently due to networking limitations on current consoles.

  9. Agree that this isn’t a good situation and personally I’m also a little disappointed as I was looking forward to this game but, will most likely not get it (unless it drops in price quite quickly).

    I think there’s also another little point here which hasn’t been covered in too much detail – The fight between console makers.
    Neither maker wants to lose out on a high profile game and neither wants said high profile title to release a month or two early on the competitor’s console for numerous reasons.
    Also, a delay on, say, the XBox, might mean that Mr LockyMan buys his copy of the game on the PS3 rather than for his XBox, thus providing additional licence fees to Sony rather than MS. Additionally, if this title were to release a few weeks later it would be fighting against the next COD version, which would likely see this games’ sales numbers lower than desired.
    So, both MS and Sony will naturally want high profile games to release as soon as possible when both platforms are releasing at the same time.

  10. After how decent MOH 2010 was and BF3 you would think that the momentum would continue especially with the framework of MOH 2010. Surprised and disappointed I was going to get this….perhaps not now.

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