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.