EA’s 2010 Medal of Honor reboot was far from groundbreaking, yet had enough substance to propel it further than your standard-fare first person shooter. Between Battlefield and Call of Duty, Medal of Honor provided an interesting, albeit flawed alternative that sought to recreate the war in Afghanistan. In this aspect the game succeeded, conjuring up a tightly-knit story, following an elite squad of Tier One operatives behind enemy lines.
Other aspects, such as multiplayer and core gameplay, let it down somewhat though these shortcomings hardly warranted a widespread panning. In short, Medal of Honor was a solid attempt at renovating one of the most idolised shooter series of the past two decades. However, its sequel – Warfighter – didn’t fare as well and instead of being a critical step forward for re-emerging franchise, Danger Close failed to deliver a tantalising follow-up.
As in the 2010 reboot, Warfighter’s best asset was how it attempted to experiment with genre norms. Obviously, like any well-rounded shooter of the past few years, it stuck to the core, modernised template yet eased in enough nuance to separate it from Battlefield, Call of Duty, and any other main contenders in the FPS genre.
One way it did this was through its clever cover system. Even now, in 2013, we’re used to toggling between three states: standing, crouched, and prone. It’s effective enough yet still seems a bit inorganic and doesn’t sit with developers’ aim to create an authentic combat experience. Warfighter, on the other hand, deploys a leaning cover system. By holding the lean button you can switch to iron sights whilst using the left stick to creep out from behind walls and fences manually. Though tricky to master, it allows for an enhanced sense of accuracy and tactical movement.
Another surprise feature was the inclusion of driving. Where most shooters have you either riding shotgun or in a turret, on more than one occasional Warfighter put a steering wheel in the player’s hands. Though nowhere near as refined as, say, Need For Speed, Dirt, or Grid, the driving felt fine and even allowed for some finesse in areas.
Even the multiplayer brought a couple of fresh ideas to the tablet, the first being international classes. Instead of giving player’s a handful of pre-sets, Warfighter served up a range of customisable soldiers based on real-life operatives like the Swedish SOG, Polish GROM, and British SAS.
Then there was the buddy system. Binding two or more players together within a multiplayer environment is nothing new, yet Danger Close tried a different tack. In Warfighter your buddy wasn’t just a different-coloured spec on the mini-map, they were also a mobile spawn point, health/ammo cache, and a constant source of bonus experience points.
What wasn’t executed well was how the whole package came together, or rather didn’t. The campaign, despite its occasional diversions, felt like a series of shooting galleries with nothing really holding it together. Where Medal of Honor created a pared down yet effective narrative, its sequel tried way too hard. Even three or four hours into the campaign I had no real idea of who I was and what exactly I was trying to achieve. This sense of disconnect was made even more apparent by the presence of jarring cutscenes, probing into the personal lives of otherwise faceless soldiers.
Sadly this lack of flavour seemed to spill into other areas. Though interesting at times, gameplay still came down to poking out of cover, letting a few shots loose, then reeling back. The same went for multiplayer too which, not even a year after Warfighter’s release, is almost barren despite offering a slightly different approach.
As far as military shooters go, Medal of Honor has yet to seize its former glory. Though Danger Close has worked hard to differentiate the franchise it still doesn’t stand up to the genre’s heavy hitters. This was reflected in the game’s poor sales and lukewarm reception from the media.
This isn’t necessarily the end for Medal of Honor, however. It will no doubt re-emerge somewhere down the line but, for now, it appears as though EA is trying to push the Battlefield series to the max, to the point where annual instalments are expected.
Again, Warfighter isn’t a poor game but there are certainly better shooters out there.