Medal of Honor

4.0 Overall Score

Written by on January 26, 2011 in

Medal of Honor was billed as EA’s response to the Modern Warfare series. Unfortunately, the game falls far short of that mark. It is, in some ways, poor design and, in others, lack of polish that most mire this uninspired experience.

Although I encountered myriad bugs in my trip through the campaign, I was able to overlook most of them. They certainly broke the immersion. It’s hard to be in a place when you blow up a truck but you never see an actual explosion, when you fire an apparent miss only to have an enemy appear and die where your bullet landed, or when you are walking forward only to be stopped completely and utterly by what you discover is a six-inch curb. It seems rushed.

The reason the game doesn’t fail outright is that the shooting has a good feel. For the most part, I aim, pull the trigger, and enemies die. The context of this mechanic is really unimportant. It’s a shooting gallery. This implementation has me shooting human beings rather than tin cans or something like that. The act of aiming, shooting, and hitting something with a modern game controller is satisfying. MoH is no different.

The theme of this game is a major part of its downfall. If I were shooting tin cans, it would make more sense that they would run right past me to get to the magical place they have been told to go. Of course they would, right? They’re tin cans! They are mounted on some sort of arm tethered to either a machine or black magic which takes them where they are programmed to go. Why do human beings behave in this way? Just because I have advanced a few feet further than the game believes I should have at this point doesn’t mean my enemies should truck right past me to get to their favorite shooting spot.

This isn’t the only problem with the scripting. At one point, I approached a door that was apparently past the magical frontline the game hoped I would intuit. This door looked interesting, and I thought I might be able to kick it down to advance through the building. I stood in front of the door, but nothing happened. I decided I probably wasn’t meant to kick this door down after all. I hunkered down in front of it and continued to assault the oncoming forces. One of the aforementioned enemies must have been a trigger because, before I could figure out what was going on, enemies came bursting through the door next to me gunning me down.

For all the scripting, there isn’t much of a story here. The only “plot” I could discern from the banter of my squadmates and the crackle of the radios was “move forward, shoot dudes” which isn’t all that engaging. Much later in the game, they were able to deliver to me one objective I cared a little bit about. For the rest of the game, I found myself straining to hear radio chatter, but, even when I could decipher it, there wasn’t much there. I don’t need this to be an epic storyline, but I would enjoy a story that at least dangles a carrot for me.

Although Medal of Honor‘s variety doesn’t break any new ground, it does make the slog through the single-player a bit more enjoyable. Sure, it all ultimately boils down to aiming at a guy or a thing and either pressing a button or holding down a button, but even a slightly different context on that gives the player a much needed change of pace. I want to put down my gun for a bit to bring out my binoculars and focus a red laser on something to summon an airstrike. I enjoy getting behind the barrel of a long-range sniper rifle for a bit because I’m in less danger of the enemy shooting back at me. The one thing that broke out of this mold entirely was the ATV section. It was unspectacular, but, once again, a little relief from the constant pressures of the firefight. As predictable as it was, it also worked reasonably well.

Despite all this criticism, I found myself enjoying the single-player game. The shooting is done well enough to make this an enjoyable experience. It’s a shooting gallery skinned with modern Middle Eastern conflict. If you can get past issues with setting the game in modern times in an ongoing war, it’s good for what it is. It’s only sad that it wasn’t what it was meant to be based on the message from marketing and hype.

After wrapping up the campaign, I checked out the game’s multiplayer offerings. It’s very apparent that the single-player and multiplayer were crafted by different teams. Even the menu has a slightly different aesthetic. The games are not completely disjointed, and the multiplayer is very much like DICE’s Battlefield: Bad Company 2; that is to say it is excellent. It offers nothing in particular to recommend it over and above DICE’s previous release, but it is engaging nonetheless. It seems far more polished than the single-player experience.

Danger Close, the studio responsible for MoH‘s campaign, also added an interesting asynchronous multiplayer mode called Tier 1 mode. In Tier 1, you perform speedruns on the game’s single-player levels. Upon completion, your time is posted on a global leaderboard. The studio gets points for being unique in this respect. I haven’t seen much interest in FPS speedruns since the days of the first Quake, and I have never seen a game that has supported the concept this directly. Of course, since you are simply playing the single-player levels, it suffers from all the design and technical problems I have mentioned previously.

Medal of Honor: Frontline

As a bonus, PS3 owners will also get a copy of Medal of Honor: Frontline. This is an interesting piece of content and will probably scratch a nostalgia itch for players who loved that game when it was released. For me, it simply served to highlight the strides made in the intervening years in shooters–especially shooters laden with heavily scripted events. Although I can go back and play Quake or Doom and still have a great time, this shooter simply doesn’t hold up. The game is from a time before developers figured out how to properly space checkpoints and before regenerating health was a twinkle in Cliffy B’s eye. I’m not saying the game is too difficult, but it is definitely frustrating in ways that we have thankfully moved past at this point.

Take all those parts together, and you have a package that is mediocre at best and doesn’t really take any chances or move forward in any way. It doesn’t really have the plot to pull the player through the experience, but the shooting is good enough to at least make this a fun diversion. The multiplayer, while great, is probably not going to pull significant numbers of players away from the competitive shooter juggernauts, namely Modern Warfare 2 and DICE’s own Bad Company 2. It is an imitator through-and-through and this makes it difficult to recommend despite its competence on many levels. It’s lack of polish in the campaign and poorly designed scripting make it easy to dissuade players who may be, like myself, looking for an excellent alternative to the latest Modern Warfare. To those players, I have one thing to say: this ain’t it.


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Author: Devon Campbell View all posts by
Devon's childhood has crept way into adulthood... and he's cool with that. He's embraced it by continuing the nerdy pursuits of his youth and indoctrinating his poor wife, Tiffany, and daughter, Ambria, thereby possibly spreading the disease to them. They don't seem to mind so much.

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