Posted on October 12, 2010, Shawn Sines Medal of Honor Limited Edition Review
Medal of Honor has a storied past with gamers. The original console version still stands up as one of the best WWII shooters and the PC multiplayer was long a staple of LAN party play. The last few years however have not been kind to this series. When created by EA in the 1990′s, the key selling point was a recreation of the story behind some remarkable men who earned the highest military honor the United States of America offers.
Medal of Honor breaks with this formula. Following the lead of Activision’s Call of Duty series (which was itself a clone of the Medal of Honor formula at first), MoH moves into modern warfare, specifically the Taliban conflict in present day Afghanistan. Rather than focusing on the major Army units, the player assumes special status as a group of soldiers known as Tier 1 operators. These covert elites infiltrate, extract and play forward observer for the better known Army Spec Ops teams, often off the books and without direct Army oversight.
Medal of Honor Limited Edition (PS3 [Reviewed], XBox360, PC)
Developer: Danger Close/EA Los Angeles
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: October 12, 2010
The single-player campaign revolves around this team of operators and the covert actions of hunting down Taliban forces through informants, local friendlies and sneaky night operations. While the arid setting of Afghanistan is visually and tactically much more difficult than the fertile crescent of Iraq, it ended up feeling a lot like more of the same to me.
There is a central evolving storyline and you get a good feel for just how embedded the Tier 1 teams are, with tenuous control by Army high command or even Ranger Spec Ops teams. You are the shadow of the US military, sent far ahead of the line and far afield to prepare the way, root out information and take preemptive action against an enemy that is often very hard to identify, let alone define.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen this exact concept play out over the last three years in Call of Duty and Battlefield: Bad Company games. Sure the setting is different and this is not a made-up alternate timeline, placing some emphasis on some of the challenges our deployed soldiers in Afghanistan face today, but for most gamers I’m pretty sure that impact will drill down to “look I’m shooting bad guys in craggy passes!”
There is a nice selection of missions in Medal of Honor’s central story. It’s not just running though war torn villages or sneaking up on secured compounds. The integration of vehicle gameplay, especially the Apache missions in the late game keep things from feeling too formulaic.
I especially enjoyed the flanking/spotter mission that requires the player to take a nearby air tower to call in massive ordnance on Taliban mobile forces or the mix of day and night missions, particularly the ATV run through the desert to a fortified compound. There are some good moments in this game but it just didn’t feel very distinct overall.
Aside from the one player storyline, the Tier 1 mode introduces a bit of competition to the solo experience. Players can go back and compete for milestones while replaying story missions against their friends. Working to complete objectives more efficiently or quickly or comparing kills and the like with friends in a non-linear fashion.
Medal of Honor of course includes a large multiplayer element. Again these multiplayer modes follow the expected formula of a modern shooter. Team oriented gameplay is key here and the Afghan setting is distinct both visually and tactically to make a pretty big impact. The abundance of blind corners and rocky outcroppings, caves and crevices lend well to pop-out assaults. The game modes feature kit-based classes and offer experience systems with unlocks for those who chug through enemy kills.
Due to the setting though, I experienced a big advantage to players who master sniper style play. It’s common to spawn into an active game and die repeatedly at the hands of enemy sharpshooters. Luckily, neither faction is better equipped at first.
Much public debate was raised around the inclusion of the Taliban as a playable force in this title. Well, let’s get this out of the way – aside from soundbites and talking heads, no one playing the game really will care or notice. You are not playing missions where you have to torture civilians or military prisoners.
The Taliban here is just a wrapper on a generic enemy force and just like when you were playing Cowboys and Nazi’s on a playground, well someone has the be the Nazis. It doesn’t mean you’re really playing as a Nazi, just that your avatar in game looks like one.
EA’s concession of making the menu say “opposition force” is pure and simple public pandering and is pretty weak. These characters still look exactly the same as they did when they were labeled Taliban. Playing war games does not glorify one side over the other. It’s not a recruitment ploy or social comment – it’s a bunch of gamers at play, and it shouldn’t matter if they were blue skinned N’avi vs. Predators. There is nothing political here to be sensitive too.
Medal of Honor multiplayer supports two 12 person teams in combat. The modes include Combat Mission, Team Assault, Objective Raid and Sector Control. None of these are free-for-all games, instead focusing on teams and objectives. There are eight included maps across the various game modes with Limited Edition players unlocking more once the game begins accepting LE online play codes.
The Limited Edition includes extra options for multiplayer, like two shotguns, and a full copy of the classic Medal of Honor Frontline. Frontline is a PS2 title that is of course set in WWII and while it installs to the hard drive, players must insert the Medal of Honor disk to play. If you missed Frontline when it premiered it is well worth playing as this game manages to do something its latest progeny does not – tell an involving story surrounding a historical soldier who eventually earned a Medal of Honor.
Overall, Medal of Honor is a good game. It’s just not different enough from Activision’s series or even EA’s Battlefield games to make it stand out. I felt that the hook to make the game unique just wasn’t there in a market now flooded by modern combat games, just like when it was flooded by World War II shooters five years ago. The multiplayer will feel familiar to Battlefield: Bad Company 2 players and since it uses DICE’s Frostbite technology, well that’s to be expected too.
The problem here is Medal of Honor is too much “too be expected” for my tastes. Maybe there really is nowhere else these types of games can evolve.
- Nice mix of objectives in single and multiplayer modes
- Afghanistan setting tactically important in combat
- Spotter and Apache missions a blast.
- Feels like more of the same
- No distinct story hook or Medal of Honor story
- Gameplay and multiplayer tow the standard fare