Reclaiming the Medal
It was back in 1999 that Medal of Honor was released by EA on to the PlayStation. Reviewers at the time were surprised to find such a quality FPS that wasn’t a port of a PC game. Adjectives like ‘authentic’ and ‘realistic’ were used, with the AI particularly standing out. Realism was an element carried throughout the series, one that reached its peak with the Saving Private Ryan inspired D-Day opening sequence in Medal of Honor: Frontline. Unfortunately, the series became somewhat overshadowed by copycat shooters such as the ever popular Call of Duty series. Medal of Honor fell behind the trends, staying in WWII rather than making the shift to modern shooters. Finally, in 2010, the series is being rebooted and updated to compete with the latest and greatest FPSs. Medal of Honor is an attempt to hark back to that original genre-leading game, but is it too late to take back the crown?
Welcome To The Wolfpack
The Danger Close developed single player campaign in Medal of Honor is set during the early stages of the recent conflict in Afghanistan. You play as part of the Tier 1 Operators of the US Army that are deployed when a mission is so risky and vital to the war effort that it simply cannot be failed. These is an elite squad whose numbers are considered to be in the low hundreds and whose identities are concealed for security reasons. You join two different Tier 1 squads, the AA Wolfpack and the navy-based AFO Neptune.
Though actual veteran Tier 1 Operators were consulted to provide the realism associated with the early titles in the series, all the scenarios in Medal of Honor are fiction. Still, with the guerrilla terrorist organization Al Qaeda as the enemy and the treacherous territory of Afghanistan as the setting, this should be the most realistic modern shooter out there. Rather than operating like the regular army with a mass of troops and vehicles, the Tier 1 Operators use advanced tactics to outsmart their enemy and remain undetected. This difference in gameplay is visible in the huge variety of gun attachments available to allow players to adapt to different situations rather than having a vast armory and enough bullets for the population of the world at your disposal. The missions tied to this are what separate Medal of Honor from other titles; you will be required to complete missions accurate to those in reality, such as working undercover, raiding terrorist hideouts and rescuing hostages.
Danger Close has emphasized the AI in the game, and promises that they will stand out when compared to other similar games. The AI acts unexpectedly and uses complex tactics. Most of the time I would take this with a grain of salt, but after seeing some footage of the game I think Danger Close may actually be on to something here. Players of other war-based shooters, Call of Duty in particular, know that the difficulty is provided not by enemy tactics but by an infinite supply of troops who run towards your gunfire. Yes, it’s difficult, but no individual soldier can ever actually stand up to you, and this cheats the player of an entirely convincing game experience. What is visible in Medal of Honor, though, is quite the opposite, as each enemy is an individual threat. The AI will hopefully force the player to think as if part of the Tier 1 squad. Planning ahead and using resourceful and efficient tactics will be essential as opposed to the guns blazing approach often seen in this genre.
We’re Going To Need A Bigger Boat
The majority of the campaign will be with the two Tier 1 squads but there are also a third and fourth perspectives. Whilst playing as the part of the AFO Neptune squad, your primary mission is to invade a small city slum in Gardez to find out where Al Qaeda is amassing its forces. Once the intelligence is obtained, it becomes apparent that to overcome the terrorist forces a much bigger operation will have to be launched. Consequently you play as part of a ‘war machine,’ as both a US Army Ranger and the gunner of a destructive Apache helicopter. These contrasting experiences of the campaign are of the ‘Scalpel and Sledgehammer’ type. To get from place to place players will be able to drive an ATV and ride a Jeep that provides a more diverse campaign experience.