Medal of Honor is one of the most storied first person shooter series (FPS) in the history of games. For a time the series was synonymous with how a World War II FPS should be developed. At least until the development team moved on to create the current king of the industry, Call of Duty. Since the rise of Call of Duty, Medal of Honor has been relegated to an also ran and the once gargantuan franchise has spent the last few years wandering aimlessly trying to recapture even a fraction of its former audience.
The series had no direction and publisher Electronic Arts realized that if they did not reboot the franchise that they were going to waste a huge asset in their arsenal. Enter Danger Close, the special development team put together out of EA Los Angeles with the express mission of giving Medal of Honor a new identity. And give the series a new identity they did. Gone are the historical battles of World War II against Nazi and Japanese soldiers and in their place the very real battlefield of Afghanistan with the Taliban as the opposing force.
This new Medal of Honor focuses on a two day span of time in the Afghan mountains bordering Pakistan and a lot has been made of Danger Close’s close work with real life Tier 1 operatives to help enhance the realism factor. Tier 1 operatives are the deniable ops, elite soldiers that handle a lot of the military’s dirty work and thus you can get an idea of what is in store for the narrative of the single player campaign.
Without spoiling the storyline it is suffice to say that despite all the claims to be aiming for a realistic battlefield experience, you have probably played this campaign before and you have probably played a much better executed version of it as well. Medal of Honor’s campaign narrative is at its best an interactive action movie stereotype. Players will be part of a four man group that is given special tasks, most of which require the elimination of the population of Afghanistan. While I am sure that Danger Close was aiming for something a little more high brow than what they ultimately delivered when their narrative is on, it is really on. Unfortunately, more often than not the narrative takes second fiddle to a bevy of odd design choices and weird scripting bugs that not only take you out of the game’s story but actually cripple the game completely.
Medal of Honor is one of the most heavily scripted games to be released in the past three years. Plenty of games have been heavily scripted before and as long as the scripting is coded with a variety of different trigger points its use can actually enhance a narrative driven game like this. Sadly the scripting in Medal of Honor is coded to have such a narrow focus that it is quite easy to actually break the game, requiring one to reboot their last save and try it again. I myself “broke” the game a dozen times in one particular section where I couldn’t figure out exactly how the game wanted me to proceed. In another spot the game wouldn’t move forward instead continuing to throw wave after wave of enemies at me until I accidentally stepped over the correct swatch of land.
In addition to the scripting issues, Danger Close themselves included some questionable “features”. Many FPS on consoles have some sort of aim assist but the assist in Medal of Honor borders on ridiculous with how the game helps players out. Add in the fact that the enemy AI is atrocious and there is very little challenge to mowing down the swarms of Taliban as the gun almost always will target one for you and if it doesn’t there is a good chance your enemy isn’t moving very far anyway. And as if babysitting players with those things was not bad enough, Danger Close has included the ability to ask a team mate to load up your ammo cache at any point in the game, so there is absolutely no need to conserve ammo. While these design choices certainly cause issues with the gameplay, it is actually the narrative that suffers the most from their inclusion and it kills any tension, including a scene that had the potential to become quite iconic.
Medal of Honor’s visuals, like much of the campaign, is very hit and miss. Levels set at dusk and dawn look downright amazing and contain some of the best lighting effects in a game to date. Sadly levels set during any other time of the day are muddy and bland. There are also some little graphical glitches that one may or may not run in to, like NPC characters walking through closed doors, getting stuck on the environment and/or getting stuck in a looping animation.
Fantastic sound design and amazing lighting effects in the single player. Fun and frantic multiplayer combat.
Extremely buggy, doesn't look good a lot of the time, narrative is a cliche ridden action film.