Medal of Honor: Warfighter

November 26, 2012, Author: Andy Corrigan

In 2010, EA followed Call of Duty’s lead and finally brought their previously WW2-only franchise, Medal of Honor, into the Modern Warfare era with developer Danger Close at the helm. Unfortunately, Medal of Honor simply failed to live up to the lofty goals set out for it. Not even a DICE-developed multiplayer could mask its mediocrity in the eyes of the critics.

Still, undeterred, EA have given Danger Close another bite of the cherry with Medal of Honor: Warfighter, which hit store shelves a month ago.

A worthy challenger for Call of Duty, finally? Not by a long shot…

What happened again?
So, Warfighter’s story is, to be blunt, a bit pants. It goes through so many motions that any semblance of a plot just kind of blurs together and becomes this boring, grey mess of cookie-cutter missions.

It starts when your newly formed outfit, Task Force Mako, is sent to some Karachi docks (Pakistan) to destroy a supply truck linked to an Al-Qaeda Jihad. The team quickly manages to plant the charge without too much bother, but their explosion triggers something much bigger than expected. After fleeing the scene, team Mako discover that a nearby boat was teeming with an explosive known as PETN. They get passed over to a new handler, known as Dusty, and they must now stop this new terrorist threat by performing every video-game cliché known to man.

I’m not even sure I know exactly what happens after the opening, and to be honest, I’m finding it rather hard to care. You’ll switch between two playable characters throughout, Stump and Preacher, both whose only notable characteristic is their facial hair. Preacher at least has some sort of a sub-plot, an attempt to add some emotion to proceedings by throwing in a strained relationship with his wife and child. However, it manages to fall flat on every level by not establishing any of these characters well enough, if at all. The mere fact that he has a wife and kid is not enough to make me care.

Worse is the representation of the enemy, which is borderline offensive, switching from stereotype to almost outright racist at a whim. It’s deeply uncomfortable to see. It also succeeds at making the enemy faction leader a faceless bogey-man, fitting only of a Saturday morning cartoon. Sigh

When games like Spec Ops: The Line can come along and single-handedly raise the bar for war game storytelling, plots like this just don’t cut it any more…

In many ways, Warfighter is a Michael Bay movie...

Generic Warfare
Warfighter takes nearly all of its control cues from Call of Duty, and the game will feel instantly familiar to anyone that’s played a war-themed shooter in the last five years. The problem is that it has none of rival’s finesse, handling heavily. Shifting your aim while looking down the iron sights is a painful struggle, for example, while general navigation makes the game feel almost sludgy.

Still, the Frostbite 2.0 engine mostly makes for some enjoyable combat exchanges here and there, but overall it lacks the pop and punch of a CoD or even its own stable-mate, Battlefield 3. Glitches are also rife, making for some pretty jarring moments.

At one point I was clearing out a building. As enemy soldiers piled into the room, I went to raise my iron sights, but then suddenly, without reason, I was facing 90 degrees in the wrong direction, looking at an unarmed inanimate window. When I released my grip on the left trigger, I was back facing the correct direction again.

At least that was a one-off. A regular offender is your comrades’ incessant desire to push you out into gunfire. I love the intention of realism by having your colleagues taking up physical space beside you, I do, but not at the expense of being pushed out of cover beyond the player’s control. It seems that if a teammate wants to stand somewhere, they will, and fuck you if you are already where they want to be. It’s not always in combat either, as the game would kick off a level with me sliding across the floor because my buddy was too close, and more than a few times I’d be running towards cover, only to be flung 7-8ft across the room for no apparent reason. Awesome.

Talking of cover, there is a basic cover system in place, but the fact that after I learnt about it, I never used it once throughout the entire campaign, should tell you all you need to know about its efficiency. All you do is hold the Left Bumper when in cover, and it’ll let you slide out of cover in any direction you desire to peek out and take fire, but it’s just as easy to side-step and manage things yourself.

Warfighter has a real thing for door breaches too, as there’s umpteen in every level. Somehow, this is a major upgradeable feature: if you keep bagging headshots in the process, you’ll keep unlocking new, factually ineffective ways, to initially open the door. You’ll start with your only option to kick the door in, but you’ll unlock tomahawks, crowbars and explosives as you successfully pop the bad guys in the head.

Okay, some of these look cool, but the way they’re performed would only alert the enemies in the room that you’re trying to get in. Oddly, it never does; these gun-toting extremists only ever seemed shocked that someone hammering on the door handle with a tomahawk might want to come in and shoot them. Plus, isn’t the whole point of a breach to utilise the element of surprise?

It’s always left to the player to take the killer shots in these instances too, no matter which order you all file into a room. I know we’re the player and we’re meant to fire every bullet, but when you’re the last one in the room, you have to be wondering whether it’d be more efficient if the first two were the ones that pulled the trigger. “What the hell were you doing and how are not you dead?”

This is one of the underlying currents that grated on me. Everything is a little too geared towards my benefit. Every enemy shot fired, every grenade tossed is in my general direction, each a lethal little present just for me. My teammates do their share of the work here and there, but they only ever seem to be the subject of the enemy’s attention when I’m out of sight, and to that end, I may as well have just been on my own…

Still, ‘video-games’, right?

The traditional shooting is interspersed with the occasional vehicle section. Early on, for example, you’ll be thrown into a Bourne-style car chase that quickly becomes frustrating, although to its benefit it does at least checkpoint regularly. The handling is okay, doing a mildly decent impression of a rally game, but it’s a little floaty, and that’s true of nearly all the vehicle sections where you’re in direct control.

While nothing in this campaign is truly painful or particularly broken, it’s standard fare. It’s too standard, and this is Warfighter’s biggest issue. It’s just so generic and dull, and you’ve already played it a million times before.

Greys and browns
With Danger Close utilising DICE’s excellent Frostbite 2.0 engine, the game isn’t without its charms visually. There is, however, screen tear galore, plus a lot of odd little graphical glitches that are not typical of this game engine, and appear to be down to nothing but a lack of overall polish. Although including mostly customary, war-themed locales, the environments at least look the part. When you traverse an impressive distance (usually in vehicles), the graphics never suffer because of it.

The absolute worst part of the visuals are the cut-scenes, which are fine as long as adults are involved, but when a character’s little girl makes an appearance while he’s recovering in the hospital, I defy you not to shit your pants in fear. She reminds me heavily of Salazar from Resident Evil 4, and she’s creepy as hell.

While Warfighter’s soundtrack is entirely forgettable, the sound of combat does at least have some oomph. Guns are loud and sound satisfyingly chunky, while explosions sound powerful, as you’ll be able to tell from the off. It was particularly satisfying calling in an airstrike and hearing the target buildings fall down in the distance with one hell of a roar.

Less impressive is the voice-acting. The US soldier speech is passable, at times even decent; however, the non-American voice acting almost verges on the offensive. I said earlier that the enemy’s portrayal made me feel very uncomfortable, and the audio is a large part of that.

Looks exciting; isn't very...

Earn your stripes
Apparently, Danger Close wanted Warfighter to be a bit like FIFA, where everyone plays as their own country, fighting and defending against other nations. I don’t know about you, but the sound of that makes me feel a little unsettled. Despite that, each nation has different pluses and benefits, which will yield a slight advantage here and there on the battlefield.

Otherwise, the set-up here is pretty decent, offering you a multitude of modes and ways to jump right into the action, while Quick Mode effectively and conveniently groups relevant game types together to keep things streamlined to your personal preferences.

The Warfighter playlist, for example, sees you taking on ‘Sector Control’ and Team Deathmatch, two modes which should be pretty self-explanatory by now. Combat Missions has an attacking team trying to destroy all designated targets with only a hundred respawns across the team, while the defending team can respawn indefinitely.

The modes topping it off are Hotspot, which has you attacking or defending set locations; and Home Run, the game’s take on Capture the Flag, having you, erm… capturing the flag. There is also ‘Real Ops’ mode, which uses existing game types but removes much of your HUD and throws in friendly fire. This mode is hardcore and gruelling, but I enjoyed what I played of it.

The game’s core mechanics, if I’m honest, aren’t best when translated to the online arena. The controls still feel as heavy as in the single-player, and although you can quite easily adjust and get the rhythm down nicely, it just lacks the instant accessibility of a CoD or a Battlefield game. If I’m to pull comparisons, it was like the first time I took Far Cry 2 online. The maps are also not a strong point, feeling cluttered and too random to derive much enjoyment.

There are a few nice ideas in effect, though, and the Buddy system is at the very top of this small list. When joining a game, you’re partnered with another player, and you will act as each other’s spawn point through the match. If you get die, your teammate will have to get behind cover or out of trouble before you can spawn, as to not have you spawn instantly into gunfire. It adds an element of control too, meaning that you can’t just rush forward on your lonesome or you’ll harm your team. It also makes the old problem of spawn killing a distant memory.

The sad truth, though, is that Warfighter’s online mode will not make it a game that displaces Call of Duty or EA’s own Battlefield series from being the online gamer’s first port of call. There are better online shooters already on the market, and I don’t believe many will stick with a simply passable effort for the long haul.

A Day One patch couldn’t save this one…
Here’s the thing: taken at face value, Medal of Honor: Warfighter is very far from being the worst shooter I’ve ever played. Hell, it’s not even a terrible game in spite of it lacking some polish and featuring one of the most uninspiring stories ever told. It’s just a very ordinary shooter with no character, no identity of its own, happy to amble along, doing what’s been done better before. It’s essentially soulless.

It’s the archetype of a game rushed out to piss on Call of Duty’s bonfire, but an effort like Warfighter will never make an impact on that particular beast. Especially not when it can’t match, let alone top, EA’s other own war-themed FPS in Battlefield 3. The multiplayer component has one or two nice ideas, but the prospect of taking this game online is certainly not the saving grace it’s been for other titles in this field. Essentially redundant before it even hit the shelves.


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