Medal of Honor has built up a considerable amount of hype over the past few months. Proclaimed as EA’s answer to the juggernaut that is Call of Duty, I can tell you right off the bat that Medal of Honor is unfortunately not the Call of Duty killer EA hoped it would be. While the game is fun and has some genuinely gripping moments, overall it just doesn’t have the polish or punch of the other big name military shooters out on the market today.
The campaign in Medal of Honor revolves around the exploits of the Tier 1 military operators. These are supposed to be the elite of the elite in the military special operations community. And they have some crazy beards. Through the duration of the short campaign you will switch between playing an Army Tier 1 operator (Deuce), a Navy Tier 1 operator (Rabbit) and a US Army Ranger, all in the beginning days of the current war in Afghanistan.
Single-player developer Danger Close brought in real world Special Operations personnel to assist in the development of the campaign and it shows in the in-game dialogue. The soldiers speak convincingly to one another, with a large amount of military acronyms thrown in to add to the realism. This is helped by the voice acting, which is solid as well.
The weapon sound effects are undoubtedly one of the game’s high points. Weapons sound loud and violent and they are given a real sense of realism. There are multiple weapons each with what seems to be distinctive sound effects.
Medal of Honor is a pretty good looking game. Powered by the Unreal Engine 3, the game can produce some truly stunning lighting effects and vistas, particularly in the daytime environments. The weapon models are also very good looking with extreme attention to detail given to the models. Character models are also well done.
While there are some definite visual high points in the game there are also more than a few issues. The Unreal Engine has a bad tendency to cause texture pop-in and that definitely holds true in Medal of Honor. There were several instances in the game where environmental textures did not fully materialize for a good 5-10 seconds. The same thing happened with some of the weapon models as well. There were also a few instances of clipping through the environment, as well as debris that magically hung in the air after an explosion.
The gameplay in Medal of Honor will be very familiar to anyone who has played a military shooter within the last couple of years. You basically go from waypoint to waypoint shooting all of the enemies who get in your way. The control scheme is almost identical to Modern Warfare 2’s set-up, save for a few additions such as the slide mechanic and the fire selector for certain weapons. While the game mechanics themselves are solid the campaign is extremely short and far too easy. I played through my first time on the hardest difficulty setting and breezed through at about 4-5 hours. This was mostly due to the terrible enemy AI. Their basic attack patterns consisted of running to cover and popping their heads up every couple of seconds to allow me to promptly shoot them in the head. This combined with the linear nature of the game made me feel more like I was along for a ride rather than playing a game.
Now you may be asking yourself why I didn’t cover any of the multiplayer portion of the game in the preceding sections. Well that is because the multiplayer in Medal of Honor is almost an entirely separate game from the singleplayer portion. The multiplayer portion of the game was developed by Digital Illusions CE or DICE, the same company that developed Battlefield: Bad Company 2 earlier this year. DICE used there own Frostbite engine to power the multiplayer, which has an entirely different feel than the single player portion of the game.
The sound is again one of the high points. I actually found it to be better than the single player sound. Weapon sound effects are dynamic, meaning they echo appropriately when you are indoors or have a roof over you. They are also appropriately loud and visceral. You can hear other player characters yelling out commands and to teammates throughout matches.
While the sound is extremely good I cannot help but get a sense of déjà vu when listening to it. Many of the sound effects sound like they were recycled from Bad Company 2, such as the sound of reloading a grenade launcher or of explosions. While I understand that DICE was likely working on this game at the same time they were working on Bad Company 2, it still seems a little lazy to me.
The visuals in Medal of Honor’s multiplayer are generally pretty good. It uses DICE’s Frostbite engine so environments are large and pretty well detailed, as are character and weapon models. However I can’t help but think that I am looking at Bad Company 2 when I am playing the game. Many of the animations appear to be borrowed directly from BC2, such as reload and sprint animations. While this not really bad considering that BC2 is a really good-looking game, it still feels like the developers either ran out of time or just got lazy.
The gameplay is really a mixed bag when you get right down to it. There are five gametypes to choose from: Combat Mission, which plays much like Bad Company 2’s Rush Mode, Team Assault (aka team deathmatch), Sector Control, Objective Raid, and Hardcore (which is just the last three gametypes with “hardcore” settings). Each gametype is fairly enjoyable, with my personal favorite being Combat Mission. There are three classes to choose from: Rifleman, Spec Ops and Sniper. Each class does pretty much what you would expect them to do and each has their own ranking system and respective upgrades. As you earn more points you will unlock new weapons and add-ons; again pretty straightforward. Some of the issues with multiplayer include bad hit detection, some ill-placed spawn points, balancing issues and difficulty in identifying enemy players. There were many times where I was sure that I hit another player in the head and they didn’t go down. Also, it seemed like I would run up against other players who had unlocked newer weapons and attachments that made the game less than enjoyable. This was most prevalent with the sniper class. As a sniper you don’t start out with a sniper rifle, just a battle rifle with a red dot sight. This puts you at a severe disadvantage if you are trying to go up against other players who have unlocked sniper rifles with high-magnification scopes on them. Overall the multiplayer, while at times fun, just seemed hastily put together and unbalanced.
Medal of Honor is a good game. Not a great game but a good game. It has some genuinely fun moments and I found myself engaged in the story and wanting to find out what would happen to Dusty and Deuce. This was undoubtedly helped by the stellar sound design and by pretty good-looking visuals. Unfortunately, while Medal of Honor has an above average presentation it still needs some work in the most important aspect of game: the gameplay. While fun, bad enemy AI, several bugs, and hiccups plague the game, particularly in the multiplayer portion. I really can’t be to upset with DICE for putting out slightly unfinished multiplayer, seeing as how most of their dev team was probably devoted to working on Bad Company 2 while MOH was in production. Regardless of my personal thoughts and feelings the multiplayer is rough around the edges and could have used a bit more polishing. Don’t get me wrong, Medal of Honor is a fun game and definitely worth a rent, just don’t expect it to blow your socks off.