“Maintain noise discipline”, a phrase uttered throughout Medal of Honor is a common one used in military dialect and perhaps EA should have followed suit. The controversy surrounding the last minute change of the Taliban’s name in multiplayer has caused plenty of drama but it’s never been anything like Modern Warfare 2’s ‘No Russian’ debacle, In fact there are no civilians present at all throughout MoH, just American soldiers, the Taliban/”Opposing Forces”. As you’d expect this is an incredibly patriotic game best summed up by the cover star Dusty wearing a FDNY cap, there’s no doubt you’re doing this for America with no coalition soldiers of other nationality in sight unlike MW2’s SAS sections but then this makes sense considering the Medal of Honor is only bestowed upon US soldiers. Enough of the politics though (always inescapable when it comes to war, eh?) does Medal of Honor dethrone Call of Duty or even Battlefield 2: Bad Company to become the top dog of war?
Medal of Honor aims to be the more realistic title than its competitors by setting the game in Afghanistan and basing it on real operations against a very current opposing force. This is where the realism ends though and MoH moves to the video game stereotype emulating a blockbuster movie, it’s not at the level of CoD’s Michael Bay zaniness but rather Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down without the Hans Zimmer soundtrack… and with more Linkin Park. Luckily the ridiculous elements never go too far and it all operates within a realm of respectability.
The gameplay is sold with weapons providing good kickback, headshots are satisfying and quad bikes are decent even if they do suffer from that age old vehicle in FPS syndrome where they have no acceleration or deceleration (I blame Half Life 2 for this). The flow of MoH is perfect switching between the different characters you control sometimes without even leaving the scene for example a sniper saves you at the end of a mission and you’re controlling that sniper in the next. The pace of the story heats up as you get further in too encouraging you to play on as you become more engrossed in the story. This does bring the campaign mode’s short length to your attention however there is re-playability in the form of a Tier 1 mode where you have to beat levels within a certain par time with no checkpoints to test the hardcore out there.
There are plenty little touches to add realism with Russian tank corpses in the desert along with references to check weapons as the “dust is like glue”, you’ll frequently find yourself marking targets for air support too and in one particularly engaging encounter you are laying down the covering fire so your squad-mates can mark a target, it works brilliantly as you see a fight from the other side and are not the one expected to charge head on at the enemy for once. The general chatter between soldiers with military lingo feels very authentic really drawing you into the operation you’re carrying out as opposed to MW’s dramatic lines or BF:BC2’s (unfunny) jokes. The best example of this is during the mission as a gunner aboard an Apache helicopter and hearing all the chatter about what to aim for etc.
The aesthetics of MoH have been well thought out to immerse you into the war in Afghanistan with sprawling snow capped mountains to the water barren valleys there is always a good view. Dust clouds obscuring your view especially after large explosions you can be completely without sight from dust and smoke as the sun gazes through, it’s a spectacular and haunting 9/11-esque effect. The sound is equally good as gun shots echo throughout the valley, explosions boom with violent bass and your squad mates constant updating of the situation really helps. This results in MoH being a polished game but could still do with the odd buff here and there, some of the edges can look rough as though there is no anti-analysing, and I also noticed enemies spawning in the distance which ruined the immersion somewhat. Before some of the major set pieces you character will also lower their gun disabling your ability to shoot, this definitely ruins the shock factor of a particular scene knowing you can’t do anything to stop it. Interestingly the single and multiplayer sides of the game use different engines with single player developed by Danger Close using the Unreal engine and the multi player develop by Dice using their superb Frostbite engine. The results in MoH feeling almost like 2 completely different games multiplayer using the best engine, it looks nicer, runs with a better frame rate and contains more destructible elements of scenery although not at the same scale as BF:BC2.
Multiplayer, of course, offers you a chance to be the Taliban Opposing forces with each side presenting you with different weapons for example M16 if US to the AK 47’s of OP FOR and C4 against IEDs complete with mobile phone trigger. It makes playing on each side more than just a cosmetic. There are a variety of modes from Team assault (team deathmatch), Combat Mission (where you take over a series of objectives), Sector Control (domination/king of the hill) and Objective Raid (2 positions to defend/attack). All these modes are great fun but some of the small maps result in one team dominating the other thanks to poor spawn points allowing a team to be pinned into a corner and that is never fun. There are 3 classes available; Rifleman, Special Ops and Sniper and with no healing, repair or ammunition resupplys MoH’s multiplayer is fast paced and kept simple. The kill streak rewards come in offensive and defensive flavours such as mortars or UAV and are applied via a scope so you have to see the area you’re ordering an air strike on instead of cowering in a corner with a map. There are limited perks that amount to kit upgrades such as laser sights and open-tip ammunition which are all upgraded in the standard XP point system. It fills the middle ground between the fast arcade thrills of CoD and slower more tactical BF:BC2. It’s worth noting that I had no connection or host migration issues in any matches or problems with lag, outstanding.
It’s also worth mentioning that the PS3 version contains the exclusive Medal of Honor Frontline a remastered PS2 title included on the disc running at 60fps with updated controls and trophies. It’s not quite the polished job of the God of War collection with some v-sync issues and low res textures but it is definitely worth revisiting this classic game which I have fond memories of. It’s also fun to see the large jaws and slightly comic animation with Nazis standing up to die. The gameplay still stands up well though and you can see just how far FPS games have come on consoles when you check out the old default control scheme – shoulder buttons to sidestep?!
Medal of Honor has been touted as EA’s first step into the modern warfare market and it’s a great start, it’s decent in all areas if not a genre leader of any becoming a halfway house between MW2 and BF:BC2. It’s easy to pick up and play and does a good job of raising awareness for the soldiers who are serving in Afghanistan even if it’s not an entirely realistic portrayal. So while Medal of Honor may not be best shooter out it’s still an honorable effort that’s worth your attention.
*A copy of Medal of Honor was provided by EA for reviewing purposes. Campaign mode was played to completion twice on normal and hard. All multiplayer modes & maps were tested over 5hours of playtime using all classes.