Developer: Danger Close / Publisher: Electronic Arts / Played On: PC / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Mature [Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language]
I enjoyed the Medal of Honor reboot more than I expected. Not for its multiplayer, but for its story. It wasn’t the absolute most cohesive narrative or the longest-lasting experience I’d played, but it had interesting, likeable characters and diverse missions with some pretty heart-pounding moments.
Now we’re faced with the game’s sequel in the form of Medal of Honor Warfighter, Danger Close’s second go-round with the Medal of Honor reboot. Unfortunately, the whole experience is scarred from it not knowing what it wants to be… except for, well, not very good.
The story in Medal of Honor Warfighter might singlehandedly be the most tragic feature in the game’s entire package. Not only because it’s confusing, muddled, and all over the place, but because it’s a complete departure from the “band of brothers” style story that struck me in the last game, and personally, I see that as a missed opportunity.
Where the last game was a genuine attempt at honoring military veterans and recreating modern missions normally confidential to everyone but black operations soldiers, Warfighter is more concerned with explosions, bullet-time breach-and-clear events, and acting on far-overused action-film clichés. It’s mainly a story about a man torn between his responsibilities as a father and a soldier – all explained through a handful of confusing, albeit visually stunning cut scenes that give you something to care about and nudge you through the campaign. It’s important to have that when every other thread of narrative is overlaid with yelling, explosions and predictable, nonsensical twists.
My biggest beef with the story was the feeling of not knowing where I was, what I was doing, or who the enemy was. Each mission essentially trickled down to “shoot the people with the beards before they shoot you, they’re the bad guys after all.” At least in the last Medal of Honor, you knew who you were shooting, the game reminded you of the Taliban with a persistent passion – Warfighter just assumes you have a working trigger finger.
As a whole, the story is far from cohesive, abundant in cliché, and anything but memorable. I think it says a lot that, by the end, I had no idea if I had won the battle or got the bad guy, or even did what I was supposed to do.
Graphics & Sound
Medal of Honor Warfighter looks and sounds great, all thanks to the use of DICE’s impressive Frostbite 2 Engine that powered last year’s Battlefield 3. With the exception of a differing art direction and far smaller environments, the game is mechanically on-level with Battlefield 3. Character and environment animations are fluid and certainly realistic, guns are loud and have their own distinct feel, and you’ll still see as many light flares as a downtown dance club.
The pre-rendered cut scenes, as cliché and confusing as they might be, are visually stunning. And though some of the characters are substantially creepier in their attempt at realism than others, there’s no knocking how awesome the presentation could have been if the content on display wasn’t so puzzling.
The actual gunplay of Warfighter isn’t inherently bad – it’s just not impressive or fun most of the time and errs on the side of monotony. From a presentation standpoint, yes – it’s got some huge, set-piece, action movie explosions and some beautiful locales, but all I felt like I was doing was being herded from country to country, shooting bearded dudes, kicking down a crap-ton of doors and chasing down a bad guy that has some Memento-esque connection to the overall story. There’s even points in nearly all cut scenes that have a speculation pin board with pictures and notes with arrows connecting them all in a “what does it all mean” plot setup. Unfortunately, none of the connections make sense.
Gameplay is a lot like Battlefield 3 – whether that’s inflexibility of the engine or lazy design I can’t say for sure. You’ll spend the entire six-hours-long campaign kicking down doors in a frantic search for some guy with a hard-to-pronounce name and playing through almost every typical “been done before” mission that are so common in modern military shooters. This includes a dedicated (and narratively unnecessary) sniping mission, a stealthy “take out all these dudes without getting caught” operation in the mud, and a “sit in a helicopter and tearing up a village that might have a terrorist in it” mission. And call me crazy but I don’t recall a single mission that didn’t begin, lead to, or end with a massive explosion.
There is a really intense chase-the-dude-through-town-while-stopping-to-fight-other-dudes mission that I did enjoy, even if I’ve done it a few dozen times before in other games. As a matter of fact, the in-game driving missions were pretty spectacular and offer a bit of variation when you’re not kicking down doors and running through scripted sequences. It’s too bad there’s only a handful of them. The experience in Warfighter might be easier to forgive had it had a cohesive focus and clear design strategy, but it doesn’t. It only succeeds in functionality and presentation.
Multiplayer in 2010’s Medal of Honor wasn’t all-that focused – and not much has changed with this game. It’s far better, I promise you that, much to the credit of Frostbite 2.0 – but I can’t imagine many FPS-inclined folks would prefer to play this multiplayer suite over others… not for long anyway.
From team deathmatch to domination-style territory protection to the arming and disarming of bombs, the experience of multiplayer is highly traditional, but with the additions of added perks like UAVs, helicopter call-ins, and load out customization.
Speaking of customization, it’s deep in multiplayer, allowing you to select from a variety of accessories, attachments and gun pieces that unlock as you level up. For those out there that find favor with the multiplayer suite on display here, there’s plenty to unlock across the game’s classes, which include assault, sniper, heavy gunner, point man, spec ops, and demolition specialists. Gun differences aside, each class is differentiated by its class ability – demolition specialists can defuse and arm bombs quicker, for instance. Whether the entertainment factor will last long enough to actually make it to the unlocking of the better guns will vary from player to player, but it certainly didn’t stick with me.
All things considered, Warfighter has some pretty entertaining modes reminiscent of Conquest and Rush from Battlefield 3, in the form of Sector Control and Combat Mission. It’s just a shame that there’s no real incentive to play Warfighter’s modes over those of another game, since they’re essentially simplified versions of their counterparts. Aside from a nice coat of paint and overall smoother running-and-gunning experience, Warfighter feels like the same old song and dance. And in a world where almost everything has a multiplayer component fighting for your attention, it just doesn’t fair well.
Finally, there’s the inclusion of Battlelog, the stat-tracking, social network feature that first debuted in Battlefield 3. Much of the features have remained the same, allowing you to track your progress with soldiers, weapons, medals, and so forth. You can make parties to join up with your friends and join platoons as you did in BF3. Were multiplayer more engaging an inclusion, the respectable features here might be more enjoyed.
If you’re in it for the multiplayer, it’s certainly not terrible and could very well be worth your time, given you like multiplayer that’s just generally uninspired and not nearly as engrossing as similar games you could be spending your time with, some of which came out last year.
I’ve played worse games, but for its category, Medal of Honor Warfighter is a game that struggles to find its place, unlike… well, others in its category. It wants to be respectful of military veterans and present a realistic, gritty experience with a heart string-tugging story that’s layered with a thrilling secret operations plot – but it’s so fundamentally jumbled, thrown together, and confusing that I can’t begin to recommend it.
As for the multiplayer suite, it does a better job in design, functionality, and execution than the previous game but it’s simply a bit drab and uninspired. You could certainly get some quality hours out of Warfighter, as there’s plenty of levels to attain and weapons to unlock, but I can’t imagine why you’d want to pursue that route when there’s so many other higher quality shooters out there.