Funny thing, the games industry. If they’re not running out of ideas and rehashing them, they’re making copies of other people’s ideas. Or just recycling a name.
Medal of Honor, the subject of today’s ire, is a victim of at least two of the abovementioned. It shares a name with a 1999 classic on the PlayStation. Back then it was developed by Dreamworks, who’s since renamed its MoH studio to “Danger Close” – the folks who made this game.
But there was a 2002 game called “Medal of Honor: Allied Assault”. It was the first taste PC gamers got of the franchise and it was also the best game in the series. It was the one with the famous level that relived the D-day landings. That game was developed by 2015 (published by EA), and some folks from 2015 went on to found Infinity Ward. Does that name ring a bell? Yup, Modern Warfare.
Now that we’ve established some of the politics behind the people who made the game we can get down to the politics that form the basis of this game’s plot. Back in 2001 some nasty guys attacked the US by flying some planes into two big buildings. Roughly six months after that the US military executed Operation Anaconda. Bits of that real-life military undertaking are relived in the new Medal of Honor.
Leading up to its release, Electronic Arts made a lot of noise around the fact that real military staff had given their input for the game. In the US they even had TV ads for the game, starring high level military operators. It’s serious business. And gives reason to believe that this might just be hyper realistic and intense.
Sadly, it’s not all that. Sorry EA. Sorry military operators who gave their input. Sorry disappointed gamers, who were hoping for a real alternative to the Call of Duties and Modern Warfares.
In its efforts to portray a grim series of events, Medal of Honor sometimes forgets it’s a game. Like when your AI squad members blurt out orders, and no waypoint arrows appear. You end up stumbling around – very unmilitary- like, I’ll add – trying to find out where the next objective is.
Modern Warfare – stop rolling your eyes, it’s the natural competitor and comparisons need to be made – deals with this by not pretending to be all real life-like and gives lots of instruction for where the next objective is. And in the same breath, in its efforts to portray a grim series of events, Medal of Honor is sometimes just a game. Electronic Arts made all that racket about it being Tier 1 classified and got war veterans to advise on the game design. Obviously they don’t have minimaps and waypoint arrows in real life – but in real life the guns pack a wallop. In real life the guns debilitate an opponent with just two or three bullets. In real life you don’t go riding around on a quad bike in the middle of the night without the enemy hearing it at least a kilometre away.
Medal of Honor takes some liberties, but in all the wrong directions.
Despite this, the single player campaign is half enjoyable, if short. Expect to invest around 5-hours before reading the end credits. There is some innovation, too.
What I liked most was the lean button. Stand, or duck, behind some cover and hold the lean button, then use the left analogue stick to peek out and lay down some lead. It’s not just limited to leaning left and right, either. If you’re ducking, you can hold the lean button and push up on the stick, which makes your character stand up slowly.
Another useful addition is being able to resupply your ammo from teammates. This can only be done a certain number of times per mission but used wisely it’ll save you from having to swap out your beloved assault rifle for a rusty old AK47.
The good is outweighed by the bad, though. Sometimes I would advance too fast for the game’s scripted sequences, which would halt the action. My squad mates would be in position but there was no way to trigger the action because I’d gone beyond the limitations set by the script.
Fix? Load from last checkpoint. Frame rates would chug along (this might not be an issue on the PC version, depending on your hardware), the sound would clip out every now and then and vehicle controls felt a bit stiff.
The next bit is both good and bad news: the multiplayer is a completely different game. It’s good, because you don’t have to deal with some of the single-player’s foibles.
In fact, the entire multiplayer game was developed by DICE: them of Battlefield fame. Medal of Honor multiplayer feels like BF and plays like it, but has fewer things to do. Essentially, it’s Battlefield Lite.
What could be so bad about a good multiplayer, though?
Well, since it’s a completely different engine and game, nothing from the campaign carries over. You’re relearning everything. Plus, they’ve done away with the lean button (in its place you get an advanced explosives option).
With a really short campaign, multiplayer is probably where you’ll spend most of your time. It’s a good thing that it’s based on a tried-and-tested game, even with some bits cut out. It plays well and even handles lag well (important when you’re South African and play against foreigners on Xbox Live or PSN). Newcomers will find it very frustrating though. It has only three classes: rifle man, special ops and sniper. Each sees you starting with a basic weapon (for that class) and as you progress it unlocks upgrades. This means you enter an online battle facing off against experienced snipers, who have unlocked the scope upgrade, while your entry-level sniper rifle has a red-dot scope. Can you say “unbalanced”? Stick it out, and it’ll be quite enjoyable after a few rounds, but perhaps at the price of your sanity.
Medal of Honor is well meaning, but good intentions don’t make a good product. Some parts feel rushed out of the door and others are just bad design decisions. There are many other games from which it could have borrowed tested ideas for its campaign and many forum posters whose input could have been valuable if considered.
Gamers know what they want, and they know what works, but very few of those things are present in MoH. Danger Close has missed an opportunity and slipped up. The players won’t forget. Funny thing, the games industry.
- Xbox 360