Review: An arguably unsuccessful reboot saw it seep into the public consciousness two years ago, but Danger Close have since had plenty of time and assistance to perfect the sequel, MEDAL OF HONOR: WARFIGHTER. Is this one war worth fighting?
In case you hadn’t already noticed, this game is out. It came out four days ago. Some last-minute teething problems meant press copies didn’t make their way out until the actual release date, and if military shooter-porn is your thing then you probably already own it. But perhaps you are wise beyond your years and you are patiently waiting for the green light from BeefJack before you part with your cash. Well, in an effort to speed up that decision, I am going to write this review in real-time. For you.
Popping the first of two discs into the Xbox now. It’s telling me there’s already a patch I need to download if I want to play it. Fair enough, I guess. It’s restarting. To optimise the visuals, I should now download the texture pack. Restarting. OK, I want to play it online too obviously, so I’ll just type in the 25 digit code to redeem that feature before I get going. Restarting… Right, lets game! I’ll kick it off with the singleplayer first though. Oh, that’s on the other disc. Restarting.
Excitement waning a little, but I’m about to actually play this game now. And thank God I had a spare 2GB for that texture pack, because this game looks unbelievable. The character animations, the rain and water effects, the beauty of the skyboxes. Absolutely stunning. It’s almost like I’m playing Battlefield 3.
I got funnelled down a particularly breathtaking set-piece and now I’m watching a cut-scene. Visually, it’s worse than the in-game engine. Danger Close appear to be “humanising” my character, because he’s on the phone to his wife. Now we’re somewhere else and there’s another guy giving orders, but his head is always subtly framed out. I guess they don’t want us to know that it’s clearly Dusty from the first game yet.
I’m a good couple of hours in now, and according to the mission select screen this is already over half way. It’s not been particularly inspiring so far. I’m still gawping at the visuals, but that might be because there’s not a lot else to do. Just going from point A to point B, shooting some enemies with questionable AI on the way. There’s no hidden collectables or anything, so certainly no reason to play through this twice.
There is a new breach feature that seems to be punctuating the action a lot. With every door you breach, time slows down for a few seconds allowing you to pop unsuspecting terrorist skulls on the other side. Getting more headshots seems to unlock different variations of breach for next time. Shame the coolest appears to be the bog-standard “kick it in” one so far. Also, another cut-scene has revealed that I have an incredibly freaky-looking daughter. Genuinely shocked. Hope it wasn’t played by a real child.
Seems like we’re coming to a close now. There’s been a plot twist, of sorts, though it’s hard to tell with this convoluted storyline. Typically, however, I’m out for some “payback”. Bizarrely, there was also a driving section that – because the other cars searching for us around a Dubai neighbourhood were visible on our GPS – basically descended into a game of Pac-Man.
Danger Close went for the emotional ending, and pulled no punches driving the point home. Tears, American flags, soliloquies. It certainly had the potential to be powerful stuff, if it wasn’t so morally ambiguous. I have, let’s be honest, spent the last five hours shooting everything that moves in the face. Some of the levels, including one where I circled a small town in a gunship, mowing down everyone beneath me, began with the subheading “inspired by actual events”. A bit uncomfortable, then. Maybe the multiplayer is where it’s at?
Discs swapped again, and I’m up to my eyes in tiny, cumbersome menus. According to Ofcom, currently only about 30 per cent of the UK actually has HD television. If you’re one of the 70, you’ll have to guess your way into a match.
Now I’m in one though, it all seems to be coming together. Matchmaking took no time at all, there’s a good map rotation and not a hint of lag. It feels a lot like a good, old-fashioned shooter such as Battlefield 2, or even Counter Strike at a push. A game that genuinely rewards gunplay over new-fangled perks or unbalanced killstreaks.
Almost 3 hours sunk now and I’m actually really enjoying it. The new Fire Team mechanic – being paired up with another member of your team to spawn off, or heal and share ammo with – is surprisingly well-implemented. A modicum of camaraderie actually develops, and I’ve been with this particular randomly assigned buddy for well over eight matches now.
Weapons are balanced, and seemingly infinity customisable, which will please the single males aged 15 to 30 that this kind of thing is aimed at. It doesn’t take many shots to go down, which adds to that hardcore old-school feel I mentioned. Most of the levels are fairly labyrinthine, which is no bad thing in itself, but there are way too many dead ends and invisible walls to make me think they are anything less than adequately designed.
And there it is. Ten hours of warfighting sees me come away pretty underwhelmed. The single-player is trite at best, with all the replay value of a game of eye spy in the desert. The multiplayer is good fun, but also nothing new, and not that big a leap from the previous game. While it might be just enough on its own, though, there’s no way it can keep it’s head above water for long, what with industry giants Call of Duty and Battlefield bearing down on it.
If – for some reason – you have money burning a hole in your pocket, Medal of Honor: Warfighter is worth waging for a while. As a multiplayer-only downloadable title it might have had something, but paying full whack for all that excess waste just isn’t viable.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter, by EA and Danger Close, is available now for Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3 and PC.