Medal of Honor Single-Player
12th Oct 2010 | 13:00
Following yesterday's GamesMaster Medal of Honor review, many CVG readers called for a more single-player-focused verdict on the EA shooter. Ever eager to please, here's our campaign verdict...
Like it or not, CoD has a choke-hold when it comes to the world of military-based FPS. Come Christmas, Black Ops is going to be at the top of everyone's list if it hasn't made it round the nation twice over already.
It wasn't always this way though. Once upon a time another first-person shooter stood at the top of Military Mount. It was called Medal of Honor and now, like an ageing pro-wrestler brought back for one last push, MoH is back in the picture looking for a title shot.
Except this war veteran isn't looking quite so old. That much is obvious right from the off as we slowly slide into a very cinematic opening title sequence. If you're screen were another 30 feet tall, you'd be excused for thinking you were watching something out of Hollywood as the game is "presented by EA" as "A Danger Close game".
The camera pans around the Earth from space as developers names emerge on the screen before we're sucked in-game.
The story, as you may have heard, is based on the current conflict in Afghanistan with the Taliban and the theme of this being a weighty, in many ways sombre "production" rather than a Daily Mail poking violent video game is consciously carried throughout... Not that it helped.
It does, however, characterise the game as a whole. Medal of Honor's campaign is shared between two groups; run of the mill military (not its official name) and the poster boys, the Tier 1 Operators.
These guys are the best. It's all very classified with a lot of CIA this and SOCOM that but basically, to get a feel for what Tier 1 is, take the commonly known daddies of the killing chain (The SAS, Commandos, Batman) and then add another level. That's where the hundred or so members of Tier 1 hang out.
Their sections make for a much quieter affair than Call of Duty with the main thread focusing on the quiet yet deadly efficient methods of a group of elite soldiers.
You're often paired up with another Tier 1 member (assisting cover star Dusty, for example) in strategic, "wait for it, wait for it" missions of stealth and precision killing.
It makes for a much slower pace than what you'd find in CoD and the whole thing is less about taking out waves and waves of soldiers in an assault on the senses as well as the enemy, and more scouting from above, working your way towards an objective and taking out a handful of Taliban members who are going about their business (not to sound glib) rather than charging at you with everything from machine guns to flame-throwers.
Sometimes the pace drops a little too far, usually at points where you're sitting in mountains with Dusty scouting out enemy soldiers. It's a classic case of scanning the mountains opposite with a sniper-rifle and piercing some skulls. That's all good fun - we've yet to be bored by a sniper level in any game ever.
The missions that do get a bit dull, however, are the ones where you're not even killing enemies, you're just tagging them. Same set-up as with the sniper rifle only this time a pull of the trigger rewards you with a "Ta very much" over the radio and an air-strike or bomb blast. It doesn't provide any real challenge and feels more like military admin than anything - We like to be fully responsible for the killing, not some middle-man.
It's balanced out somewhat though thanks to being able to zip from one mission to the next on a quad-bike (much like Modern Warfare 2's snowmobiles) and Medal of Honor's melee system, which allows you to repeatedly stab a bloke as he falls to the ground and then some more if you so choose, feels far more brutal than any other we've experienced making killing up close a pleasure.
The other half of your time sees you in control of the US military, and it's here that Medal of Honor feels a bit more like CoD with bigger battles and more conventional progression as you move through waves of Taliban forces.
The modern, Afghan setting does, however, allow for a different style to the WWII found in previous MoH games and most FPS titles to date. Moving through the narrow alleys and buildings of villages or the rocky crevices of mountain camps allows for the tension of not knowing where the next enemy will spring from, some jumpy instinct kills and the odd back to the wall job of a sudden ambush.
One particularly standout moment of the campaign sees your small platoon ambushed at the foot of some hills, being flanked by around 50 or 60 Taliban soldiers as you take cover in a blown out hut.
The objective is to survive until back-up arrives and the increasing number of gun wielding foes, dwindling ammunition, the increasing panic/determination of your squadron and a solemn, swelling orchestral build in the background is reminiscent of some the classic last stand scenes from the silver screen.
The Afghanistan setting has it's drawbacks though. It is, for the most-part, a very baron environment and although the team at Danger Close will point out the snowy high-lands, the rocky plains and the crowded villages as distinct areas, in reality they don't offer much variety. You'll move from one dusty environment to another - whether that dust is created by sand or powder snow is neither here nor there.
The other gripe is that the Taliban's preference for guerilla warfare means that they often stay nestled high up in the hills. Tactically smart yes but, from the player's point of view, having the enemy so distant makes the action feel a little bit detached and dampens the enjoyment. Shooting at dots obscured by sand and rock somehow doesn't get us going all that much.
Enemy AI is probably the game's biggest weakness. It's almost as if the opposition are programmed to shoot towards one spot, which is where your presence triggers their attack and where your team-mates will stay. Run ahead from that point and you'll be able to flank Taliban soldiers with ease. In fact, you'll be able to get behind their cover, stand right behind or even at their side, watching them fire upon your brothers in arms. Then you stab 'em.
As a shooter though, when the death is close enough to appreciate and there's no way to exploit the Taliban's incredibly narrow field of vision, Medal of Honor stands-up to the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield in terms of feel, graphical integrity and animation. By the same token, however, it doesn't do anything that really propels it past its rivals.
Yes the sound-track is good with moments of brilliance - the first time you man a helicopter gun-turret, for example, is made to feel all the more badass through music alone. There are moments where you do feel close to the collection of pixels you call colleagues as well, which is what Danger Close clearly wanted to achieve.
Medal of Honor is a good shooter, unfortunately a good shooter these days feels pretty average. The campaign doesn't do anything particularly new and it lacks any real wow factor, meaning that Medal of Honor won't be regaining it's title in its first bout. Still, FPS-heads will want to get involved as it's strong in most of the key areas if not world-beating.