Medal of Honor Warfighter review: Does exactly what it says on the TNT
26th Oct 2012 | 10:25
It's easy to hate
This is the publisher's tenth military shooter in five years, and the genre's been tapped. We've spent a generation peering down iron sights, and Warfighter doesn't change the formula: you'll follow-the-leader in sneak missions, dash from exploding bases, control drones, consult shady informants and more than a few times hop on a turret to mop up.
Nothing new, then, but ask yourself one question: is there anything inherently wrong with that?
Comparisons are often drawn between 'CoD clones' and Michael Bay's school of ADHD filmmaking, so let's run with it. Is Transformers wildly unique? Does it push boundaries? No, but it tells a decent story and had more than its fair share of explosions. Simply put, you know what you're getting. That's the ethos here - if you want fresh, play Dishonored.
Of course, since the term 'military shooter' has become almost a dirty word in some industry circles, developers Danger Close opt to justify, or perhaps divert attention from, constant killing with a little melodrama. Cutscenes in between missions detail U.S. Navy SEAL Preacher's dysfunctional relationship with his wife Lena and their daughter Bella, a relationship that is stretched each time he abandons them to join the frontlines.
Lena and Bella are less emotional anchors and more general annoyances. Let's be honest, you're here to fight, to be whisked through a shooting gallery on the end of an AK-47, told where to aim and when, and that's where the more engaging of the two conflicts lie, one set in bombed out Middle Eastern theatres rather than dreary American diners where creepy character models talk about their feelings. There's nothing wrong with a little context, but there's a lot wrong with shoehorning it in.
Fighting wars is what Warfighter does best. While not necessarily more realistic than its contemporaries, featuring knee-sliding, hip-firing and a generous dose of regenerating health, the inconsequentially of battling it out in a war zone gives the action a tone of authenticity. You're capping insurgents in unpopulated village squares, not the Oval Office.
In one memorable section, you'll infiltrate a Somali coastal village lightly smattered with a few drops of rain. The further you push, the more it pours, eventually breaking the levee and spilling out tides which lap your waist. By the level's end, you're forced to extract in a military-issued RHIB motor boat, taking turns to both shoot and drive past rocket-wielding pirates firing from rooftops which happen to be floating off down the street.
Even if on-rails vehicle sections are hardly a new conceit, it's an exhilarating sequence.
Another killer linear section involves you taking a hatchback to the packed roads of Dubai, dodging black-tinted security 4x4's who object to how you've tied up their envoy and stuffed him in the trunk. It's like EA's racer Shift in rush hour, swiping the in-cockpit impact camera and searing sense of speed to violent effect.
Warfighter mostly borrows, but it should get credit for creating too. A stealth variant on the car chase sees you shaking off pursuers in a hub-like residential area while you upload a malicious file onto a network, ducking into alleys when you see approaching cars on the GPS.
It also handles tricky first-person cover brilliantly. You'll hold the left shoulder button to snap to walls and barriers, then use the left stick to lean in and out. You can do this standing, crouching or even prone - a tactical alternative to running-and-gunning. Killzone 2 did it first, but this does it better.
What the game lacks in originality, it makes up for in functionality. Your tutorial takes place in a Pakistani-mountain-embedded terrorist training course which, in a body-swapping twist, you actually raid as a SEAL later. There are also several sections where you'll guide a rocket-firing MUSA demolitions robot via remote control. These may be isolated moments of creativity, but no-one can say Warfighter isn't solid at its foundation.
Multiplayer is no exception; it treads the line between Call of Duty's fast-paced close-quarters gunplay and Battlefield's 3 weighty heft, borrowing the latter's Frostbite 2 engine though dropping the framerate down and removing environmental destruction.
Your classes are a selection of 12 Tier 1 operators from across the globe (though, as mentioned at the start, they all look pretty much the same), whom you can kit out with guns equipped with various stocks, optics, muzzles and barrels, unlocking more as you progress.
Guns form the main incentiviser, because apart from an efficient Battlelog matchmaking system, and seen-it-all-before equipment such as C4, wire cutters and tomahawks (all more balanced than CoD's gunships and packs of dogs but nowhere near as fun to use), there's not much to keep you going.
Multiplayer is hardly broken, but it ultimately does nothing new, and while Warfighter could get away with that in the campaign, it can't in a sphere which includes a bevy of not only competent, but fantastic online shooters.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter offers no shock or revelation. There's no No Russian moment. There's no indicated trajectory where the genre as a whole is headed. But fundamentally, it works. Guns feel ferocious and enemies are satisfying to shoot (quite crucial in a shooter); memorable set-pieces break up the flow, and there's an earnest multiplayer to get involved in.
So enjoy your military shooters - they only come around a few times a year.