Oh look, it’s that OTHER war-shooty game that comes out this time of year. You know, the one everyone plays to kill time until that next big shooty war game. I don’t know man, they’re all pretty distinctive.
You check your sight as the squad commander tells you to move up. Crouching in water, you slowly tread forward, your eyes on a dilapidated pier you can duck under to approach the Somali pirates covering the beach. Anxiously, you check your sights – it’s all clear, so you take a deep breath and move up. You’re just about to duck under the pier when a sniper puts you on the ground, and as you’re lying in the water, fish darting about your prone figure, all hell breaks loose. The sneaky approach? It didn’t work. The commander tells you to get up, and with a heave, you break back out of the water, seeing hordes of pirates take position to fire at your approach. So much for stealth.
From the off, Medal of Honor gets the cinematic side of things right. The first handful of missions feel more like a film than a game, due in no small part to the developer’s dedication to authenticity, if not strictly realism. This can be enough to cover up the game’s convoluted keyboard controls at times – I can’t speak for the console versions but on PC my fingers ached from holding down CTRL to crouch all the time, and the various button combinations for leaning and peeking out of cover couldn’t feel more convoluted if they tried. It feels like you’re being giving a tour of the game world, the Frostbite engine saying “Look at what I can do!” as environments explode around you and brutally unforgiving bullet drop mechanics prove to be your undoing time and time again. It’s these random spikes of realism that make Warfighter seem, at first, to be much more appealing than your standard shooter. In some missions they make a point of telling you where they’ve drawn inspiration from real events. When you take that realism into consideration next to how eerily clean the game is (Blood is almost completely absent and vanishes after the initial spray when it does appear) and the weird time-slowing-for-dramatic effect when you breach doors or at certain set pieces, it sort of makes you wish the developers could have made up their mind which side of the reality spectrum they wanted to be in.
I found myself really wanting to enjoy the game more, gunfights feel satisfying and headshots in particular feel that little bit more desirable than usual but I felt as though the unintuitive keyboard controls often got in the way of what my gaming instincts were telling me to do. Most of the time I felt as if the game was acting against me, whilst the story was dragging me along on tenterhooks with rapid, staccato pacing and cinematic delivery. The game expects you to think like a human under fire, not as a superhuman soldier carrying fifty guns and dragging around his monstrous testicles that obviously protect him from the gazillion bullets pouring in his direction. Next time we go to war, gamers should be on the front lines, and all the Medal of Honor: Warfighter players can use all the bullet ridden nutsacks of the kamikaze COD players as cover as they strategically duck and cover their way across the battlefield, you know, not getting shot. Not that there’s anything wrong with Call of Duty’s uber macho approach, but this is far closer to what we imagine the real fear of war. If only everything wasn’t so damn clean. I’m going to justify my lenience with this review in a moment, because I feel as though our different approach with this game bears some illumination.
One of the advantages in not rushing this review out as soon as possible is that it’s easier to see how other reviewers react to the game. Not naming any names here, but certain high profile websites have taken great pleasure in twisting the knife with some of Warfighter’s shortcomings, again comparing it to the inevitable monolith of the genre which is to FPS games as World of Warcraft is to MMOs. I, on the other hand, don’t think trying to forge a story within a game rather than charging nut-first into a string of set pieces is that bad a thing. Yes, more could have been done with the Frostbite engine, and things feel a little linear at times, but for the most part this is because it’s firmly grounded within real events. Some (unnecessary) liberties might be taken with that realism to enhance the gameplay, but I, for one, would like to encourage and praise Medal of Honor’s different take on the genre.
What it all comes down to is that this is a game you buy to shoot the bad guys and feel good about yourself online. Medal of Honor might not be cheesy enough for everyone’s taste but if you want a slightly grittier first person experience, packed with an important story and horrors of war a-plenty, then this just might be your shooter of choice this year.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.