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Medal of Honor Warfighter: FTG Review (Xbox 360)

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Electronic Arts and Danger Close go up against their first-person shooter rivals over at Activision with their latest hyper-realistic, gritty military shooter, Medal of Honor Warfighter.  How does it do at taking it’s shot at the Call of Duty series?

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The Easiest Hard Day

The single player storyline in Medal of Honor feels disjointed and attempts regularly to force emotion on you that it doesn’t rightly earn.  While all of the surviving characters from the first Medal of Honor reboot are back, most players are going to have a tough time differentiating between their “Mother” and “Tick” characters.  You actually have teammates the game foists on you, like “Hey, it’s your old buddy so-and-so”, but they never introduce any of them.  As someone who thrives on storyline in his games, I knew who Preacher and Mother were from the first game, but I’ll guarantee those itchy trigger finger kiddies who are there for the multiplayer aren’t going to be shocked at the “surprise reveal” of an old character from the first game at the end because they’ll have no idea who the guy is.   As for the emotion, the game tries to humanize the Tier 1 soldiers that you’re playing as by showing them spending time with their family members, but again, doesn’t do the proper groundwork to make you care about the character’s “back stories”, as flimsy as they are.   What?  A Delta operator is having marital troubles?  No kidding.

As someone who not only has worked with the intelligence community in the military and again, thrives on story in his games, I had a hell of a time figuring out what was going on.  Medal of Honor bounces you from setting to setting facing a variety of terrorist organizations like Abu Sayyaf and Al-Shabbab, but your average civilian isn’t going to be able to differentiate between a Somali pirate and a Bosian arms dealer security team and it makes for a confusing tale.  Wait, I’m in the Philippines rescuing hostages?  How the hell does this tie in with the explosives I’m tracking?  Why am I chasing down a mid-tier arms dealer in Pakistan?  Wait, which team is this, Mako or Voodoo?  Shit.  If I was confused, your average mouthbreather is going to have a hell of a time keeping up and end up saying ‘to hell with it’.

The frustrating part is that the Medal of Honor Warfighter story line is well researched and obviously shows Danger Close’s work with actual Tier 1 operators to bring realism to the story line.  Medal of Honor prides itself on being an homage to the “real life superheroes” of the worlds special forces community…but then goes on to pair up with “Zero Dark Thirty” (Hollywood’s movie about the Usama Bin Laden takedown) to create a downloadable map pack.  Tacky, and I’m sure any kind of forward progress EA was making with the Tier-1 community went right out the door as soon as that was announced; I’m fairly certain if we see another Medal of Honor after Warfighter, they’re going to have a tough time getting military advisers from the Tier 1 community.

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Double Tap Dummies

So, I’ve been talking a lot about circumstantial and storyline beefs I’ve had with Medal of Honor Warfighter, but how does the game play?   Well, it’s got issues, and quite a few of them.  First off, there are twelve “missions”, of which, one is a tutorial, one is a three minute sniper sequence where you fire one round, and two are driving missions.  So, there’s a quarter of your game right there tied up in nonsense.  Granted, the driving missions for Medal of Honor Warfighter are surprisingly competent, Medal of Honor is more than happy to slap you in a turret or a fixed perspective shooting gallery far too often.  Once, you’re providing sniper support, then you’re the door gunner of a helicopter providing support, then you’re up on a turret mowing down jihadists…while some of these sequences are satisfying, taking the control away from the player except for the ability to aim and spray lead feels a bit cheap after the fifth or sixth time.

As I’m “teh leetz”, I always start out games at the hardest difficulty available, and in this case, hard ain’t hard.  As the hardest unlocked difficulty, hard difficulty was a breeze.  Where Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s difficulty would punish you for poking your head out from behind cover for more than a second, I had mujahedin walk up to me with shotguns and lay into me with them repeatedly before I would spin around, see them and take them out.  Sure, you’re not going to be meleeing every enemy in your path, you do need to take cover, but this is the softest “hard” difficulty I’ve played in a long time having completed it in five hours.  Upon completion, you unlock both “Tier 1” and “Hardcore” difficulties, which respectively turn off the heads up display and take checkpoints out of each chapter, which could be a real chore considering the enemies are whipping grenades at you like you’re in a grenade factory.  Without those grenade indicators, you’re going to be reloading regularly.

Speaking of jihadists with shotguns, I’m on a team of the world’s best shooters, how is there a guy who got past everyone and is standing next to me blasting away?  The computer controlled Tier 1 operators are not good at determining friend and foe and will regularly allow enemies to not only close, but flank and get behind you.  Fortunately, because you can take a full magazine of bullets to the face before dying, you’ll have plenty of time to turn around, calmly take your pistol with unlimited ammunition and put two in his temple.

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When Reality Sets In

Unlimited ammo pistols?  Teammates who hand you full combat loads of ammunition at the slightest mention of being low on ammo?  Soldiers wearing “armor” who take dozens of bullets before going down?  While I understand that Medal of Honor Warfighter at the end of the day is still a game, when you have mechanics in place like allowing 31 rounds in your rifle (30 round magazine and one in the chamber) and talking about realism in your game, having these “gaming” tropes in seems silly.  These kind of things you put in an “easy” or “girlfriend” mode for Medal of Honor.  Force me to pick up enemy weapons and use them if I’ve burned through all my ammunition, don’t hand me a half dozen grenades every time I ask.

Leaning

This absolutely deserves its own section.  Not only is the “lean” back in the game, but I think it could seriously be one of Medal of Honor Warfigher’s saving graces.  On consoles, I’m stunned that no one has come up with this idea before now: instead of pulling the left trigger to aim down the sights, you can pull on the left bumper to not only sight in, but use the left thumbstick to lean around cover.  It’s god damn brilliant.  You can quickly poke your head out, aim, take a shot while mostly staying in cover.  I’d be shocked if this doesn’t find its way over to Activision’s Call of Duty Modern Warfare 15.

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Wait…Did I Kill You?

After blazing through the single player campaign, I put in the second disk for a little of Medal of Honor’s multiplayer action.  Having played the multiplayer at events, I thought I knew what I was getting into…apparently not.  The “beta” that EA put out last month to put together a massive day one patch completely changed what I saw when I booted up the game.  While the dozens and dozens of menus seem like they’ve got a ridiculous amount of detail for folks who invest into learning where everything is, it’s a little tricky to navigate.  I actually cursed out loud when I saw the “Origin” logo pop up asking me to log into my account to track my “Battlelog” stats.  I loved the Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Autolog, but it also didn’t require me to jump through hoops to use it.  I could immediately see what my friends were up to, challenge them, etc.  This barrier to entry obviously splits your player base up; of the nine friends I had playing the game last night, only three of them were on Origin’s service for the Battlelog.  Well, great.

The multiplayer has a lot of great ideas in them, and I really enjoyed what I played of it, but how Medal of Honor Warfighter fails at some of the basics is somewhat astounding at this point.  How in the hell do you have a multiplayer first person shooter that doesn’t give you immediate feedback when you score a kill?  How many experience points did I get for that kill?  Did I even kill that guy or did someone swoop in for the final bit and steal my kill?  How about the fact that in the match type where the objectives are moving around the map, I can actively spawn into an enemy encampment and get mowed down? Even the game’s lauded “Fireteam” system has it’s problem as I found out immediately.  My first match, I got paired with a guy who was just sitting there.  He rarely died as he was back in our “base” area, so I would spawn, die, spawn, die, and there he was, sitting, not having moved an inch.  The next match, I got paired with the same guy, and guess what?  Same thing.  There’s no apparent way to boot bots or folks who go “away from keyboard”, but he was still getting “buddy spawn” experience when I would spawn on him (I stopped after figuring out I was feeding this monster).

After Action Review

There are a ton of issues with Medal of Honor Warfighter.   They say the road to Hell is paved with good intention, and it’s obvious that Danger Close really wanted to make something special here with all the time and energy they put into working with their Tier 1 military advisors; the credits section of the game is almost twenty minutes long slog of military defense contractors and weapons manufacturers they thank.  But the game feels thrown together and pushed out the door before it was ready.  There were a lot of early red flags going on that told me that Electronic Arts was not confident about the quality of their game; most of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that 95% of the gaming public aren’t going to know or care about, told me that Medal of Honor Warfigher was a game in trouble from the start.  The fact that you’re bundling in early beta access for Battlefield 4  is their way of saying, “Hey, we know you’re probably not going to buy this game, but if you do, hope’s on the way, Battlefield 4 is due out next year!”  Also, not allowing reviewers to get early review copies of the game to make sure no bad reviews go up prior to release so folks aren’t canceling preorders based on Metacritic scores isn’t done too often, especially by a confident triple-A producing publisher, but that’s what happened here.

So, was Electronic Arts right to try these kinds of tricks to boost sales for a middling to poor game?  Did they have something to hide?  Absolutely.  Medal of Honor Warfighter is a game about one step forward, two steps back as far a first person shooters go, and in holiday season time with a stack of true triple A titles on the horizon, this is not a game you should be running out to spend $60 on.

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Editor’s Note: Front Towards Gamer not only received a review copy of Medal of Honor Warfigher, but was invited out to be a part of the Medal of Honor Warfighter Community Day in Seattle during Penny Arcade Expo.

Curious about the game? Come check out our developer day interview with Kevin O’Leary for Medal of Honor Warfighter!

Interested in checking out more about the game, come check out Front Towards Gamer’s full walkthrough of the Medal of Honor Warfighter on Hard difficulty!

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