Warfighter. Before we go any further, I would like you all to stop for a moment and take another look at that name. Medal of Honor: Warfighter. Isn’t it just the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard? “Yeah, the players will be in wars… and they’ll be fighting… I’ve got it! Warfighter!” And everyone in the office threw their hats up in the air and cheered, as they’d just came up with the name of the second butchering of the Medal of Honor franchise.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter is the first of this year’s MBFPSs (modern, brown first-person shooters), developed by Danger Close Games and published by EA. Picking up where 2010’s Medal of Honor left off, there are some angry guys who shoot evil-looking baddies in the face across all sorts of terrifying locales, such as Pakistan, Bosnia, and the Philippines. Gameplay-wise, MoH:W completely fails to offer anything new to the already over-saturated MBFPS market – in the alarmingly short single-player campaign, you’ll find yourself hiding behind waist high walls, exclusively shooting foreigners.
The campaign is fleshed out by cutscenes that would be more at home in a psychological horror game than they are in MoH:W. In a futile attempt to give the plot some semblance of emotion beyond DIE FOREIGNER! DIE!, the Warfighter (is that an official title) Preacher is shown in cutscenes with his robotic-looking, terrifying wife and daughter as his marriage is failing due to his job. There’s all sorts of people with beards and macho-sounding nicknames and yadda yadda – all you have to know is that it’s uninspired, confusing, disjointed, and clichéd.
There are whiffs of an attempt to strum the same chords as Spec Ops: The Line did earlier this year, but the terrorist-shaped bags of flesh shooting at you are sure to throttle any sort of semblance between the two campaigns. While The Line had you feel concern for the three “protagonists”, MoH:W attempts, and fails, to show the effects that being a macho soldier have on the warfighter’s family. The total lack of characterisation of the soldiers presented, however, both on your side and on the evil side, ensure that any sort of emotional response is completely avoided. Character models which fall in the terrifying region of the uncanny valley don’t help.
Modern first-person shooters are known for their strict linearity, but MoH:W really takes the meaning of the word linear to a whole other level. Each mission feels far more like a terrorist shooting gallery than a real, fleshed out map. Even on the harder difficulties, a number of the levels are absurdly easy, and I’m generally not very good at FPSs – their lack of challenge can be attributed to the atrocious enemy AI or the level design which almost always is favourable for the direction you’re moving.
If there’s one section of the campaign that stands out as a genuinely fun experience amongst the sea of mediocre, it’s the driving sections. The fast, action-packed sequences are enjoyable in themselves, but there’s a truly unique stealth driving moment in which you have to slip into specified hiding points to avoid lurking baddies from discovering you. It’s actually rather good – maybe the next Medal of Honor game can be Medal of Honor: Kar Kombat? These driving sections were designed by Criterion, so it’s no wonder that they are the sole enjoyable parts of an otherwise drab campaign.
There’s also a strange emphasis on breaching in MoH:W. Why? I’m not entirely sure. It’s almost like a minigame filled with all sorts of new door opening tools that are unlocked as you breach. In “Dynamic Door Breach” mode, every four in-breach headshots unlocks a new method of breaching, including a charge on the doorknob and a shotgun. It’s an interesting concept, but even with all the unlocks, the most satisfying method of breaching remains the simple kick-and-pistol, rendering the entire system somewhat irrelevant.
Despite the disappointingly mediocre campaign, MoH:W’s multiplayer is surprisingly enjoyable. A new buddy system is introduced that pairs you up with another soldier in a “fireteam”. When you spawn, you have the option of spawning either at designated spawn points or next to your buddy, provided they are behind cover. Soldiers in a fireteam are expected to move together, supporting each other with ammo resupplies, medical assistance, and general cover fire. It’s a fresh take on the generic formula that promotes teamwork unlike anything Call of Duty has ever put forward.
MoH:W‘s multiplayer is class-based, unlike the custom classes fans of the genre would be used to. In Warfighter you begin with just the Assault class unlocked, but will quickly gain access to the other five types of gun-shooty-people. There are also ten nations with playable armies, each that have their own qualities. The Polish GROM units, for example, are quieter and harder to detect than any other faction, even if they are of the same class. This adds another level of depth to a class mechanic which could have easily become overly restrictive – when added to the flexible weapon customisation options, Warfighter provides a deep level of strategy when it comes to choosing your soldier.
Unfortunately, that’s where the good things about the multiplayer end. The few maps that are present are totally uninspired, feeling more like a collection of buildings and rocks dumped onto a brown, sandy canvas than an organic battlefield. This is even more of a let down as the Home Run game mode, a no-respawn CTF mode, is wholly dependent on quality maps, of which there are none. Additionally, Warfighter‘s multiplayer is messy and laden with bugs. Regardless of how much I might enjoy the pure shooty goodness, I’m rarely in the mood to contend having to reboot the entire game after every match because of some sort of technical difficulty – in the world of three brown shooters a year, I’ve got other options to turn to rather than struggle with technical issues.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter could have been a fun game. Sure, the singleplayer campaign was never going to be all that great, but the multiplayer shows promise. Gunplay feels fantastic and responsive, as one would expect for any game running Frostbyte 2. The fireteam system and nation/class mechanism are examples of a developer showing creativity in a market so devoid of it. It’s just let down by poor reliability, which is a real shame.
I enjoyed the hours I spent in Warfighter‘s multiplayer, but then Black Ops 2 came along. I just couldn’t be arsed to contend with fixing this issue and that issue in Warfighter – the easier option was to migrate to Activision’s yearly offering. Even now, if I were to try and join a game of Warfighter multiplayer, I’ll be put in an empty server every time. Why? I have no idea, and I really lack the motivation to fix what is the umpteenth issue I’ve had with the game. It took me a week after installation just to get the single player mode working properly. And maybe don’t call the next instalment in the series something as patronising as “Warfighter”. Just a thought.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Medal of Honor: Warfighter by EA Games.