Medal of Honor: Warfighter [Preview] – An old dog with new tricks?
The space that Medal of Honor exists within is one that also houses two of modern gaming’s biggest franchises – Call of Duty and Battlefield. All three, as far as single player is concerned, attempt to provide a rough-tough, Hollywood blockbuster vision of what modern combat is like. These games feature street fighting against insurgents, the clearing out of rooms branching from corridors and any countless mutterings of “Roger that” and “Move, move”.
So, it’s probably for that reason that they all feel and play in largely the same way. If you’ve played any one of them, you’ve played them all. If you’ve read my Battlefield 3 review, you’ll be well aware of my feelings regarding such things.
When EA decided to bring Medal of Honor back in 2010, the game we were given (again, as far as single player goes) was every bit what we expected it to be. A Call of Duty clone. It was a decent enough game if you’re a fan of the genre, decent enough to shift a few million copies and green light a sequel.
We’ve seen one level of said sequel, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, and so far it looks to be picking up right where the previous game left off. Again we’re playing as part of a ‘Tier 1′ military squad with the vague goal of preventing acts of terrorism. The level we’re walked through is set in the Philippines shortly after a typhoon has devastated the country, leaving our destination of Isabela City flooded and its inhabitants fighting to stay alive.
Terrorist group Abu Sayyaf has seized the opportunity afforded by the typhoon to take foreign aid workers located in the city hostage. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to infiltrate the hotel Abu Sayyaf is holed up in and rescue the hostages. Of course, you’ll have to accept, because this is a game and you’ll probably want to move to the next level.
What you can say about Warfighter is that it looks stunning. The level opens with a close-up of the face of a squad-mate, a face with so much detail you’ll be forgiven for thinking we’re still in the cutscene. Then there’s some lovely lighting and water effects, decent splintering of wood as bullets tear beams apart and a smoothness of motion that’s largely unmatched. Then again, this is running the Frostbite 2 engine, so graphical quality is expected rather than hoped for.
However, the question here is how good will it look come release day? We’re experiencing this on what looks to be one heck of a powerful PC. Will the 360 edition look like that? If it does, I’ll eat a shoe.
In terms of gameplay, what we’re shown is incredibly familiar. To the point of déjà vu. Combat sequences play out in multi-tiered shooting galleries that are separated by moments of quietly walking up staircases and through rooms, all the while your Tier 1 buddies giving it the soldier chatter into what are no-doubt expensive ear-pieces.
Developer Danger Close went out of its way to repeatedly tell us that design decisions were made with the help of real-life Tier 1 operatives and veterans of recent conflicts (including those stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq). Consultations have taken place for everything from the colour of uniforms to the type of grenades used in specific situations. That’s certainly a commendable effort, but I wonder if it’s worth it and whether that time would be better spent providing new gameplay mechanics to give the franchise more of a unique identity.
After a few shootouts, the team arrive at the room the hostages are being held. Entering the room is a case of breaching the door and shooting every bad guy inside in a wave of slow-motion bullets. This is described as a “new mechanic” by the Danger Close rep in charge of the demo. It may be new to Medal of Honor, but new to the genre it most certainly is not.
What is slightly different to Warfighter’s breaching mechanic is that you get the option of selecting a grenade type to chuck in the room before you barge your way in. This will apparently provide different gameplay styles for you to pick from, although we weren’t given a demo of two grenade types in action so we can’t comment on that claim.
Hostages rescued, we’re thrown into a new sequence in which we’re escaping Isabela City in speed boats in a mad rush to get our new friends to the safety of the evac choppers. Your role here is to man the turret gun and offer protection from the chasing Abu Sayyaf – who seem to have a literally inexhaustible number of soldiers to throw at you as cannon fodder.
Again, visually, this is all spectacular as buses float across your path and fallen trees are narrowly avoided. As far as the gameplay goes, though, it looks passable but hardly fresh. Choppers reached, demo ends.
Given the lengths that Danger Close has gone to in researching the content of Warfighter, it’s clear that they’ve got a passion for the genre and for the Tier 1 soldiers they’re attempting to bring to the digital realm. Because of that passion, it would be a shame for Warfighter to simply end up as another ‘me-too’ in the Call of Duty vein.
One of the things that having terrorist groups as the primary enemy allows is a wide variety of locations spread throughout the world, from jungle to city to desert to mountains and everything in between. Danger Close has promised that Warfighter will feature a significant number of different locations, which I truly hope will provide a game high in diversity and something that tries something new within a genre that is among this industry’s most rigid.
Emotionally charged storylines involving soldiers separated from loved ones who express their loneliness in the face of your tour of duty are also promised. If done well, those moments could well become the most engaging elements of a game that (from what we’ve seen) is otherwise all about shooting stuff.
And what about multiplayer? Well, things are being kept largely under wraps. But we do know that multiplayer is being handled in-house this time around and that there will be 12 different Tier 1 units to select from (including the US Navy Seals and British SAS). All will have the uniforms, items and weapons used by the real-life operatives.
Multiplayer was what the last Medal of Honor did very right, so let’s hope that doesn’t change.