Medal of Honor

Review

posted 10/12/2010 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
The original Medal of Honor was one of the games I was addicted to and I remember spending many hours online with it. It was THE game I played before Call of Duty came out, and it’s been a long time since I’ve played a game in the series. I was surprised to see the announcement that the series was coming back in a present day setting, but everything I saw looked pretty good. I also had a good time playing the multiplayer portion at E3 and now, it’s finally arrived.

Medal of Honor represents a transition of the series to the current day. In conjunction with the US Military, Danger Close has produced a military first person shooter that takes you into the heart of the war in Afghanistan. As with the Modern Warfare series, you get to partake in a few characters instead of sticking to one main character throughout the entire single person campaign.


What I really like about the single player campaign is that you’re almost never alone in your missions. Most of the time, you’ll be in teams of four or break off with another partner but the fact is, you’re not going to be getting into these situations alone. The AI does do an adequate job of taking down the enemy and keeping out of your way. Even the mission where you ride an AH-64 Apache helicopter has you paired up with another helicopter who paints targets for you. I’ve gotten tired of the one man army deals so I was pretty happy to see someone else on my team for most of the game.

The missions are varied enough to give you some nice changes instead of just running and gunning. Besides close quarters combat, you’ll be asked to take down the enemies with a sniper rifle, calling in air strikes, or as mentioned previously, ride along in an AH-64 to take down various bunkers and enemy hideouts. You won’t always be on the offensive however, as you will be some situations that are downright stacked against you causing you to either retreat or just pray to survive. Other games have done this with good effect and Danger Close has as well. You’re not always going to have everything go your way and Medal of Honor shows you a few scenarios where the best option is to fall back.


Most of the time, you get some nice transitions going from one character to another as the missions are intertwined in most cases. For example, at the end of the AH-64 mission, a sniper takes out a potential threat who’s manning a heavy anti-air gun that could have taken you down. After a short cut scene showing you being saved with a nice headshot to the terrorist, the game transitions you into the role of the soldier who took the shot. You proceed into his mission along with coverboy Dusty by your side. You’ll have a few of these scenarios that are used to further along the story.

Speaking of the story, it’s just your basic run of the mill military operation where things go wrong and you have to do your best to right things. There’s no big twist to who the bad guy is like in Modern Warfare 2 and in fact, there’s really no main target here. The Taliban and terrorists are the main enemies in Medal of Honor rather than trying to tie it all to one central antagonist. To me, the story’s a little weak and nothing memorable comes out of it but the action and missions are fun to play despite the story presented.

The game definitely takes a less Hollywood approach to story telling, which I do like. There were so many insane moments in Modern Warfare 2’s single player mode that I became pretty tired of them. There are a few smaller events in Medal of Honor but I did like the more subtle approach to what happens around you. There are still some minor scripted events and most of the story is told through pre-rendered cut scenes, which some might like and some might not.

It took me about six hours to finish the entire single player campaign on normal difficulty so it’s really, really short. To be fair, I had a very good time throughout the six hours and when I was playing a level for the first time, I wasn’t bored nor did I feel that the game dragged on. I’m saying for the first time because I ran into a bug that had me play a few areas a few times in order to get through. I’ll touch on those later on but some might see the six or so hours as too little content for a AAA game. I’m including watching the cut scenes and bugs I ran into as part of the six hours so as you can tell, it’s going to be a quick day to get through the entire single player campaign. Luckily, there’s a very nice multiplayer component that should more than make up for the short length of it, but the campaign was a satisfying experience.


For the game, Danger Close went with a HUD-less approach meaning all you see are your guns and the environment around you sans indicators of health or ammo. You can bring up a HUD to show you those by press H at anytime but it slowly disappears after a short amount of time. It does help draw you into the game a little more and I never ran out of ammo (which I’ll get to in a minute) so needing the HUD is a little superfluous. Any damage is indicated by an ever increasing amount of red veins around the edges of the screen so there’s your indicator on if you’re going to die soon.

When I talk about not running out of ammo, Danger Close opted to let you grab any ammo for your military issued gun from your squad mates. All you have to do is walk up to someone who has the same gun as you and press a button to ask for some more. They’ll only give it to you when you run low and I never ran into a scenario when they didn't have any to give me. It’s an interesting design decision and it did make me focus on sticking close to my squad mates so that I can grab a refill when I started to run out. You can pick up the guns dropped by your enemies and picking up the same ones will let you get more ammo. If you have one of those guns though, you won’t be able to use your squad mates to refill your supply so you have a little decision to make on whether to pick up an enemy's gun or stick with your own.


Something that I used a lot that Danger Close put into Medal of Honor is the ability to slide into cover. When you are running you can press the CTRL button to do a slide that helps get you to cover in a quicker and more effective way. When the mechanic was first introduced, I didn’t think I was going to use it that much but as I played on, I found myself subconsciously initiating the maneuver anytime there was gunfire around. I definitely used it a lot more than the learning that was present in the game so kudos to Danger Close for letting me slide to safety.

Like Modern Warfare 2, you can’t run and reload at the same time. It’s something that always gets me in trouble as I’m used to running fast and reloading in twitch type first person shooters but the same situation presents itself in Medal of Honor where you’re forced to either walk or stop in order to reload your weapon.

The enemy AI in the game is pretty good and offers up some solid resistance. My favorite though has to be the way that some of them react to gunfire that strikes near their head. You’ll see them cower sometimes and look for cover instead of just not reacting to a bullet that narrowly misses them. It does make them a little more human even though you’ll see the more than once just stand out in the open making them easy targets. The AI’s not the worst I’ve seen and it does do a good job at presenting some minor challenges and random actions.

Unique to Medal of Honor, the game uses two different engines to power the game. While Chuck will go into the multiplayer portion in a bit, the single player portion uses a heavily modified Unreal Engine and Danger Close has done a very spectacular job at utilizing it to offer up some pretty cool effects.


Because of the desert landscape, a lot of dust gets kicked up from the gun fire. Medal of Honor produces some of the best and most realistic dust effects I’ve seen in a game. Shoot through some dirt barriers and you’ll see a yellow dust cloud form and slowly dissipate. During heavy shoot outs, your vision can get blinded by the amount of dirt that gets kicked around. The environmental effects are pretty effective in helping and hindering you.

Not all cover will survive gun fire and you’ll be put in scenarios where the hut you are hiding in gets slowly torn apart by RPGs or the wall you are hiding behind gets blasted to pieces. The ability to destroy cover isn’t overly used but there are enough instances presented to make it a very cool feature to experience. That is, unless you are behind said cover being blown apart.


Models are pretty well done except the eyes do creep me out a bit. When anyone looks at you, they look emotionless so it took away from the visuals of the character models slightly. Animation-wise, Danger Close did a pretty good job and presenting some realistic movement to all the characters in the game. For example, following Dusty on a quick run to a way point, anytime he turned or diverted from a straight line, you could see him lean into that direction of the run as well as planting his pivot foot realistically to change direction.

On my PC consisting of an Intel I7-860, 4GB of ram, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480, and running Windows 7 64-bit, the game played very well and I noticed little or no slow down with all the settings cranked as well as very little pop-in of the environments as I walked around. Playing with GeForce 3D Vision is definitely out of the question for now though as there was nothing optimized for the experience and plenty of artifacts were produced when turning on the stereoscopic feature.

Unfortunately, I ran into a few very bad bugs in the game. On a mission to flank a machine gun, I went above the nest that was inside a building and nothing happened. I had to reload the checkpoint for the scripted sequence of having an RPG blow the floor I was standing on to initiate. Without it, I had no way to continue but at least the checkpoint to initiate the sequence was really close.

Another mission had me putting suppressing fire on a machine gun in order for one of my squad mates to get close to it. Most of the time, my squad mates just stood there and a few times, they moved up to one of the rock covers and that would be it. I ran all the way up to the machine gun nest and while firing as well as stood back and fired with no results. What’s supposed to happen is an indicator of the machine gun nest being suppressed should appear above it while you are firing, triggering your squad mates to move forward. Now, this does happen if it’s the first time you get to that area. Say you die or one of your squad mates takes too much friendly fire, forcing you to restart from the last check point. Doing so will trigger the bug where nothing ever happens as you fire on the nest. No matter how many times I reloaded the check point, I could never get past this part of the level. I had to reload the entire level, which takes about 10 minutes to reach to this point. Three times I had to do this cause I either died or shot my friends too much so out of six hours I needed to finish the game, 30 minutes of that was replaying the same level. I don’t know if it’s unique to me but I do hope Danger Close can replicate the problem to fix as it’s a pretty bad bug to run into.


So, the campaign portion of Medal of Honor was solid and I had a good time going through the variety of missions presented. It’s not as good as Call of Duty 2 or the first Modern Warfare in my opinion, but it’s still a fun, fun campaign to go through and I can see myself replaying a few of the missions over again a few times because of how fun they were.

You have the ability to go through each of the missions again in Tier 1 mode where you are scored at how fast you can get through. Of course, there’s a leaderboard for this game mode so if you’re into speed run competitions, this might be a feature you like.


Multiplayer
The multiplayer portion of Medal of Honor is where the game should build most of its audience and why not, it has been built by DICE, the fine folks behind the Battlefield series of games. Before the launch of the game EA hosted a two hour multiplayer session where members of the press got the chance to play through the game’s four modes with each other and some members of the development team on the Xbox 360 version of the game. This also means that if you’ve played Battlefield:Bad Company 2, you have a vague idea of what you’re getting into.

While both games feature class based multiplayer there are several differences between the two. The first is that Medal of Honor has only three classes (Rifleman, Special Ops, and Sniper). The removal of the two support classes (engineer and medic) do speed the action up quite a bit but for folks that really like those classes (including yours truly) it’s a bit of a bummer.

You gain points for killing enemies and securing objectives in the game which allow you to level up that particular class of character. Each level unlocks new weapons and equipment for you to use. It’s a bit cleaner than the weapon unlock system in Bad Company 2 but with each class maxing out at level 14, I do wonder if people will get bored once they reach it.

The folks at DICE have also taken some pointers from the Call of Duty games as players who can pull off long kill streaks will have access to Support Actions. What’s interesting about the Support Actions is that each level has offensive and defensive actions. If you’re all about yourself, you can use the offensive one to take out a cluster of enemies or you can boost your entire team by using one of the defensive support actions. It’s a cool system and it does force you to think about the rest of your team.


The game features four multiplayer modes: Combat Mission, Objective Raid,Sector Control, and Team Raid. Combat mission has the coalition forces trying to secure five points away from the “Opposing Force”. Objective Raid is a smaller, more focused version of Combat Mission where the coalition forces must try to prevent the insurgents from knocking out two control points. Sector Control is a modified version of the old Conquest mode where teams score points by controlling and holding positions around the map and Team Assault is a fancy version of team death match.

Of the four modes I found the Combat Mission and Sector Control to be the most enjoyable, but then again as a Battlefield veteran, those where the modes that I was pre-ordained to enjoy. The other two are serviceable and enjoyable if you like those kinds of things but I’m thinking the Combat Missions are what people are going to enjoy most and hopefully will receive some post launch DLC in the form of new missions and content.

I did enjoy my time with the multiplayer portion of Medal of Honor and there’s definitely a blend of ingredients from both Battlefield:Bad Company 2 and Modern Warfare 2. It does take some time to get used to and if the game gets enough DLC love, I could see the game challenging Modern Warfare 2 over time.




* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

B-
The single player campaign is a lot of fun with some great moments sprinkled in. It's really short though and some bugs crept into the product that made it a little annoying. The Unreal Engine powering the single player campaign does a great job at offering up some nice visuals. I think this game has the best exploding heads by far. This review is based on the single player portion on the PC and Xbox 360 portion on the Xbox 360. MP Summary: Multiplayer looks good from what we’ve seen and could challenge Modern Warfare 2’s throne if supported by EA and DICE over the long haul.