I would like to first dedicate this to those who are currently serving our country in the military or have done their duty for our country in the past. Without your sacrifice the gift that we love so much called “freedom” would be forever lost without your efforts.
Medal of Honor has a great history as a series of games. The first game in the series was developed by DreamWorks Interactive and the series as a whole was created by Steven Spielberg (Wikipedia). DreamWorks Interactive has now been renamed to Danger Close and developed the 2010 reboot of the series. The games in the past of the series have always had a great cinematic quality to them and have a polish in storytelling that seems lost in modern day games. I can say that when I heard the announcement that Electronic Arts (EA) would be rebooting the series to a modern day setting versus the same setting of past games I was intrigued. However, when I heard that the game would be rendered in 2 engines… I became leery. As a preface, I will warn you; don’t let the 2-headed nature of Medal of Honor fool you as a sloppy made production, because it is far from that.
There used to be an embeded media player here, but it doesn't work anymore. We blame the Tumbeasts.
Medal of Honor (2010) has a polish that I feel puts a higher level of refinement to a modern day combat shooter unlike those from the Call of Duty franchise. The game was developed in cooperation with the US military and some Tier 1 Operators in the field for an experience that is unparalleled to the military FPS genre. The fit and feel of the story mode was something I truly loved. The single player campaign was rendered with Unreal Engine 3.0 and developed by Danger Close. The level of immersion from the stylistic notes that Danger Close took were wonderful! The heads-up display (HUD) shows up when you are switching weapons or being issued objectives and gradually fades away. This is nice as most of the action scenes do not have the HUD overlaid on your screen so it just feels like playing a movie in first-person perspective. It is a great return to the principle of a game that plays like a cinematic. The cooperation from the US military on the development really shows from every vector of detail in the single player mode. From the simple things like gun animations (firing, bullet casing, reloads) to even vehicles, it’s phenomenal how much detail Danger Close gathered and how much nicer the experience is from that.
Another small detail I thought was a nice touch was for some of the guns that do have a single and burst fire mode, you can actually toggle them in the game. The sound detail is purely amazing. Especially if you have nice headphones, or speakers then you will be in for quite a treat. However, the only sound options are either stereo, or 5.1 stereo and it is a shame as those who have 7.1 surround sound may feel burned from it. The bittersweet thing about the single player mode is the duration. It took me about 5.1 hours to complete the single player portion on the medium difficulty. I actually wished there was more because it was like a good movie that felt like it was over before you finished it. I estimate that most players will spend close to 5 – 6 hours on the single player part of the game. For those who do feel competitive, the game has a “Tier 1” mode that allows you to play the single player missions and rank points for your performance in the mission. It can be even more fun if you add your friends to the friends list and see how your times stack up against their’s.
Below is a screenshot of the single player mode as a sample of what to expect. Click on it to see in 1,600×900. I was running the game on “High” graphic settings for those curious.
Before we go into the multiplayer mode, let me remind you about the disclaimer that the multiplayer portion was developed under by Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and without any involvement from Danger Close. You may notice some stylistic differences from the sample screenshot below, but it is not a bad thing. It is definitely not a completely fluid translation from the Unreal Engine 3.0 to Frostbite 2.0, however, it still looks great! Click on the image to view it in full size (1,600×900) and the graphics setting was on “High”.
On first viewing of the multiplayer HUD, it almost feels like Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The feedback from the beta helped to clean up the final retail version, which is wonderful. The one annoying thing that I personally disliked was when you performed a combat kill and/or earned a performance medal/ribbon the notification would have a bright blue flash that has been toned down to a neutral white color. As you can notice from the screen there is a map, an on-screen objective marker (orange square with 125m distance), objective checklist (the 5 squares), an enemy spawn ticket counter (indicator 120 with a bar), your weapon’s ammo count (30/120 indicator), grenade count (G1 indicator for 1 grenade), and the Score Chain counter (indicator with 0/50).
The game offers you 3 player classes to pick from and each of them have their modes of use. The Rifleman class is your standard grunt with an assault rifle, a grenade launcher, a hand gun, and smoke grenades. The Special Ops class is a mid-range soldier with a short carbine rifle, hand gun, a RPG, and fragmentation grenades. The Sniper class is a long range defensive unit that uses a sniper rifle, remote explosives, hand gun, and fragmentation grenades. The guns will be respective to their proper factions. For example, the Tier 1 Special Operations rifleman will have a M16A4 assault rifle while the OpFor (Opposing Forces) rifleman will have the AK-47 assault rifle. All 3 classes do have a level cap of 15, but each level unlocks either a new load-out perk or weapon choices for the class. Each class has the capability to kill another class, so no class is (in theory) over-powered. There is a slight class issue that’s most related to the map size giving a huge advantage to the snipers, but I hope to see DICE apply some map changes or do some sort of balancing to mitigate the disparage of snipers dominating the other two classes in some maps.
The multiplayer modes are broken down into 4 game modes: Sector Control, Combat Mission, Objective Raid, and Team Assault. Sector Control has both teams pushing to capture points on the map, scoring points for as long as the team controls the territory. Combat Mission has an attacking team (Tier 1 Special Ops) fighting to attack objectives while the defending team (OpFor) tries to cut down the attacking team’s spawn tickets. Combat Mission also has a slight story element to it as well which is nice. Objective raid has a defending team holding down a point while the attackers try to overtake the point. Team Assault is basically your team deathmatch mode where teams are scrambling to the max score. Which is based off of the teams cumulative Score Chain points (be they successful or not). Also, with the Score Chain system it isn’t like the Call of Duty Kill Streak system. Certain actions in battle will award you certain points. Example: A Combat Kill is 10 points, head shot is an additional 5 points, saving a buddy from death (Savior Kill) is 5 points, etc. The best part about the Score Chain system is that the rewards have an offensive and defensive side to each tier. If you’re good enough to hit tier 7 for your Score Chain rewards, you will get a 2x multiplier for any points you earn. Below are a list of the Score Chain rewards:
Tier 1: Offensive – Mortar Strike, Defensive – UAV
Tier 2: Offensive – Rocket Strike, Defensive – Match Ammo (Increased Bullet Damage)
Tier 3: Offensive – Guided Missile, Defensive – Flak Jacket (Health Bonus)
Tier 4: Offensive – Artillery, Defensive – Armor Piercing Bullets
Tier 5: Offensive – A10 Thunderbolt Strafing Run, Defensive – Counter UAV
Tier 6: Offensive – Airstrike, Defensive – Sabot Rounds (Improved Match Ammo)
Tier 7: Offensive – Cruise Missile, Defensive – Kevlar Jacket (Improved Flak Jacket)
The dedicated servers are a definite nice feature and I am glad that EA is encouraging developers to use dedicated servers. The ultimate result is a majority of games are lag-free and pretty balanced out. The player limitations on dedicated servers cap out at 24 total players. There isn’t a large presence of cheaters in games as Punkbuster protected servers do a great job at catching people who are aim botting, using hacked game clients, or other methods of cheating to keep the game experience stable and fun for all folks. I will admit that I am far from “excellent” but even on casually hopping in and out of games, I do have fun and get some kills in. (If you have seen the tag “[MTB] ZeroXR13mg” in a game, you may have seen me playing the Spec Ops class most.) For those curious about getting dedicated servers, the prices are reasonable and the level of control is great. Server operators can flag options to have ranked or unranked servers, Punkbuster used or disabled, hardcore, public/private servers. Servers max out at 24 total players and server owners can manage servers via the Medal of Honor Command Center (from i3D, the makers of the Bad Company 2 Command Center).
The multiplayer experience is not quite as “slow” as Battlefield: Bad Company 2, but isn’t as twitchy as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I feel the pace is good because the twitch pace of the Call of Duty doesn’t lend to the concept of realism. As I quote one of my good friends who is with the United States Marines: “I hate Call of Duty with the perks and such, because it makes it seem like combat is like a bunch of soldiers on meth versus something that is almost meticulous and calculated. If a game is going to say that it features realistic combat, then make sure the in game soldiers aren’t running and hopping around like meth addicts.” There are some reflex moments, but at the same time, good teamwork with your entire team is highly essential to winning a multiplayer game. As with most shooter games, it may take time before you find your niche on where you feel best at for using a particular class.
Overall, Medal of Honor’s two-headed nature still leaves a great impression on me. The solid single player story definitely leaves the mind wanting more. It almost has the feel of a tightly woven Steven Spielberg war movie like “Saving Private Ryan” but done in a modern war setting in Afghanistan. I almost wish the story campaign was longer, because it felt like I wanted to just watch more of a riveting movie. The multiplayer side, I commend DICE for doing a great job and hope they push the bar for rules balancing because they have a solid modern day war shooter once they polish the rules. If you want a good multiplayer shooter that isn’t a twitchy overdose, but a game that has team work yet isn’t completely reliant on teamwork… Medal of Honor’s multiplayer will fit that niche and satisfy the desire for a fun, fast paced, team work rewarding shooter. In many cases, a game being developed by two houses would be a flop. Yet, Medal of Honor proved to be able to turn the odds around for a great production. I feel that it will be the sleeper hit of this holiday season due to its release date. To be put after Halo Reach and before Call of Duty: Black Ops is a hard spot to put good sales numbers on. I can only hope that EA can see good sales in light of the game’s release time and I hope for the best to both Danger Close and DICE.
Medal of Honor can be found at your local retailers and digital distribution channels for $59.99 and it does also come as a Limited Edition at no additional cost. The Limited Edition version bundles early access to shotguns and enables you to get the MP7 submachine gun on activating the game. To sweeten the deal, for purchasing the Limited Edition of the game, you get a future voucher to participate in the Battlefield 3 beta in the future.
[Some images provided by Electronic Arts and some were taken personally by myself. Trailer is from the Medal of Honor channel]