Medal of Honor
After about eighty shooters that handle World War 1, 2 and the Cold War, Medal of Honor arrives with a breath of fresh air through the series. No more Germans or Russians that plug holes in your head: you get to take on the Afghans! Afghanistan may not be all too happy with that, but according to recent marketing studies, that isn’t really the biggest market for this game anyway.
As of the first moment of the Campaign mode you realise there will be plenty of action in this game. A short action scene gets followed by a flashback, and your story begins. A story that’s set up in a very credible way if we may say so. You get in the skin of several soldiers with each of them having his own role. One moment you’re shooting Afghans in an open battlefield, while a bit later you try putting an additional hole in their head while sniping.
You have to take these roles seriously. On a stealth mission you’ll make your life miserable if you start shooting wild, and the same goes the other way around. Take a bit too much time for taking a strategic shot on an enemy when they’re coming at you with twenty friends, and you can be sure those Taliban will make kebab of you. Or whatever they eat over there.
“Is the game really so details?”, you may wonder. Yes, sometimes even a bit too much. We knew from the Call of Duty series that there are moments where a game can look more like a movie script than a war game, and Medal of Honor also makes big mistakes in that department. Wandering around a while to see on which four square meters you need to stand to make the story progress, or seeing your colleague take hundreds of bullets withotu a problem to get killed in the next mission with the first bullet scratching him. It all happens. A shame as the excellent gameplay does get ruined a bit by such Hollywood events and outdated scripting.
Another downpoint are the various – luckily limited – bugs that ended up in the final version. I couldn’t walk through an open door and taking a detour would have been a solution were it not for the fact that I found myself suddenly being stuck. Reload that last checkpoint! Luckily that wasn’t too far away, but more often than not these checkpoints are situated right before a crucial point in your mission instead of after. In the same mission I was in before, I also had to wait for some Taliban fighters to spread out before I could go take them down one by one with a stealth approach. Fine by me, I love stealth, but they didn’t spread out. Again a bug, and a failed scripting that meant taking out the big guns.
The large feeling of freedom Medal of Honor contains at first sight quickly gets unmasked, something that seriously cripples the reality factor despite the awesome graphics. Also the auto-aim which is standard turned on on X360 and PS3, doesn’t help in this department either. A nice aid for gamers that need to get used to shooters, but veterans of the genre will quickly turn this feature off as it’s an insult to their skills.
We’ve got little to complain about the graphics and we find it a pitty that such a beautiful landscape often gets shot to pieces. At nighttime everything has a glow thanks to the moon, while during the day you also have sunglasses in your backpack, next to ammo.
When you get dropped in the desert by a helicopter you’ll immediately notice how difficult it is to watch through the sand that flies around. In nine different levels you control different kinds of soldiers and fight in varying locations. The desert I mentioned above can just as easily be a snowy Taliban village or an abandoned airport. Also the sound seemlessly is integrated here with soldiers shouting orders and bullets flying around your head.
After about five to six hours you’ve normally gone through the entire campaign but then the fun isn’t over yet. In the Tier 1 mode you can replay all misions again, but against time and at a higher difficulty. With limited ammo and a slower recovery process for gunshot wounds you need to try to get to the end of the mission as fast as possible while headshots slow down time a bit and you can gain a couple of seconds. Very nice, but also here the high moviescript degree of the game ruins it a bit. Enemies almost always arrive and put their head up on the same place and time so that if you’ve got a good memory, you easily get through the game after a few attempts. The credibility and realism of the campaign in this Tier 1 mod therefore get reduced to little more than an average arcade game.
All in all there’s little bad to be said about Medal of Honor. We can’t really complain about the gameplay and realism but if we look closer the latter does disappoint a bit. A shooter is bought because you want to be a soldier, not an actor. The excellent presentation does manage to immerse you in a tense atmosphere and the the battlefield set in Afghanistan isn’t only refreshing but also worked out in detail. A great game, but only if you don’t get bothered too much by the beauty errors and underlying problems