Our Real World Heroes – Medal Of Honor: Warfighter Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360
Believe it or not, a real world battlefield isn’t all heroics and Michael Bay explosions. Nowadays, in many shooters, we see just that: heroes who charge in against some made up evil, shooting the crap out of anything in their way, and calling it “modern combat.” In all actuality, conflicts don’t quite happen in such a Hollywood-style manner, and people aren’t quite the all-powerful, picture-perfect gods that games make them out to be. One title, however, looks to break this false image by utilizing a story and cast based on real-world events and people. I speak, of course, of Medal of Honor: Warfighter, the latest from Danger Close and second game in the series’ reboot. Does the title do our Tier-One forces justice, or is it just another cliché in a pool full of shooters?
As mentioned above, Medal of Honor: Warfighter bases its scenarios on several real-life events, but it also features a fictional storyline that mainly focuses on one character, Preacher (who players will remember from the original), and his struggle as a husband, father, and soldier. Players take control of either Preacher himself or a new supporting character, Stumpy, in several missions to stop a terrorist cell from creating and shipping a new type of explosive. Of course, not every level is inspired by an actual event, but the ones that are have been noted as such. Between events, flashback cutscenes shed some light on what the personal life of a soldier is really like: not as glamorous as one would think.
The balance between fact and fiction, combat and drama is absolutely amazing. While fighting, you’re presented with heart-racing and jaw-dropping scenarios, with cutscenes that will yank at your heartstrings and bring a tear to your eye. I personally found myself yelling in anger alongside my current character as everything went south, fighting back tears at the sad moments, and trying to slow my heart-rate after intense action scenes. Every aspect of the story has been delivered so brilliantly that you feel like you’re actually involved in it; it’s like you’re right beside Preacher, through thick and thin. Not many FPS games have this caliber of storytelling, and I have to say that it is now my favourite campaign of all-time! Kudos to the writers on this one: they’ve created something beautiful.
Gameplay in Warfighter is similar to just about any FPS out there (run from cover to cover, point your gun and shoot, etc.), but it has a lot of unique gameplay mechanics that set it miles ahead of the rest. For starters, it features a Peek-and-Lean system that has been designed to make combat feel more realistic. With the hold of a button, the left thumbstick no longer moves the player, but instead has them lean left/right, duck down, or peek over their current position. This can be used to shoot around corners, duck behind lower cover, or peek over tall obstacles – just like a soldier would in a real-world scenario. While it’s a very simple premise, it makes a world of difference, opening up a plethora of new tactics and possibilities that you won’t find in many other modern shooters.
Door breaching also plays a key role in Warfighter. While most shooters feature a breach-and-clear scenario in a mission, MoH puts it to frequent (but varied) use. When given the task of breaking down a door, players are presented with a semi-circle of options to choose between, from simply kicking it in to blowing it into tiny splinters. Once the door is open, you and your team swing in and enter a slow motion shootout against the room’s inhabitants. At first, only one breach option is available, but as you score headshots in the slo-mo scenes that follow, you unlock more and more to choose from. Although it’s a pretty common scenario in a shooter, Warfighter takes the mechanic, freshens it up, and really makes it its own.
One of my personal favorite additions to the game is its use of flip up optics and back up iron sights (BUIS). Many weapons given to the player in the game feature two sets of optics to toggle between on the fly: one for close range and another for distance. This allows the gamer to, say, pick off foes from afar with their 4x scope, then tilt their weapons to use their side-mounted BUIS when up close. Only a handful of FPS titles feature something like this, and, for such a simple mechanic, it broadens gameplay a surprising amount.
To help Warfighter stand out even further, the game has a decent degree of destructibility, thanks to being built with the Frostbite 2.0 engine. While nowhere near the scale of Battlefield 3, a fair deal of objects in the environment (including things you will be using as cover) will break away as they’re shot at, scarring up the area as the fighting goes on. This engine isn’t just for micro-destruction though: it also allows any large structure – like a building or radio tower – to fall or crumble very realistically during scripted events, adding greatly to the MoH experience.
One last key part of gameplay augments the title, and that’s the driving scenes. While some shooters opt for a driving mission or a tank scene, Warfighter actually has a few major missions that are centered on driving and high-speed chases. These 007-esque scenes are crafted with surprising quality, while actually requiring stealth and tactics in some cases, such as blending in to avoid being spotted. Usually, I personally dread the vehicle scenes in shooters (being quite a horrible driver), but Warfighter features some incredibly fun scenes – which will keep most gamers at the edge of their seats.
Of course, amazing as the single player campaign may be, multiplayer always ends up being what FPS players focus on most. Gamers may recall that the first title in the series reboot, Medal of Honor, featured a multiplayer mode crafted by the makers of Battlefield: DICE. You may also recall that it was a considerably broken, unbalanced, and generally aggravating experience, which is atypical of the studio. So what about this title’s online mode? For starters, while it too was built on the Frostbite 2.0 engine, it was developed in-house by Danger Close and features all the main mechanics of the campaign, such as Peek-and-Lean and sight toggling, which give it a deep sense of realism. It also maintains the same ideas as the original, such as kill rewards and class customization, though implemented a lot better.
As with its predecessor, Warfighter’s multiplayer has several game types, including (but not limited to): Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, and King-of-the-Hill style matches. The highlight for gameplay, though, would have to be the Combat Mission and Hotspot modes (which are similar to Battlefield’s Rush mode). In a Combat Mission, one team defends key areas while the other attacks them, attempting to place explosives, and progressing across the level as they take different zones. Hotspot, on the other hand, takes a more open area and randomly places the plant-zone in one of five possible places. The attacking side needs to arm and detonate a charge in this space in order to capture it, but if they run out of time, the zone is considered defended, moving the objective to a new place. If the offense can take three out of five zones, then they win. If not, then the defenders take the game. While all the MP modes have fun moments, there isn’t anything really special here. Sure, the core gameplay that’s carried over from the campaign is brilliant, but there are no unique modes to help it go the extra distance. If the original Combat Missions from the first game were brought back for the sequel, then things would have been different, but as it stands, the killer mechanics aren’t enough to keep the game modes from feeling pretty stale.
Also carried over from the original is the idea of combat bonuses, which are awarded after racking up certain amounts of points from kills, assists, and meeting other various goals within a single life. Once enough points have been accumulated, players have the choice of calling in either offensive or defensive support. Offensive skills can include UAV suicide drones and mortar fire, while defensive ones feature things like smoke screens or ammo resupplies.
Classes make their way back into Warfighter as well, although this time there are six compared to the original three. They are: Assaulter, Demolition, Heavy Gunner, Point Man, Sniper, and Special Ops. Each class has its own unique abilities (such as Snipers being able to mount their rifle on a bipod and receive computer-guided spotting assistance), weapons, equipment, and stats, most of which are fairly balanced. However, the game suffers from a problem that a lot of multiplayer games have, and that’s unlocks; while unlocking new gear and weapons is a key gameplay element of shooters, the later attachments for guns seem to prey upon new players. When I started as a sniper, I found myself overwhelmed and constantly being killed; however, once I unlocked a decent scope and stock, I instantly started dropping fools like bad habits. This leads to a lot of grief-filled hours for new players initially, and lots of easy and somewhat boring wins for veterans. Only even-leveled matches end up being a fun challenge.
Some new features make their way into the game too, namely the Fireteam system and more advanced customization options. Starting with the former, each team consists of five two-man Fireteams. The two players within that team are able to spawn on each other, as well as heal and resupply one another when their health/ammo is low. This system creates some very tactical gameplay, heavily emphasizing teamwork, and is very welcome, as it adds some spice to a somewhat bland MP experience.
As for customization, well, there’s more than you could shake an M4 carbine at. First off, players are tasked with choosing one of 12 different Tier-One units from 10 different nations (including Canada, Poland, and Sweden) as their starting class, each with their own default weapon and attachments. From there, as you level up with experience from playing games, you unlock new teams, guns, and attachments for each class. Speaking of which, the amount of customization for guns alone is staggering, as players are able to swap out scopes, barrels, stocks, magazines, and camouflage patterns – of which there are usually at least two sub-categories (such as light barrels vs. heavy barrels). If an extensive list of unique combinations is for you, then I highly recommend taking a look at Warfighter, as there are 72 combinations of classes and teams alone!
So in the end, is Warfighter’s multiplayer worth any investment? Well, yes… but just don’t expect too much. If you’re not a fan of the Call of Duty series and find Battlefield to be too much of a headache, then you’ll have a lot of fun here – especially since the core gameplay is to die for. If you’re an avid player of either series I just mentioned, though, then you may have a hard time pulling yourself away to play Warfighter. For the future of the series, I think Danger Close is either going to need to really pull out the stops and make something sparkling new and unique, or start pursuing other options – like a co-op or horde mode.
One really big highlight of Warfighter is its visuals, which are nothing short of amazing. In game, the graphics are quite stellar due to Frostbite 2.0, with pop-less textures and impressive lighting – but it’s the cutscenes that steal the show. Cinematics have remarkable quality to them, with environments and characters appearing so lifelike that I actually had trouble telling that it was even CGI – especially with the insanely realistic hair engine. Gamers will have to pick their jaws up off of the floor several times by the end of this one, as its visual quality will surely stun them.
Now, if only the same could be said of in-engine animation, as it leaves a lot to be desired. The main issue here is with ragdoll physics, especially in multiplayer. As characters die, they fall in such a weird and awkward way that looks absolutely ridiculous. On top of this, they tend to fall halfway through objects and just lay there inside of them. It’s a very ugly mess that heavily distracts from Warfighter’s other amazing visual feats.
As for audio, this title features great work on all ends. The voice cast consists of actors I’ve never heard before, but their performances are actually quite spectacular – though in an odd way: they sound like actual people, not characters, delivering a performance that fits in so well with Warfighter’s real-world soldier theme. Weapon sounds are also very realistic, which can really freak you out if you’re wearing a headset: suddenly, a gun goes off near you, and it sounds like you’re actually being shot at! Factor in an epic soundtrack with additional music written by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, and you have a wonderful audio experience that will be nice on your ears. The only issue here is that the audio will occasionally cut out, leaving out certain sound layers or looping one constantly (such as a gun firing non-stop) – a stain on an otherwise flawless outing.
When the smoke clears and the gunfire stops, Medal of Honor: Warfighter is left standing – though not without its own cuts and bruises. Featuring amazingly vivid graphics, realistic and engaging mechanics, and a campaign that will keep your adrenaline pumping while it grabs you by the heart, this is one shooter you need to add to your collection – if only for the story. Just note that the multiplayer side of things doesn’t bring a lot of unique features to the table, and might not pull you away from your current favourite. Still, if you’re looking for a good story – or an excuse just to shoot things – you cannot go wrong here.
Final Score: 4.0 / 5.0 and the award for best shooter campaign… ever.
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