The military shooter genre is a pretty crowded field and the Danger Close team within EA Los Angeles had a tough hill to climb with Medal of Honor: Warfighter. While many game studios use military advisors for war games, few have had the level of assistance provided in the making of this game and in a couple of areas it really helped. Unfortunately, despite those bright spots, Medal of Honor falls far behind the much more popular Call of Duty series and even the more niche Battlefield and Ghost Recon games. The space is set to get even tighter with Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six: Patriots due out this year.
The tough sell with Medal of Honor: Warfighter is that it doesn’t offer much that isn’t available everywhere else. It is not really good enough to make a game like your competitors’ games from a couple of years ago. For the most part, the short single-player campaign in Warfighter feels an awful lot like replaying Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, though it does continue the last Medal of Honor storyline. The training level is very similar to the Modern Warfare standard and later, there is what could be an homage but it comes off more as imitation of Call of Duty 4’s epilogue. If you weren’t keeping track, Call of Duty 4 came out over five years ago.
For the most part, the controls in Medal of Honor are what you’d expect from a first-person shooter. If you’re used to playing on the Xbox 360, the bumper and trigger controls are reversed. Warfighter does, however, add some new wrinkles. Your character can now slide when going from a sprint to a crouch and there is a cover system that works with mixed results. When behind cover, players can hold down the left trigger to pop their head out to fire, whether it is up or to left or right. Unfortunately, that function does seem to occasionally glitch and cause you to pop in and out of cover. The driving segments are a surprise too as they are closer to Grand Theft Auto than other shooters.
The technical problems in this game are nearly unforgiveable. Considering that I’m reviewing this game a couple of months after its release, there should have been nowhere near as many problems as there are. Little things like poor AI can in most cases be overlooked and compensated for. Even an enemy stuck in a short path glitch is fine, once they’re dead. The huge amounts of clipping and screen-tearing are surprising but tolerable, to a point. The point where it becomes intolerable is where I have to go through an entire section of a level with the screen tears so bad that I couldn’t see 70% of the screen unless I used my scope.
There are plenty of games with technical difficulties that I would recommend struggling through because of some compelling aspect of the title. Honestly, the most compelling part of Medal of Honor: Warfighter are the guns. They sound awesome, they fire the way you would imagine that they would, and they inflict the damage you would expect. The work that’s been done on the damage effects and lighting in the Frostbite engine is really stellar. Unfortunately, those aren’t great reasons to play a single player game and there isn’t a compelling narrative to go with them. To be fair though, story is hardly the genre’s highlight.
The multiplayer in Medal of Honor: Warfighter is nothing like Call of Duty or even it’s much closer relation, Battlefield. It is much slower going, partially due to frame rate issues, than Call of Duty, and with much smaller maps than Battlefield. It is also obvious straight from the beginning that the creators of Medal of Honor: Warfighter have less experience at this endeavor than their competitors. The menus are remarkably clunky and the shoehorning the game does is in stark contrast to the new Call of Duty system. An interesting addition to team matches is the battle buddy system, where one player can assist you when needed and even identify and exact revenge on your killer. The different match types are also interesting combinations of existing types and have varying levels of success.
Considering EA’s uphill battle of trying wrest control of the military shooter genre from Activision, it seems arrogant and shortsighted that they would choose to have an online pass for Warfighter. The technical problems with the game alone make its full price a hard sell, so EA might consider trying to undercut the price of their competitors to carve out a niche. While some of the online modes can be fun, I doubt they’re intriguing enough to get all of your friends to shell out the money for yet another shooter in the same launch window.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter is so deeply flawed that I have a hard time recommending it to anyone. The more subtle narrative and surprising variety of gameplay in the single player is a nice change of pace, but half of it is broken. The multiplayer, despite new wrinkles, isn’t enough to win many converts. The realistic sound and feedback of the weapons is also commendable, but they’re not enough to carry the game. Truthfully, more than anything else, Warfighter makes me more excited to see what the new Battlefield has to offer. This genre is too crowded to tolerate the sub-par effort EA has released in Medal of Honor: Warfighter.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language. This game can also be found on: PC, and Xbox 360.