Game Buzz is a weekly opinion column designed to take an irreverent look at one of the biggest news stories to break in the past week. Every Friday we’ll be bringing you another slice of reaction to topical gaming news, and inviting you to agree, disagree, shout assent, vent rage, scream and complain to you heart’s delight. This week, we take a look at the Medal of Honor reboot, now that EA's modern war game has itself a release date.
Well, it's definitely looking like 2010 will be one of the best years for shooter fans with Halo: Reach already whipping Xbox 360 fans into a frenzied delirium Call of Duty: Black Ops slated for a winter release and now EA have set a release date for their Medal of Honor reboot – 15th October – just in front of Activision and Treyarch’s effort. It’s hard to let a wry grin creep across your face as EA and Activision go toe to toe once again. These three games are going to equate to a bullet-ridden triumvirate of the spectacular, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve already taken a preview look at both Bungie’s and Treyarch’s projects, now it’s time we checked out the credentials of EA’s MOH kick-start.
To say that the Medal of Honor series has been sliding into apathetic mediocrity recently would be putting things mildly. I can’t actually remember the last time I was actually excited about a MOH release, and I don’t think I’ll be jumping around ecstatic in the streets about this one just yet. But that said, there are a few details regarding EA’s shooter that make for some very interesting reading indeed.
Let’s get the inevitable comparison to Modern Warfare 2 out of the way right now. No, this game will not be taking place in MOH’s traditional WWII setting, instead EALA have jumped the series forward to the modern day for a spot of...yep, it’s cringe time...modern warfare. Infinity Ward – although, tantalisingly, for the most part you can now read ‘Respawn’ – created a bandwagon, and people are jumping on it. As I see it, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing necessarily, provided that it’s being done for the right reasons. For an example of bad bandwagon jumping walk to your local Gamestation and stare at the Wii section.
But it seems that EA have thought about this. As Executive Producer Greg Goodrich states,
‘Medal of Honor has always been about respect for the soldier, about honouring the soldier. It's about what these guys do. It's not a game about policy, or politics, or wars, it's just a story about a handful of guys - the Tier 1 operators.’
Modern Warfare 2 attempted, pretty cackhandedly, to incorporate some semblance of socio-political commentary but it was hard to take any notice of it with all of the OTT silliness going on. Nothing wrong with that, just an observation, but it would seem that EA are taking things a little more seriously. First of all, there’s the setting: Afghanistan. Grim, uncomfortable, and very much still a part of Anglo-American consciousness. This, then, is a game that will have no small element of relevance, a game that will not have the luxury of half a century of commentary distance, but will portray a warzone that cries out from papers, radio and television.
‘Movies have always been the first media to tell a story to a wider audience," said Sean Decker, formerly of DICE and currently General Manager at EA. Saving Private Ryan was the first film to try and tell the story of World War 2 veterans in a particular way, and the first Medal of Honor took a lot of inspiration and cues from it. "But," Sean points out, "Games are the entertainment medium of the modern generation, and they can be just as important. So we thought that we could be the first to tell the stories of these men and women fighting in a very difficult war.’ [Atomic MPC]
It’s a setting that requires a certain amount of creative responsibility, and that is where the Tier 1 Operators come in. Advising on every single part of the game’s design, from clothing to tactical formations to dialogue to narrative twists, with the power of changing anything they perceive to be anomalous, EA are really looking for authenticity here. This isn’t a ‘near future’ story, this is all about the here and now and everything, it would seem is in the details. Expect realistic animations and squad tactics, your AI companions will issue advice on how to best get the jump on your foes with sparse, hushed dialogue and the tone is looking likely to be somewhat different to Activision’s jewel in their current crown. There will be more expansive action too – the sledgehammer to balance the scalpel – that sees you jump into the shoes of the US Army Rangers, but hopefully EALA will be able to implement these more open, setpiece driven scenes without muddying the overall tone of the game.
Even this early on, the game is shaping up to be something of a looker, with EALA going for broke on the presentation side of things. The 60% complete model at GDC looked most impressive and it’s worth noting that the game’s development is being led on the PS3 with the producer supporting Sony’s claims that a game which starts out on Sony’s hardware will actually result in superior multiplatform production. However, it’s worth taking that with a certain pinch of salt.
EALA are hardly newcomers to this field, and Medal of Honor: Airborne turned out to be a damn fine game, but in order to steal Activision’s thunder it’ll take slightly more than an engrossing singleplayer campaign. Thankfully, they’ve thought about that: take a bow DICE. The guys behind the Battlefield series have been commissioned to take on the multiplayer aspect of this game to create something that can stand up with the big boys come the end of the year. Don’t expect a simple rehashing of Battlefield’s style, though, as when asked by GameSpy if the public will simply be awaiting a clone DICE’s Gordon van Dyk replied, ‘No. Absolutely not. I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, [but] people shouldn't expect a clone of BC2 for Medal of Honor's multiplayer.’ With so many games these days providing a solid multiplayer experience it can be hard to stand out from the crowd, but if anyone can help EA topple Activision and Bungie it’s DICE.
It’s at this point that we should quickly consider Battlefield: Bad Company 2, a wonderful game that was undone, in part, by a buggered release schedule. By the time BBC2 hit the streets everyone was already playing Modern Warfare 2; not so much this time around, with EA getting the jump on their rivals, clearly wanting to set the pace rather than play catch-up this time around. I’m going to more or less discount Halo simply because of its exclusivity to the Xbox 360 platform, but the stage is certainly set for a showdown of epic proportions come the winter. Two popular series looking for the top spot, and from the looks of it, they couldn’t be more different. The Black Ops trailer was all slick editing and misdirection, a peppering of split-seconds of information to leave gamers intrigued. By contrast, EA seem to have nailed their colours to the mast, colours that look a lot like mud, grit and sand. There’s no real proof as yet that Model of Honor will really be much different to what has come before, but the potential is there. Enough to get me a little excited, anyway.
Are you pant-wettingly excited about the Medal of Honor reboot, or is this news about as significant as a fart in the middle of a hurricane? Whatever your thoughts let us know in the comments box below!