Six hours, it says. That's how long it took to complete Medal of Honor, the latest game out that attempts to familiarise you with the world of Tangos going down, CASEVACS being en-route and targets needing painting with soft lambs. Or is that LAM? Can't find it anywhere online, but I'm sure that's what I heard. It's all just so confusing, even assuming you already know what all this military bollocks is. I know fire, I know what it means when they say 'evac', but the rest of it is a blur.
Independent thought isn't required in Medal of Honor though, so there's no need to worry. Do what the big boss man says, go to your location and shoot some ethnic freedom fighters/terrorists. This review is primarily focusing on the single player element, with multiplayer discussed in brief at the end. If you want a more detailed breakdown of the online elements, shout about it in the comments and we'll get on the case. For now, we're on our own, as it were.
MoH is your standard shooty bang-bang affair and that's no understatement. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to claim there's not a single element of the offline element that hasn't been directly copied or lifted from, I don't know, say, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. A name randomly picked out of the hat there. This is in equal measures bad and good, the former because you've got the constant feeling you've done it all before, a number of times. That's because you have. That feeling's there for a reason.
The latter is because Modern Warfare and it's sequel aren't bad games, so if you're going to copy something, at least copy something successful and good. It even improves on the comically hole-ridden and fragmented storyline of the second game, managing to both make sense in general and keep things ticking over. Variety is provided by switching you from Spec Ops missions through helicopter gunship on-rails sections back through US Rangers bits, all of which are extensive enough to allow you to get into them, but never too long that they outstay their welcome or become tedious. Essentially, in the broadest and most simplistic terms, if you've played a CoD or a MoH game in the past, chances are you'll get on with this.
But here's why you might not. First of all, as mentioned, it is so similar to games past that it's like playing an expansion to Modern Warfare. If you got fed up of that, or you just wanted something with even a hint of ambition, this is to be avoided like the plague. It offers barely anything approaching the word new and this point deserves to be stressed. If you're bored of modern military combat games with an arcade-y bent, run away now.
While taking, er, 'inspiration' from CoD is one thing, making the same mistakes is unacceptable. Like its rival series, you are the sole focus of the story, which is fine, but not to the extent that nothing happens without you moving forward. There's less of that feeling that nobody is killing anything but you, but quick glances at your team and you'll find them 'simulating' combat more often than not. At one point, an elite spec ops veteran was standing near me, firing calmly into the burned-out tank he was sheltering behind. If I hadn't moved forward, he'd have continued to do this.
It's easy to miss this sort of thing, but once you've spotted it, it's hard to ignore. Exploring downstairs after I'd been told to go up a level, I was therefore not triggering the next phase of the level. When I finally did move forward, I noticed a group of enemy soldiers standing next to my motionless colleagues. They then all tumbled to the ground dead, struck by an airborne virus, no doubt. Not shot, just dying because they were meant to be killed by my team as we all ascended together. Except we didn't, so the game got confused.
There's also the issue of jingoism. Perhaps for those of us not living in the US, it's more obvious and more offensive, but the game, set in a non-fictional conflict, is way too one-sided in its depiction of the conflict. By choosing to go 'real world', it's harder to justify continuously calling the enemy “mother fuckers” and other things like that. Not that we're expecting the game to be 'nice', but it just goes a bit too far sometimes. Might be worth bearing in mind.
It's also perplexing how many enemies you have to take down. Yes, a game with few enemies to shoot might be less epic and exciting, but it seems like you've ploughed your way through the entire population of Afghanistan by the end of the game. If the Taliban had this many soldiers, RPGs and vehicles in just one small area of the country, no wonder the 'war' is still going on. It's all a bit like just playing Duck Hunt on the NES – enemies pop up from the same places, you gun them down easily (at least, you do on PC, there's no comment to be made on how well this works on console with pads) and then you wait until the next lot appear. You just don't get to use a light gun and hear quacking noises.
The overall Medal of Honor package is a base one, reasonable yet uninspired action with exactly the same problems as games that have come before, but with a slightly disturbing aggressive nationalist edge and a more sensible storyline than its main rival. But there are so many little problems that pile on top of one another. While the variety of levels is decent, there are too many on-rails sections. You get infinite ammo pistols that you never, ever have to use (until one bit where your other guns are taken away) and secondary weapons that aren't sniper rifles are all unnecessary as well. I never once used the shotgun, for example. You get nigh-on infinite ammo for your M4 or whatever, so why bother with the others? Just go up to your buddy, press the corresponding button and there, refilled. Only once do they claim to be out of ammo, a scripted moment where you probably don't need to refill your supplies anyway, unless you're an atrocious shot.
The level of scripting gets in the way of actually playing the game as well, on occasion. If you're not in the exact right place, nothing will happen. At one point, I was supposed to take out a camp with a sniper rifle, but I was a few centimetres off the prescribed spot, so nothing happened. I was told to wait, so I did, but I wasn't waiting in the right spot. After a minute or so, my companion growled at me to get moving, I shuffled forward a tiny bit, and there, triggered. Hmm.
A lot of issues then, but before we go, multiplayer. It's a bit like a cut-down Bad Company 2, which is unsurprising as it comes from DICE, creators of said game. The levels are expansive and one of the best things about the game, but there are less classes, you have less ability to customise and are restricted to merely tweaking each of the standard three, rather than being able to create your own. There's no kill cam, either, which doesn't help much on such huge maps where the inevitable sniper bastards will be lurking.
Multiplayer won't hold the attention as much as Bad Company 2's does, and it's been (obviously) done before, but it's OK. Nothing special, just OK. Just like the single player, in fact. You won't necessarily be disappointed by Medal of Honor. You just won't be impressed.
- Reasonable shooting action
- Tries to provide variety
- Decent but not spectacular multiplayer
- CoD clone, right down to the flaws and plentiful little niggling issues
- Way too scripted
- Ultra-nationalism might make some uneasy
The Short Version: If you like playing the same game you've played twenty times before, by all means fire Medal of Honor up. It'll satisfy you completely. Just make sure you turn your brain off and you'll do fine. If it's on, the cracks immediately appear.