Review: Medal of Honor (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Medal of Honor
Publisher: EA
Developer: Danger Close/Dice
Genre: First Person Shooter
Release Date: 10/12/2010

The fine folks at Danger Close were tasked with something as undesirable as trying to convince Snooki to put the bottle down: reboot a series that was left for dead and challenge Call of Duty for the first person shooter throne. Medal of Honor, sadly, comes up short. It’s not for lack of trying, but for thinking outside the box and forgetting to put good content in the box. I wanted better. I expected better. I left disappointed.

Story

Medal of Honor takes you inside the conflict in Afghanistan directly after 9/11. In fact, the beginning of the game is mildly chilling as you hear mock broadcasts from that horrific day. Before you know it, you are thrust into battle with specially trained Tier 1 operators and Army Rangers. The game is fast paced with destructible environments that push you forward when you really feel like falling back and taking potshots. Playing as a Tier 1 operator is more fun than playing as an Army Ranger. This may be by design due to the focus being on how bad ass the Tier 1 operators are, but the realism and pulse pounding moments tend to fall to the Army Rangers, especially in the middle of a well done ambush.

The drawback is that the story is not so much of a story but rather a whole bunch of objectives that push you to an ending that feels like it is out of place. Many people, including myself, can stare blankly at the television and go “…wait…where’s the next mission?” The main catalyst for the ending doesn’t really take place until about an hour left in the game, which is short to begin with.

Then there are the technical problems. Glitches in frame rate are negligible, however some are downright annoying and mess with the flow of the game. In particular, errors when riding the ATVs for certain missions are controller throw worthy. Within the ATV setup, I literally had to restart the mission twice and power-cycle my system. While that is frustrating, the lack of guidance during the beginning of the ATV mission can lead to gamers wondering if the game screwed up. (Hint: After you park the first time, run backward about 300 feet…into a rock. Good luck!)

While Danger Close did a fine job in crafting moments that raised the hair on your arms, putting out a game that needs to receive patches and updates to correct problems within the first two weeks, especially after a public beta, is cringe worthy. This is not the game to challenge Call of Duty, but rather a decent shot at recreating a brand that may be better off dead and buried.

Graphics

Medal of Honor does its job in the pretty department. The environments and cutscenes are very well done. There are many points where players have the opportunity to mentally feel what those Tier 1 operators and Army Rangers feel via the environments and fast paced action. The destructive environments are one piece that Call of Duty should look into picking up, as there is nothing like thinking you are behind a good cover and then looking down the head of an RPG.

Additionally, it must be mentioned that Danger Close did a wonderful job of bringing the mountains and caves of Afghanistan to life in ways that combine being both eery and scenic.

Sound

The voice acting and musical score are very well done. Danger Close’s association with real soldiers added a ton to the voice acting, bringing out a very realistic sounding game. The music is well done as well, as adding in some fast paced rock during a few key scenes ramps up the player when voice acting won’t do.

Control and Gameplay

Medal of Honors’ controls are simple and effective. Following the normal blueprint for a first person shooter, everything flows seamlessly outside of driving the ATVs, where the sensitivity becomes and issue. So much so that you might wind up stuck in a tree. In fact, the ATVs in general are one big bag of hell, as a glitch in the game screws you up and makes you replay the mission entirely because you float above the ATV when you remount it. A word of advice: when it looks like you’re about to park, angle the ATV a little bit. It might help. Outside of that issue, everything flows as it should.

Replayability

There is no real need to replay the game to speak of, outside of trying to pony up to the campaign on more difficult levels for fun. The crux of the replayabiliity should be found in the multiplayer, which was the big question going into this game. Could the Battlefield boys at Dice craft a multiplayer to compete with their mortal Call of Duty enemies? In a word, no. First off, there is NO EXCUSE for technical problems, such as EA servers being down, on launch night. Tier 1 Day 1 codes redeemed only for the game to say it wasn’t redeemed and to keep prompting you for it OVER and OVER again. This was an almost immediate head to the wall for mer, as seeing a broken product out of the box is the ultimate frustration.

When you FINALLY get the chance to get in games, it is nothing more than an unending sequence of wondering where you got shot from, ducking with the hopes of not dying right away and getting in sneaky shots that make you snort. However, with few maps to play, it gets old, quick. Regardless of destructible environments which help fight campers, the spawn to death speed bogs down the multiplayer. It is not expansive, it is not a competitor, it is not overly playable. It’s not a kick to Call of Duty’s nuts. It’s more like a midget with a spit wad walking up to a tank and shooting really really softly. The midget will get run over. As such, what could one really re-play?

Balance

One could say it’s hard for military first person shooters to have an even balance due to the fact that unless you add more waves of enemy soldiers, the difficulty cannot raise much. Then again you could add a Juggernaut. But Medal of Honor has no Juggernauts and flows at a pretty even difficulty pace.

One issue that Medal of Honor runs into is the addition of the Army Rangers. In an effort to beef up their role, the game basically throws you into a hell scenario. After being tactical and methodical with the Tier 1s, switching over to hellfire mode with the Rangers could be a difficult task. Something like this could deter or even frazzle casual players. Think of it this way: If you’re casually sniping character from across the valley (AWESOME, by the way) and then the game pretty much says “LOOK OUT BITCH WE ABOUT TO DIE RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN FIRE SHOOT RUN FIRE! Oh…you died”, you might want to put your controller through the nearest wall.

Originality

This is one category that can sway either way. One could look at this game as a ramp up of war games coming into a truly modern, factual era instead of a manufactured story. Or one could look at this as another war game. I look at it as the latter.

Regardless of the originality of using an elite squad that actually exists rather than a fictional one, Medal of Honor is a war game. It is a reboot of a classic franchise that hinges on the “WOW!” factor that the developers hoped to capture by consulting with Tier 1 Operators. The “WOW”s were left in the commercials, where the interviews with the real Tier 1 Ops are more intriguing than the storyline that we get. There is evil, you fight them. You fight them in far off countries and you deal with crappy bosses at home that might screw up all of your best laid plans. It sounds familiar because we see it every game.

When you put the controller down you aren’t thinking this game rocked your socks off. You’re thinking that you may have just wasted your time on a hope that the new Medal of Honor would usher in a new era for military FPS as it did at one time. It doesn’t and it’s quite possible that we have seen the last of Medal of Honor, especially now that Respawn is in the EA fold. If you want original, you have it with the guys who created this and Call of Duty.

Addictiveness

If you are the type of gamer that has to play every war based FPS to death and build up every level for yourself, then yes, you’ll be addicted. If not, you’ll simply move on in short order without batting an eye. This type of game has been done, and done better, so there is no real reason to stick around.

Appeal Factor

Outside of those addicted to war shooters and young children looking to use every slur they’ve learned in their young lives in multiplayer lobbies, the appeal just isn’t there. While the commercials might get you amped, don’t be fooled, this isn’t a game that takes the initiative to use every little nuanced detail given to them by the Tier 1 guys and use them to their advantage. While the Tier 1 guys may have signed off on everything, I’m going to assume that only pertained to language and mechanics, not overall story.

Miscellaneous

The Tier 1 mode is the only extra piece to the puzzle. It is basically a tracked, leaderboard scenario game geared towards hardcore gamers. While fun, it’s not something that makes you keep the disc in the tray. That is, if you still have the disc after the ending given to the story.

Honestly, this isn’t meant to bag on the folks at Danger Close or even DICE. They have a love for games that manifested itself in making a career out of entertaining people like myself. With that said, attempting to build up expectations to Modern Warfare 2 levels based on the premise of realism and then delivering this game is a horrible move. Does Medal of Honor focus on realism and put you in situations that make you feel like absolute shit for sitting at home playing video games while soldiers fight and die overseas? Yes. But we play games to get away from real life, be it for a moment or for hours. This game crimps our human style by trying to make us feel and then making us hate by delivering choppy gameplay and a story shorter than Verne Troyer. If you’re going to topple Call of Duty, this isn’t the way to do it.

The Scores
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Good
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: DECENT GAME

Short Attention Span Summary

If you really can’t wait to play another war game, pick up Medal of Honor and fight the Talib…Opposition Force. Medal of Honor is EAs modern answer to the Call of Duty series. It’s not perfect, not great, but it may be average enough to satisfy your war/FPS crave. Beg the developers to fix the multiplayer or just hang on to that case and get ready for Black Ops. If you hate Call of Duty so much you won’t get that, then shoot for Battlefield: Bad Company 2, as it’s probably cheaper and pretty much the same thing. If you have ultimate patience, wait for Respawn Entertainment to put out something.

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