Retrospective: Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor 2010: Beards and guns

With the release of Medal of Honor Warfighter less than a week away I thought now would be a great time to republish my review of the last game. As a fan of the original WWII based Medal of Honor games (ignoring the OK but nothing special MoH:Airborne), I was a bit skeptical of rebooting the game into the 21st Century.

I’d played the Medal of Honor multiplayer demo and can’t say it did much for me at the time. I couldn’t work where the game sat in EA’s own catalogue. Was it their Call of Duty beater? What about Battlefield: Bad Company? Why where DICE handling the multiplayer; weren’t they busy with their own Battlefield 3 game? Why couldn’t Danger Close do the multiplayer? Medal of Honor just didn’t add up for me.

When the review copy arrived, I was intrigued to say the least. For the first hour or so of the campaign I was not impressed. In a similar way that I would later find the single-player mode in Battlefield 3, the campaign seemed a little forced. As with the Battlefield 3, Medal of Honor soon found its feet. Whether this was solely down to the game or due to me adjusting my perceptions away from the hard-coded Call of Duty way of playing I’m not sure.

Sunrise over a reinvigorated FPS franchise

Unlike Call of Duty, playing Medal of Honor felt like being in a battle; every explosion propelling dirt and debris into the air rather than being more akin to special effects in an action movie. Even the multiplayer mode, with its semi-destructible environments offered me a more satisfying experience than Activision’s offering. Even now I regularly return to Medal of Honor‘s multiplayer battlefields.

Medal of Honor Warfighter: will it be a CoD beater?

At the end of the original Game Console review, I surmise that Medal of Honor 2, a game that is now imminent, could be a Call of Duty beater. Whilst that would be nice, since Medal of Honor‘s release we have seen the Call of Duty franchise go from strength to strength. The level of polish applied to the Activision franchise is without equal. With Medal of Honor, EA Games may be the victim  in a similar way to any game that goes up against their own FIFA franchise. We’ll all find out very soon!

Here is my original review which was first published within the pages of the December 2010/January 2011 issue of New Zealand’s Game Console Magazine. Enjoy.


Whilst the Medal of Honor pedigree predates the successful Call of Duty games, in recent years the franchise has fallen on hard times, the last outing being the poorly received Medal of Honor: Airborne. As Activision did with Call of Duty, the Medal of Honor franchise has been dragged, shell-shocked, from the Second World War into a 21st Century combat theatre. The big question is whether or not EA’s Medal of Honor reboot is simply riding on the coat tails of Activision’s successful Call of Dutyseries or a worthy addition to the already saturated first person shooter genre.

Flying High again!

Medal of Honor follows the exploits of a Tier 1 US special operations team in place behind enemy lines within Afghanistan. It is a game of two halves, the single player and multiplayer games coming from different developers using different game engines. The single player game is brought to us by EA Los Angeles Danger Close team using a modified version of the Unreal engine. Multiplayer is provided by the obvious and at the same time surprising choice of team at DICE using the same Frostbite engine from their own Battlefield games.

The first half hour of the single player game failed to engage me, a load of bearded ZZ Top look-alikes sneaking though cookie-cutter “middle-eastern” environments, breach-shoot-clear-breach-shoot-clear, rinse and repeat. It is only with this rather dull preamble out-of-the-way that the game starts to reveal where it is going. Gunfire spits up dust and splinters wood, feeling more like bullet impacts and less like squibs. Whereas Call of Duty is your Michael Bay, balls-to-the-wall Hollywood style war, Medal of Honor is more visceral and gritty. Explosions feel like explosions, throwing up soil, reducing visibility, drastically altering the battlefield environment.

In the heart of the battle!

The single player campaign is short, weighing in at about six hours. There are three difficulty settings to up the ante (and increase your playing time), plus there is the un-lockable Tier 1 mode featuring harder enemies and where dying will send you back to the start of the level. Tier 1 mode also uploads your time to an online leader board system allowing for bragging rights against your mates. The single player is good, if not as memorable as the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games. Nevertheless it serves its purpose well in setting the scene for the multiplayer game. As with all the recent batch of first person shooters, it is with the multiplayer game that they are hoping to keep your interest (to sell you more DLC).

Whilst the Battlefield series provides for a large-scale warfare experience, Call of Duty and Medal of Honor both have the same sense of scale. The difference being that Call of Duty feels more like you are running around a Hollywood set, whereas Medal of Honorpropels players into an environment that is just as much part of the combat as the combatants themselves. Walls shatter, wood splinters. Poorly aimed shots will kick up enough dust to completely obscure your target from view (or vice versa). The superb frostbite engine provides a vivid combat environment that actually feels as if it is being blown apart around you.

More beards and guns!~

The multiplayer game types don’t really offer anything that hasn’t been seen before. In the combat missions one team must breach five positions one at a time whilst the other team do their best to defend against the attackers. Team assault is team deathmatch, where two teams vie for the biggest body count. Sector control is a standard domination-style game where teams compete to hold the most control points. The final game mode, objective raids, tasks one team with arming explosives whilst the other team defends. Indecisive players can also choose the any game option and get thrown straight in. Seasoned players can choose the hardcore mode which will put them in any one of the game types on hardcore settings.

There are three soldier classes available to players. Riflemen are best at medium range and are equipped with smoke grenades to provide cover. Special ops are more up close and personal, equipped with fragmentation grenades and a handy RPG for when thing get out of hand. The sniper, obviously comes equipped with a sniper rifle and also some C4. As you rank up more equipment is unlocked, giving players extra weapons and accessories such as additional sights, higher capacity magazines and muzzles brakes for reducing recoil.

Air Support!

The maps offer a variety of different terrains from a snow encrusted pass in the Shahikhot Mountains to the narrow alleyways of the Kandahar Marketplace. It is still early days and the obsessive players have yet to scientifically study the maps to develop an optimum killing method. Without a killcam it is s pretty easy for campers to continuously pick of spawning players and matches can easily end up being two teams of snipers firing at each other across the battlefield.

Medal of Honor is a solid first outing for the rebooted series. It is not as polished as the Call of Duty games.The single player is a bit short and the multiplayer could do with some more balancing. But, on the whole, the game is still a very enjoyable experience. Whilst EA are not quite there yet, I really believe that Activision should start looking over their shoulders; Medal of Honor 2 could very well be the Call of Duty killer.

Graphics 8.5

Sound 8.0

Gameplay 8.5

Lasting Appeal 9

Overall Score 8.5

An edited version of this review originally appeared in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of New Zealand’s Game Console printed magazine.