The modern Medal of Honor games are often compared to the Call of Duty series. We find that the newest MOH game is best compared to most reality television stars: easy on the eyes with a complete lack of substance. Medal of Honor: Warfighter has beautiful lighting, bombastic sound, gorgeous cutscenes, and the same tired set-pieces and gameplay we’ve experienced in every military game in the past five years with some immersion-breaking glitches thrown in for good measure. The game is just as disjointed thematically. Warfighter tries to add depth to the soldiers you control through emotional cutscenes that depict them interacting with friends and family. The cutscenes are shown in between segments of gameplay where your entire objective is to put a bullet through the skull of every ‘bad guy’ the game throws at you. Warfighter is a generic experience, made even more disappointing by the fact that the presentation is excellent.
Warfighter is quite possibly the best looking game to run on the Frostbite 2 Engine yet. Lighting is incredible, and is best displayed during the many explosions that break away pieces of the environment. Textures are satisfyingly detailed, and aid to create a realistic battlefield. The cutscenes providing exposition for the missions you will take part in are very well done, for the most part. Character models during these scenes, though beautiful, are often very stiff, and their expressions cause them to appear more like robots than humans. Excellent sound aids the visuals in crafting the game’s scenes. The gunfire is loud, explosions are appropriately filled with bass, and though the script isn’t anything you haven’t heard mumbled over radio communications in any other war title, all of it is delivered well and won’t serve to annoy you. The game’s guns are the true example of all aspects of the presentation coming together well. The muzzle flare combined with the realistic sound, vibration of the controller, and weapon appropriate recoil makes every shot feel great.
I won’t even begin to elaborate on Medal of Honor’s story for a variety of reasons. The number one, and most important reason, is that it really doesn’t matter. Though Warfighter’s story is meant to be gripping and important, the constant switching of missions, characters, and countries ensures that you’re never too engaged into one soldier’s struggle and that you never become interested. The story’s only purpose becomes giving you a reason as to why you’re in the location you are and why you’re blowing up everything in your path. The second reason is its confusing contrast with gameplay. As much as Warfighter tries to craft a moving, believable tale, it does a lousy job telling it and directly conflicts gameplay, as well as the game’s macho tone. You’ll take on the role of many different soldiers, each with their own ridiculous code name. Though the cutscenes will attempt to make you believe ‘Stump’ and ‘Preacher’ are men struggling with the horrific things they’ve seen on the field, there are several ways the game completely fails in portraying the characters this way.
There are several mission types that begin with a scenario where the game locks your movement and camera control and forces you to kill the person in front of you. The only buttons that you are allowed to use are the trigger for your firearm, or the melee button to use your hatchet. During the second one of these instances, you’re on a stealth mission. We’re not allowed to tranquilize or knock the enemy unconscious? The worst of the contrasting gameplay comes in the form of ‘breaching’. Your comrades will gather around a door, and you are presented with a wheel of choices that determine how you will take down the door. Upon picking one, the door is breached and the game enters slow motion to assist your aim. Players are rewarded for how many cinematic head-shots they can score while the enemies scramble to pick themselves off of the floor. What’s the reward for these head-shots? Players are given more choices in how to knock down breach-able doors.
The gameplay in Warfighter is archaic. Besides the occasional vehicle segment, or set piece, players are tasked with taking down every enemy firing at them. Enemies are brain-dead and seem to come from nowhere. Once they are dead, you move forward, likely breach a door, and repeat this formula again. There is very little choice given to the player while trudging through the single-player campaign either, even though battlefields are portrayed beautifully and often look to extend beyond view. However, traveling past lines the game doesn’t want you to cross will issue you a warning to return to the game area. The penalty for not returning is death. In actuality, areas of combat are often pretty small, and choices for where to take cover and fire from are slim. When you do find cover, there’s a good chance one of your partners with terrible AI will run into you, knocking you into the line of fire and taking your cover until the next wave of baddies appears. Enemies stick to their assigned spots, though, popping out of cover occasionally to shoot at you. We never were engaged in combat, though the sound and excitement of the battlefield would suggest so.
We’d aim from behind cover, wait for an enemy to peek out, neutralize them, and repeat this for the other six enemies in the area, and then travel onward to do this again. Though using the guns feel great, it does grow old. This repetitive gameplay is broken up by fairly enjoyable vehicle segments and parts of the game where you are given special objectives. After these, you’ll be brought back to the pattern of normal warfare. On top of this, Warfighter’s framerate is often an issue, and glitches plague the game online and off. During one skirmish, we fell through the floor of a building. Looking up, we saw our comrades floating in air, still continuing the fight. Our weapons wouldn’t fire, and our grenades wouldn’t explode. We wandered this wasteland of floating buildings until eventually the game determined we were out of the mission area, and killed us.
Warfighter’s platoon-based online gameplay is decent fun, but its lacking customization and uninspired map design won’t take any first-person shooter fans away from Call of Duty or Killzone servers. Shooting doesn’t seem as real or as satisfying online, and it often feels like enemies, as well as yourself, take far too many bullets to go down. Streak rewards, an online FPS mainstay, are here in a satisfying fashion, however. Points for streaks are earned through doing well in a match. Mortar strikes, smoke-screens, choppers, turrets, and spawn-choice are all rewards redeemable for streak points. There are multiple game modes that require different objectives of the online teams. Hotspot is a mode where multiple points for destruction are shown to the offensive team, while a main spot is shown to the defensive team to give them a chance to fortify the specific area. The area that serves as the objective will then be shown to the offensive team. The hotspot will change after each area is defended or destroyed. There is also a twist on Capture the Flag called Home Run, and there is of course deathmatch and the rest of the basic modes most shooters include. Customization of avatars is minimal, but extensive for the game’s guns. Optics, barrel assembly, muzzle style, receiver group style, magazine, and paint job are the options available when tricking out your favorite firearm. All in all, Warfighter’s online gameplay is a decent diversion from the game’s campaign, but isn’t something we see many players falling in love with.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter is a broken game in multiple ways. It is literally broken, in the sense that glitches abound, and players will often find themselves losing sound during gameplay, or clipping through solid objects during firefights. And it is also broken in the sense that it seems the game isn’t entirely sure what it would like to be. While the gameplay feels like it’s attempting to capture the action audience with its explosive set pieces and gung-ho attitude, the firefights that make up the majority of the game are uninspired and boring. The game’s cutscenes show men who tear up talking about their experiences as military men, and then forces you to kill hundreds of enemies without hesitation in the game’s campaign, rewarding you for brutal kills and never even hinting at your soldier’s emotions or if he’s thinking about the lives he’s ended. Warfighter can’t decide if it wants to portray these soldiers as scarred men or action heroes. Though firing the weapons feels very good, the firefights suffer because of poor AI and level design. Some of the events and vehicle sections during the campaign show promise and provide a break from the monotonous shoot-outs, but they aren’t enough to save the game from being boring, and generic. The game’s multiplayer provides a decent amount of fun, but, compared even to multiplayer shooters of past, it feels outdated.