RETROspective REview: Medal of Honor (2010)

Medal of Honor - Well told single player campaign

The recent remake of Medal of Honor was not a title I purchased based on review scores. As an unashamed, newly-converted addict to the brilliance of Battlefield, I couldn’t resist the pull of a free Beta trial for the upcoming Battlefield 3. However, I was pleasantly surprised by a thoroughly entertaining single player campaign. Although quite short, it is a very mature and drenched it atmosphere – it feels right.

Set in the very recent past of the Iraq War you play out the game from the point of view of four different soldiers that provides a bit of variety to proceedings. The flavour here is very much behind enemy lines and you are in a position where you would very much like to get home. The story is, for the most part, conveyed through the eyes of the protagonists and is very well written. There are a few glitches with the AI scripting that breaks the illusion and can be mission-breakingly annoying. The story wins through in the end though and the final mission provides a fantastic climax to a most bro-chacio of story lines. Leaving you wanting to cry and high five everyone at the same time.

Gun battles are always spot on – ranging from sneaky covert operations to overwhelming  and explosive forces surrounding you on all sides. This game gives you a very apt taste of what it is like for a few days in a Modern War, rather than just combat.

Medal of Honor - Down the Sights

The real spoiler of the single player campaign are the inter-mission cutscenes that show you what’s happening at the command centre. Firstly the lack of first person perspective jars a little with the rest of the game, and in general the delivery is far more cheesy than the rest of the dialogue between your squad-mates. I’m not sure whether it is needed or not – but it doesn’t take away from the quality that is there.

Using a modified version of Unreal Engine 3 the gameplay features the usual 2 weapon limit (with separate side arm and grenades) and is mostly built around a slide-to-cover mechanic. All you need to do is crouch whilst running to slide forwards to protection from the many bullets. Enemy AI is convincing and appropriately competent. This is the good shit. Friendly AI does well in fire fights but some of the open-air scripted moments see them running past enemies without a second look.

There are numerous air strikes and other auxiliary actions to take at pre-defined moments, a section where you have to lay suppressing fire with an M60 is particularly impressive. Every one of them is enjoyable and they help to pull the story along rather than hindering the gameplay.

You start each mission out with American Military hardware that has plenty of ammo. Sometimes you go a little crazy with the machine guns though and you can run out. Luckily you can pick up the weapons off your enemy or ask your squaddies for a refill.

Tier 1 mode provides a great challenge for those that have played through the story. Featuring an online leaderboard, you must complete each of the infantry-based levels under a par time without the use of checkpoints. Thoroughly oldschool – I still haven’t managed to complete every level. The longer ones, in particular provide a hefty bit of work to overcome. With cutscenes all counting against your time, you have to kill with head shots and in quick succession to score a few seconds back on the clock. Each level’s completion is a huge reward.

Multiplayer is a rather different story. Handled by the same team at DICE who were responsible for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 – Vietnam, the online portion has nothing in common with the single player – apart from the setting. Like many of the online shooters of recent years, it is not without its flaws. The experience online still remains broken due to the terrible spawn system. Spawn trapping is almost inevitable every single match with nothing to prevent it. This still hasn’t been patched and presumably never will. There is still some enjoyment to be had and there are a fair few players still around – but be prepared to rage quit as you die again and again and again.

Medal of Honor - Multiplayer is plagued by awful spawn locations and choke points, but is otherwise thoroughly entertaining

Multiplayer is plagued by awful spawn locations and choke points, but is otherwise thoroughly entertaining

The only reason to recommend the multiplayer is for those curious about what more can be done with DICE’s Frostbite Engine. The controls are nigh-on identical with those of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and the gameplay is like a infantry only remix of BC2 and Vietnam. It really is clear that the team responsible worked much of what they achieved with MOH into the later Vietnam expansion for BC2. The bottom line is, we don’t recommend it as your primary online FPS game. I intend to go into the benefits of the game modes a little more, in a future article comparing the current objective based games on the market.

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