Allied Assault, Front Lines, Rising Sun – Medal of Honor has a storied history spanning the major conflicts of WW II and today. The latest installment, Warfighter, harkens back to that tactical, man on man action that made those titles juggernauts of the FPS genre. However, as warfighting itself has progressed from manned recon planes and the M1 Garand to UAVs and M4s, so too has gaming technology, and Warfighter is at the cusp of this cutting edge technology. It has brought fresh ideas to the table, without compromising that same authentic feel and honor to the shooter.
While 2010 was the first title to bring Medal of Honor into the modern theater, it didn’t have a unified team crafting the single player and multiplayer aspects of the game. The result of this was a game that felt disconnected. While it is definitely a solid title, many aspects of the multiplayer felt lacking and left may fans with a bitter taste in their mouth. This is all set to change with Warfighter. The team at Danger Close has been working hard on the multiplayer aspects of the game as well as crafting another stellar single player experience. This shows in the way this title, even in beta software, feels. It’s challenging yet fun to play, rewards tactics and thinking, and promotes fireteam cooperation.
They took what worked for 2010 and molded that and added to it to make a solidly crafted multiplayer mode. To put it simply, comparing this title to 2010 is comparing apples to oranges. While it does play similar to 2010, it harkens back more to the classic style that MoH is known for. It feels a lot like Airborne while looking like a Frostbite 2 game should. Alright, enough chatter. Let’s get on with it.
First off, the character models (even in this earlier build) look great. They are authentic in their gear and stance, the voice over work is amazing, and the call outs (i.e. what the models say in combat) are great. Although there could be some tweaks made (which we’ll hit on later), this aspect of the game is certainly solid.
How It “Feels”
The feel of the game – the gun play, movement, HUD, pacing, and controls all feel tight. In a word the game just “feels right”. When you get into a firefight, the kick and vibration of the weapon is just like it should be. This lends to a lot of immersion in the game play – a key to any good franchise. The learning curve to get all of this down, but it’s a great challenge. Instead of being too easy to learn or too hard to pick up, this game is easy to learn but difficult to master.
In addition, the buddy system is one of the coolest new additions to the franchise. The ability to resupply and heal directly off your buddy at the press of a button makes it all the more valuable to stick with him. It’s a true representation of the camaraderie that exists between combat professionals. Also, the game’s system of showing who the tango was that killed your buddy is an amazing tool to use. It emulates the real life “sixth sense” that tier 1 operators gain as well as the use of IFF and BFT tools.
The score chains return from MoH (2010), however, vastly overhauled. Each class now has it’s own “levels” of chains, one offensive and one defensive for each level. This allows each class to feel and play different and contribute different things to the battlespace as a whole. One of the biggest things is that your streak does not reset if you swap classes. So, let’s say you get a mortar with your Assault class. If your team needs a forward spawn, you can swap over to the Heavy Gunner and call in Black Hawk transport. Although some minor changes could be made, they are well crafted and don’t feel too overwhelming. Again, it’s one more than that just feels “right”.
The six classes (Assault, Spec Ops, Sniper, Heavy Gunner, Pointman, and Demolitions) are all finely tuned so as to work together seamlessly. They are also balanced just about as perfectly as one could expect from a game. While there are some issues that crop up, a quick swap up of tactics can usually counter any problem created by the enemy. The weapons of each class are equally well done. Customizing your weapon from the ground up is one of the best new additions to the game. The inclusion of the “My Gun” system makes you feel one with your weapon. It makes it personal. In our time on station with the beta, we quickly gravitated towards our “personal favorites”. I myself favored the 1st SFOD-D Assault class, while Spartan was representing the SASR Pointman. These two classes work well together, the Assault providing heavy fire on target and the Pointman’s speed and violence of action providing great support to that.
The Menu/Social HUD
The new menu is a bit to tak in at first, but like everything else in this game, once you get it down it becomes perfect. The inclusion of the Battlelog Social HUD is an amazing add on, and one that was sorely missed from other EA titles on the Xbox (i.e. BF3). The background design of the menu is spot on, making you feel like you’re in a TOC or FOP readying for the fight. Adding to this feel, the “My Soldier” area doesn’t just feature a set of weapon pictures and a bunch of words. You get to see your group of tier 1 operators assembled and readied to go.
The audio, while having some issues, is also well done. The loud cracks of heavy weapons and the boom of explosives is highlighted by the menacing low decibel snap of suppressors. Although some of the weapons sound a bit “empty” most sound spot on. As mentioned earlier, the battle chatter of this game is second to none. You truly feel like you’re part of a fireteam of operators pushing into hostile territory. From the warning of incoming mortars, to the minute details of a Demolition class pulling out a SMAW and verbally insuring his backblast is clear, the sounds immerse you into the action.
The Hot Spot game mode showcases the mix of violent action and tactical pacing that Medal of Honor fans have come to expect from the franchise. The objectives constantly being in differing locations offers neither team the advantage due to multiple areas of approach – instead each PETN site is a scene of epic firefights. While the Hot Spot mode uses only a fraction of the Sarajevo Stadium map (with other modes like Combat Mission using the entire AO), the map does not feel too small or cramped. As mentioned, there are plenty of flanking routes, overwatch positions, and places to take cover that compliment the tactical player. The map captures beautifully the feel of urban/CQB combat as well as those transitions between CQB and mid-range engagements.
Party and VOIP Systems
The party system and in-game VOIP are in a word, broken. This is a fatal flaw with this title currently. With no way to guarantee your fireteam stays together, launching into a game feels haphazard and can lead to frustration as you constantly back out to regroup. With no way to communicate to the other members of your team, your best bet is to stack the team with your friends so as to utilize Xbox Live’s party system. This is an issue as it only handles eight players (out of the possible ten in an in-game party lobby). However, that’s easier said than done due to the aforementioned party issues.
The “Beta Bugs”
From disappearing weapons to collision and clipping issues. Beta bugs are rearing their ugly heads in this title. While most are a simple fix, other seem a complex issue. For example, if you toss your M67s out too quickly and then try to swap to your side arm, you could lose all your weapons and be running around mid-swap animation. While these issues are to be expected, they should certainly be addressed before the final title is launched.
We had a few minor issues and tweak suggestions in regard to the weapons. Including that the secondary weapons felt underpowered and that the primaries occasionally felt “inconsistent” – where sometimes you’d kill a fully healthy tango in three shots, but other times it takes five. This is either due to a hit box issue or the lag compensation used by the game currently. To fix the side arms, we suggest speeding up the swap time. There’s a certain feeling that the operator is in slow motion when trying to get that pistol out in a firefight. And it leads to the secondaries becoming useless. A better rate of fire on them would also help. If you have time to switch to your secondary in a firefight, that means you’re in need of it, and it should work. Operators in the field are masters and the fast swap, and when they go to that side arm they have to know it will finish the job. We suggest increasing the damage of the pistols (expect the G18) and increasing the range of the shotgun just slightly. Reloading for both side arms and some of the primaries could also be slightly faster. This is not a suggestion for Call of Duty style “Sleight of Hand” reloads, but the reload times feel a bit on the slow side.
While most of the attachments feel great, there is some concern on our end regarding the inclusion of “cosmetic” equipment. We’re speaking here of the PEQs, taclights, and foregrips. These items are sorely missed in an authentic, tactical game like this. There’s also the issue of certain weapon models having add-ons that aren’t used in animations. For example, one weapon features a Magpul B.A.D. (Battery Assist Device). In the reload animation, it’s ignored. While it’s understood that the tac. lights could cause a balancing issue, the inclusion of the foregrips increasing accuracy and stability or the PEQs allowing for lasing of a target would be greatly appreciated.
There were a few more things we noticed while playing. Some are minor and could safely be categorized as “personal preference”, while others definitely need to be looked at and fixed.
We reached out to a couple of MoH fans who have played the beta and got their take on it.
“They did an amazing job at promoting teamwork. Hands down, even for a beta, with a good fireteam buddy, this game is incredibly fun! I also like how they have balanced the different classes out well. Each class is better at taking down a certain class over others. For instance the Demo guys armor can be shredded with the Pointman’s AP ammo.They balance that by making the AP cause more recoil. One thing I didn’t like was the red outline. I wish it would not move with the character. I am okay with keeping it if they make the red outline stay in the same spot and not move with the enemy” – T. Johnston (aka DoorKicker11)
“After growing up with the first Medal of Honor (1999), and watching the growth of Warfighter (2012) go from the Alpha Trial, through closed events in Los Angeles, and on to the Beta Trial it is truly remarkable what the men and women of Electronic Arts Los Angeles and Danger Close Games have proven they can do in the last thirteen years. Their dedication to the Soldier is only out matched by the passion of their hearts. Buy this game, you wont be disappointed.” -J. Getty (aka DigitalHitmann)
Even with its issues, the game is fun and playable. If people could get these preconceived ideas out of their heads about it needing to be more like title “x” or it being too much like title “y” , they’d enjoy this stellar effort from the gents (and ladies) over at Danger Close. We’ll certainly be keeping our eyes firmly fixed on this title and be eagerly awaiting its release. Xbox Live Gold members can download the beta now and enjoy it until the 15th of October. The game is available for pre-order from all major retailers and from the EA/Origin online store.