October 29, 2012
Inspired by true events is an interesting strapline, especially when you watch it appear time and time again before each chapter of the bewildering, high octane, do or die story in Medal of Honor: Warfighter. Was a watery boat escape through a flooded town, as you bombard foes on partially submerged houses, a true event? Or the initial level that sees an entire dockyard explode in near apocalyptic fury, while you blast a helicopter from the sky singlehandedly, also a true event? Because if they were then you have to wonder how badly journalists the world over are actually doing their jobs.
Danger Close clearly wanted to make an authentic game and the “Inspired by” tag is undoubtedly a way for the developer to shoehorn realistic elements into a fictional campaign. The problem is that, by clinging to that veneer of true life happenings, they actually make the events that transpire seem more ridiculous, even more outlandish. As you careen through city streets crashing through market stalls, it's more likely that you’ll be rolling your eyes than enjoying the view.
It’s an unfortunate problem, particularly as the game does try to offer a few glimpses behind the usual array of gung-ho imagery. We get to see life outside of the battlefield as a soldier struggles against his duty to his country and colleagues against that of his family. Some of the dialogue is stilted and clichéd but at least the game has its heart in the right place. Unfortunately you then have to go back to the grisly business of killing people and things become blander than store brand bread.
The campaign offers up its excitement in chunks of about twenty to thirty minutes, before dumping you back into a teary eyed slice of family life (with what can only be described as the creepiest looking child since The Ring). You and a team, of what can only be described as badly scripted morons, are tasked with taking down a global terrorist group any way you can. Only the game takes a long time explaining exactly what is going on and often deviates from the main plot entirely, with some missions feeling like additions to just string out events. By the time the plot has finished twisting and turning and you’ve hunted down the main villain it feels less like an emotional rollercoaster and more like you’ve just been dragged from pillar to post.
It doesn’t help that the combat and AI is so appalling in every regard. Your own team will run into the same spots of cover, potentially dislodging you in the process, or just wander in front of your scope. The enemies will jump over walls, slowly, almost inviting you to kill them. If you fail to do so then they will jog to the nearest cover and pretty much stay there, popping out at regular intervals, until you kill them. At one point your teammate, Mother, states, “Be careful, the enemy are well-armed and know the area.” At which point you can only laugh as the next clueless wave wanders into your sights. You then get to jog up to a door, perform a slow motion breach, kill everyone and proceed to the next open area full of foes. For all the criticism levelled at COD, at least it provides spectacle whereas this game feels like a paint by numbers shooter.
Even when the game attempts to inject some variety into proceedings it tends to fall down spectacularly. Heavily scripted driving sections are neither challenging or fun, boats and choppers are rendered as on rails slugfests and even the sniping segments are somehow made tiresome and unwieldy. When you can’t even make headshots from on high a fun experience then you know something has gone wrong. It doesn’t help that things are generally badly signposted and your team offers only the scarcest amount of support possible, making you feel like you are doing everything solo even when surrounded by would be allies.
Mercifully it’s not a game you’ll have to endure for long, as even sitting through the cutscenes, you're likely to blitz through it in five hours. The odds on you wanting to replay the campaign are pretty slim and the only reason you might do so is to mop up any of the achievements along the way, as actually wanting to suffer through this mish mash of ideas and idiosyncrasies is slim. If anything it will merely help you appreciate all of the good shooters out there even more.
On the plus side, at least Danger Close managed to get the online portion of the game into something resembling fighting shape. Though even here there are still issues in abundance. Hopping online can be a bit of an effort in itself unless you are prepared to play quick matches forever and a day. Actually setting things up, or searching for a specific game, can mean wading through countless menus and putting up with cluttered and confused walls of text. It’s hardly a welcoming experience.
It’s a fairly novel idea to let players choose between a variety of spec-ops from different countries, all of them tooled up with varied loadouts and gear. It would have been an even nicer touch if the game actually explained that you’d be stuck with your original choice until you could unlock another one, or even laid out the differences between them in a clear way, but instead you get dropped in at the deep end and then get to rue your choice as you are picked off time and time again. At least you can always use the basic soldier types should the desire for change grow too strong.
The multiplayer itself plays fairly well, with more than a passing familiarity to Battlefield and that same deliberate sense of pacing and control. Once you start fighting against players that actually think, and react, cleverly seems to make the mechanics that felt so bland in campaign feel so much more enticing to use. Weapons and actions feel more deliberate and you get a much larger sense of satisfaction from doing well than you did from running amok on your own.
The main issue comes in the frankly shoddy map design, as all of the arenas feel cramped and enclosed. The game wants large teams of players to butt heads over control points in certain modes but instead generally boils down to a lopsided kill fest. Spawn points are badly placed and successful teams can exploit this issue time and time again, with a bloodbath of kills being racked up and successful support actions only exacerbating the problem. All the effort that seems to have been put into creating a distinct experience is lost as you struggle getting five paces from where you emerge before being gunned down. Even slugging away for achievements will feel like far too much effort and, with the big hitters in the genre so close at hand, you never feel like it will keep you engrossed for too long.
Medal of Honor:Warfighter is a medley of ideas pulled from a variety of titles, but it doesn’t have one interesting or truly unique mechanic that it can truly call its own. The campaign is short, dull and at times ridiculous, and that 'Inspired By' tagline has never felt so overused. Multiplayer is better, but only because human interaction pretty much guarantees it. Seemingly endless menu choices, woefully placed spawn points and dubious map design take away any fun that you might have been having and lands the game back in the doldrums. For a title that promised so much, all that has been delivered with Medal of Honor: Warfighter is a bland and fairly rote experience.
Good effects and decent voice work, though it does sometimes fall down in occasionally laughable cutscenes.
Woeful without a 1.7GB install, which is ludicrous, and even then it suffers from texture popping in and what can only be described as the scariest child outside of Japanese horror movies.
Typical run and gun fare with a storyline that only starts to make sense about halfway through and a multiplayer mode that feels like a dull carbon copy of a bunch of other games.
Inspired by true events has never sounded so far fetched and the terrible enemy AI, dull online maps and modes coupled with a woefully short and inadequate campaign add up to a package that is average at best.
Complete the game on hard, do a few semi annoying tasks and then grind through the multiplayer. Job done – but done without much panache.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter feels like it is trying too hard to get a slice of the lucrative CoD pie, but the package never quite manages to get up to snuff. It is average in almost every department, and if you choose to play without the day one patch and graphics install it devolves into a buggy broken mess, though even with the optimum requirements it fails to start up to its rivals. Man down.