Medal Of Honor: Warfighter doesn’t even wait for you to press a button before hitting you with its first burnt out shooter cliche. The menu screen features clattering ethnic drums behind wailing string instruments which in soundtrack terms basically translates to “The Middle East is Scary and you’re going to be spending a lot of time there shooting at people”. The tired old trope hovers menacingly around your ears for a moment, and then it multiplies.
Within the first ten minutes of the campaign you’ve seen a solemn quote from a historical figure during a loading screen, watched a “head emerges from water” Apocalypse Now-referencing cutscene, pressed a button to plant some explosives, observed the consequential cinematic pyrotechnics, shot a chopper down with a conveniently placed rocket launcher, watched an angry man in a turban (who I could have sworn was one of the terrorist puppets from Team America) shouting in Arabic about “jihads” and “infidels” and listened to some gruff, hard men conversing in “OscarMike-ish”. It’s like a TV Tropes page coming to life before your eyes and it rarely lets up for the entire 5 to 6 hour campaign.
The biggest problem with MOH‘s tacked on single player is not the clichés, however. The game obnoxiously limits any player input. Levels are extremely tight corridors, even in relation to other similar games. Stray too far to the left or right in MOH‘s tiny, choking maps and you’ll literally fall down and die. I can only imagine this is caused by a cardiac arrest or tripping over your shoelaces and hitting your head, because nothing in the actual game world kills you. You just die. It is a lazy and utterly immersion ruining method of keeping you facing forward at all times. After a couple of these slaps on the wrist you learn that you will only be able to play this game the way it wants you to play it. Mark a building full of snipers with a laser for an air-strike and watch the pyrotechnics, or try to out-maneuver them and miraculously drop dead. The game is also hopelessly, desperately in love with a slow-mo door breaching mechanic, so much so that you can actually level up your door-breaching abilities. As you might expect, this becomes a dull chore a few hours into the game.
There is a story here, which is quite respectful to the experiences of real Tier 1 Operatives, having been partially written by the men themselves. The banter and relationships between the soldiers are well done, with one surprisingly subtle and impactful buddy-saves-buddy moment late in the game. Sadly it is let down by the hamfisted emotional linchpin of the main character’s terrifyingly animated wife and demon child from the darkest, dead-eyed depths of the uncanny valley. I can never unsee it.
You’ll enjoy looking at the graphics of this game, but whether you enjoy actually playing it, of course, is a different story. The campaign does shake things up from time to time with some action-packed chase scenes and very enjoyable driving sections. Though rudimentary in their interactivity (you drive and you steer) they are extremely well choreographed and give a great feeling of speed, scale and chaos. There is even a vehicular stealth section. Yeah, you heard me. A Metal Gear-style “watch the sightlines” stealth bit, in a car. It’s quite silly but there’s no denying it’s fun and a welcome change from the endless kicking down of doors and bloodying of turbans.
Something that was no fun at all, however, was the amount of bugs present. In 6 hours I encountered broken or missing checkpoints, mission updates that refused to register, rooms that locked you in because the game forgot to make the breaching mechanic work, solid doors that I could walk right through, being shot through walls that I could not shoot back through, doors that I could not walk through (or kick down, for that matter) even though my teammates already had, and many, many more.
Friendly AI is an absolute joke, often letting enemies walk right up next to them or even right past them to close in on the player. I even had my so called buddies push me out of cover and into a hail of bullets so they could stand there, the absolute bastards. That was when they weren’t forgetting to kick the next door down so we could progress in the game. There is just no excuse for an AAA title this short and linear to be riddled with so many bugs and technical flaws. The multiplayer was just as bad, with players often spawning into or underneath the maps. On a couple of occasions I spawned in with an invisible gun, which was at least good for a laugh. The game feels like it was rushed together and flung out the door unfinished in order to meet a tight deadline.
Multiplayer is very similar to other games in the genre with a few tweaks to set it apart a little. There is large focus on the “Fireteam” system, in which you have a buddy you can spawn on, resupply etc. It’s like Battlefield‘s squads but there are two of you instead of four. There are various squads to pick from which are basically pre-built classes. Given enough time investment these may be fun to experiment with, but they are let down by a busy, un-intuitive menu interface which is at best confusing and at worst a complete mess.
Game modes are the same types you’ve seen in other games (Team Deathmatch, Domination etc) with slight variations, such as an interesting capture the flag mode with no respawns. The flow and feel of the multiplayer rides a middle ground between frantic and more methodical, with meaty weapons and a middling pace on relatively small maps, which every so often escalates into a fast paced, chaotic firefights. These busier moments are fun and it’s very satisfying to sneak up behind that sniper who killed you three times and stab him in the back. Unfortunately the spawn system is completely broken and needs a patch. Decent players can just sit and spawn camp the opposing team for an entire match if they so wish, which was interestingly enough also a massive problem in the previous MOH game. When it works however, it is a solid multiplayer shooter and a welcome distraction for fans of the genre who want a break from the big two.
Bottom Line: Medal Of Honor: Warfighter is a deliberately created test-tube baby that was forced into a premature birth before it had a chance to fully develop. The odd flashes of brilliance in the campaign and the fun multiplayer moments are marred by the myriad of bugs and clichés and the feeling that the game would rather play itself than let the player have any real input. What it does well, other military shooters have already done. What it does badly will make you want to kick down the doors of your house.
Recommendation: If you’re a die hard modern military shooter fan, then MOH: Warfighter is worth a rental at least. However, if you’re growing tired of the same old shooter cliches or enjoy games that give you some tactical options, give this one a skip.[rating=2.5]
This review is based on the PC version of the game.
Game: Medal of Honor: Warfighter
Developer: Danger Close
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PS Vita
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)