Two years ago, Danger Close brought us a Medal of Honor reboot that straddled the line (albeit uncomfortably) between Modern Warfare's single player and Battlefield's multiplayer. While the two were busy marking off their own territory with highly scripted sequences and class based multiplayer, MoH was quietly taking the ideas of both and creating a cocktail of elements that would herald its arrival to the modern era. The result was a game that had all the trappings of a modern FPS title but ultimately was not quite up to par in any one of its elements. Now we see the sequel to the reboot in Medal of Honor: Warfighter.
Let's go fight some wars!
We begin now with the Single Player. Warfighter begins a short time after the events of the previous game, with the character Preacher being promoted to full player character status complete with an angry wife who is mad about his lack of family face time (presumably because he was busy with the antics of the first game). Preacher is attempting to sabotage a truck during a special operation when all hell breaks loose. From then on, he and the other player character "Stump" are on the hunt for terrorists and high explosives in a journey that takes them to all the parts of the planet that we would least like to visit. Details of the story are mostly forgettable, but some, such as the PETN explosive which is the primary plot device, stick in our minds. The game uses pre-rendered cutscenes to tell much of the plot intricacies and are often overly dramatic or oddly paced. Most of the supporting characters from the first game return and have not developed any more personality in the meanwhile; however, this is rather par for the course when it comes for the military FPS genre.
These characters are old friends, That's all you need to know.
Graphically, this game is impressive and is brought to us by the Frostbite 2 engine -- the same that powers Battlefield 3. The games features impressive lighting effects and is able to make some rather convincing hurricane conditions during the Philippines levels. Environmental destruction is limited to destroying a few boards and explosive barrels; however, there are some rather large scale destructive sequences such as the opening docks explosion. Sadly there are no real "Wow!' moments to be credited to the visuals but most of the locations can be quite lovely despite being choked with smoke and gunfire. There are some strange moments to be had such as when I was looking in a direction away from the action and beheld some mountains that were strangely close looking and low resolution, but these are mostly picky gripes.
Effective audio accompanies the action complete with explosions and whistling bullets. NPC teammates call out enemy locations and urge you to complete your objectives faster. Some of character accents are humorously thick but some will resort to their native tongues and we are given subtitles.
The mechanics of Warfighter are standard FPS fare: we siphon health from the air and we may carry only a few weapons with exceptions for the equipment which we conjure for the purposes of scripted sequences. Our NPC teammates constantly tell us our next short term goal and enemies range from "guy with a rifle", to "guy with a shotgun", to "guy with an RPG"; However, Warfighter does take some chances in its mechanics and dares to add a few. For starters, they add "guy who is armored" to their enemy roster, who takes more than a few hits to defeat.
A greater leap is taken with the ammunition model. In the previous game, the player was given a large amount of ammunition and could request additional ammo from their NPC teammates. This wasn't always used since you could just as easily chuck your weapon away for one of the enemy weapons strewn about the battlefield. No such luck this time; your character is given even LESS ammo than before, and now when you pick up an enemy weapon you cannot switch off of it without tossing it away. I always found the original method to be odd thematically since my first action in any new FPS level was to quickly find an enemy weapon to replace my usually useless pistol or shotgun. This always felt strange to me because I never imagined soldiers scrounging around for enemy guns. Gone is this worry in Warfighter and I now rely even more heavily on my teammate's infinite reserves of ammo.
Another new mechanic is the Door Breach Challenge as I call it. Here we approach a door which the objectives insist I breach (a common trope in the military FPS game now) but instead of being instantly rewarded with an animated sequence and a slo-mo shooting gallery, we are given the opportunity to CHOOSE our animated sequence from a menu of breaching methods. Only a clever boot to the door is available at first but we are able to unlock more by eliminating enemies in the upcoming slow-mo shooting gallery with headshots. This works rather well with each subsequent door being breached differently (if you are landing those headshots), until about mid-game when all the methods have been unlocked. There are still many doors left to be breached in the remaining game and we are left with what amounts to a large list of animations that can be played during the breach. Each method has no difference of effect to the rooms occupants with kicking down a door having equal effect to a flex explosive (though the kick method is followed by a flashbang). To me, the mere fact that I had spent the first half of the game attempting to get 100% headshots every breach naturally caused me to continue the practice even though I received no additional rewards. This actually served to liven up the DBC which had become tiresome due to its overuse in other games.
Choose your own animation!
Warfighter does offer us a relatively unique opportunity in the form of its driving sequences. While there will be plenty of chances to hop onto a mounted machinegun and mow down enemies, we are presented here with the wheel of the vehicle and are given the freedom to crash into obstacles at our leisure. These are mostly chase sequences and we are pressed to drive as fast as possible to keep up with or get away from enemies. These are perhaps the largest deviation that the campaign takes from its FPS counterparts including one STEALTH driving sequence. I must say that these work very well for the game and I would hate to see future titles wear this activity thin.
They trust me with the keys!
As is the case with these games, the multiplayer is practically (and sometimes literally) a separate entity. In this case, the multiplayer component can be launched straight from the client or through Battlelog in the same fashion as Battlefield 3. I quickly found that I preferred the client as it does not require a complete shutdown if I wished to change servers or edit soldiers.
The multiplayer gameplay has evolved significantly from the previous version. There are six classes with loads of weapons and unlocks. The game also adds nationalities which allow different kit options. There are eight maps and five gamemodes. Persistent throughout all modes is the emphasis on the fireteam which consists of yourself and one other player. Upon death you are given the option of respawn at the designated base spawn point or on your teammate. While this mechanic has typically been included in the Battlefield gameplay, here there is an extra stipulation which demands that your teammate remain out of combat when you spawn. This may be a reaction to the Battlefield occurrence of spawning on your teammate only to instantly die under fire or of players spawning on players in hotspots. Either way, this mechanic seems to not work very well for the spawner as it reset the spawn timer every time the teammate is fired upon. This gets tiresome VERY quickly and all too often the best option is to simply choose the base spawn.
Unlocks are managed through an XP system which will be very familiar to Call of Duty and Battlefield players. At rank 1, only one soldier class is available with a default kit. With the accumulation of XP, more classes and nationalities are unlocked allowing players to mix and match to create custom soldiers. In only a few levels I had unlocked all classes and was getting my first alternate nationalities to begin creating custom soldiers.
The gang's all here.
Soldier classes are essentially standard, there is an assault, sniper, and heave demolitions class was well as special ops and point man classes which feel like variations on assault. Each class has a special ability and custom grenades. The classes also have a different list of support abilities which work much like killstreaks from Call of Duty and serve to fill the air with UAVs, Blackhawk Helicopters, and mortars.
While these mechanics seem to be an interesting list on paper, the horrible menu interface makes working with these elements a struggle. Many options are buried in menus clearly designed more for console controllers and with every new message or unlock comes a number of alert messages which must be selected and cleared, often requiring navigating through the aforementioned stack of menus. The in-game interface is not much better, with enemy icons sometimes blending into the terrain as well as the enemies themselves. There is also no obvious way to mute players abusing their microphone or leaving it open forcing me to listen to every breath over the feedback. Ultimately I had to disable all the VOIP in the game but this setting was conveniently reset (without changing the option from OFF mind you) at the start of the next map.
The combat mechanics play like a buggy version of Battlefield. All too often I would get into a shooting match with another player in which we would pour bullets into each other and one of us would die, but I could not tell explain why it happened. Headshots seem to register highly erratically and I found it practically impossible to kill players that were running perpendicularly to myself. There has been some effort to smooth out the bipod deployment from battlefield and now a keypress while at an appropriate surface will hook me up to a crate or windowsill. There is also odd slide mechanic that is available wherein players who are sprinting and then press the crouch or prone keys, will perform a little slide. I quickly forgot about this mechanic as the slide is so short it is not useful for closing distances, although it is interesting to use on hills or just for fun.
The gamemodes are largely taken from Battlefield and Call of Duty models and include watered down versions of Battlefield's Rush and Conquest modes as well as a compulsory Team Deathmatch. The Home Run mode is essentially Capture the Flag with no respawns. Only the Hotspot game mode feels a little interesting as it is an Attack/Defend type gamemode with moving objectives. These modes suffer heavily from map design as gamemodes can be played on any map type. While this no doubt means that more maps can be created, it serves to cause every gametype to feel remarkably ill-suited for the map. In addition, while the game borrows its movement and visuals from Battlefield, there is nowhere near the amount of freedom to be had. There are many knee high rocks that cannot be vaulted and invisible walls are common. Furthermore, there seems to be no bullet penetration even through light materials such as wood.
Let's play some Conquest...I mean Sector Control!
Ultimately, Medal of Honor Warfighter fails to appropriately find its own footing against the giants of Call of Duty and Battlefield. It has flashes of inspiration in the form of its single player diving sequences and this will likely be the game's most memorable aspect. Its multiplayer however, is a bit of a mess of half-executed ideas that are marred by mechanical and practical issues. Most FPS players will find a decent campaign that is entertaining enough, but should look to Call of Duty or Battlefield to find their multiplayer experience. As a note of parting on this game, I must say that it has all the trappings of a series that can find its own voice and be a major contender, but perhaps the secret lies in innovation as opposed to emulation.