The Medal of Honor franchise has a colorful history over the years. It started as a quaint WWII FPS back in the PSOne days and blew the doors off the genre with it’s PS2 debut, but was eventually overshadowed. It is sometimes hard to imagine a world where the MoH series was the dominant name in military FPS. Warfighter is not going to return the franchise to glory. Everything about the game feels like it is playing it safe and painting by numbers, giving gamers little reason to jump aboard. Still, if MoH has been your go-to series all along, there is enough here to satisfy your military FPS needs.
The campaign in Warfighter is a two-headed beast. First, let’s talk about the story. The main focus of the game revolves around Preacher, one of the characters you actually play as. There are intermittent cut scenes involving him and his family, and how he is losing touch with them because of his military duties. It is a novel way to pull at your heartstrings, and sometimes it works. The characters surrounding this story are predictable, but likeable. Dusty and Mother are my favorites, and there are genuinely a couple moments where it all works. However, most of the time things feel chaotic and confusing. Why do we hate the main bad guy? What exactly is PETN and why do we need to find it? Sporadic is the best word to describe the campaign.
I also have to mention the cut scenes for another reason. Danger Close has crafted a good-looking game, but some of the faces during the cut scenes are downright creepy. It almost feels like they modeled them to be that way. The way Preacher’s daughter stared at me felt like something out of a horror movie. I also ran into several times where the game stuttered during the cut scenes freezing a solid ten seconds of motion. I had the game installed and the patches downloaded, so this was jarring to say the least.
Then we get to the game itself. The core campaign is pretty standard for today’s military shooters. It will run you between 5-6 hours and swap between characters and their different perspectives. Most of the time you are running from point to point, breaching doors and popping from cover to mow down waves of enemies. It’s standard stuff, and Warfighter really doesn’t add anything to the genre. Danger Close does do a few things to break it up though, and they wind up being some of the better parts of the campaign.
The most notable are the driving sections. While some may scoff at the idea, these Black Box (Need for Speed series) developed levels are actually well done. There is one chase sequence, and another that has a neat take on stealth elements. I actually really enjoyed these segments as they added tension and a break from the monotony of the shooting. There are also some really cool levels within the campaign. The one that sticks out the most to me is the hurricane level. Just the backdrop and effects really showcase what the Frostbite engine is capable of.
The rest is pretty cut and paste though, which is disappointing. You have a generic form of cover that allows you to pop up from behind, but it feels disconnected. The shooting itself is fine, but enemy behavior is erratic at best. They will often times run directly at you, ignoring your team and making a beeline straight for you. Speaking of your squad, their inability to take out enemies is nerve-wracking. During several breach sections four of us go in, but if I personally do not kill all four enemies (there are ALWAYS four) then my team is completely incapable of taking out even one of them.
Speaking of breaching, this seems to be Warfighter’s focal point for leveling up items. For each breach you can nail headshots. Nailing these headshots unlocks new ways to breach the door such as using charges, or a shotgun to blow off the door handle. It seems cool at first, until you realize that kicking down the door, the default method, is by far the quickest. There are no benefits to using the newly unlocked methods, and making them unlockable was completely pointless.
It was no secret that Warfighter shipped unfinished. If you saw the patch notes on day one, the list was extensive to say the least. Minor things that should never get past certification were fixed with this patch. That said, even after installing the game, the monster HD texture pack and downloading the patch, the game still had issues. I had sound drop out when reloading weapons, the stuttering cut scenes and issues where the game would not progress even after I completed my objectives. This is truly telling that this game was not ready for prime time. I still made it to the end, which indicates that it isn’t completely broken, but there were enough issues to showcase just how incomplete Warfighter really was at launch.
Now what modern shooter is complete without online play? Warfighter comes packed with the quintessential competitive modes you’ve come to expect, with one unique one tossed in for good measure. This new mode dubbed “Fire Team” is by far my favorite part of Warfighter. It mixes the ideas of co-op and competitive perfectly. You are teamed up with one other person who serves as your ‘everything’. They will be your spawn point, share your rewards and even offer up health and ammo. It screams of team dynamics, and it works. Fighting it out with someone else really takes the online game to a new level, and I hope it is something other developers copy in the future.
Once you get past that, the rest feels fairly standard as far as options are concerned. You have various classes that you can play as, with each one offering their own benefits. You can also choose from different countries, which also come with their own unique attributes and perks. Leveling up is a grind of epic proportions, though. Once you make a choice you are bound to it, and experimenting is not this game’s strong point. Want to change something about your loadout? Prepare to grind with better players until you unlock it.
The menu system is also convoluted leaving players digging deep into menus to get the match types they want. Quick match is always easily accessible, but if you want to control your experience, prepare to be patient. The gameplay is also methodical in its pacing. This is not a Call of Duty so to speak; you are not running around popping enemies left and right. You have to think more carefully and manage your shots better. Switching to your sidearm is a must-learn tactic, and one that can save your skin. Gamers will no doubt enjoy what is here, even if it is derivative. The real question is can it stand the test of time. Maps are small and spawn points troublesome, and with another big shooter waiting in the wings, how long players stick with it is questionable.
Visually, the game is amazing at times. The aforementioned hurricane level is really well done, and the Frostbite 2 engine is capable of rendering some gorgeous graphics. The engine is also in its infancy so developers are still learning how it works. This is evident with the series of weird glitches and graphical inconsistencies throughout the game. That is the biggest problem here: lack of consistency. The game goes from breathtaking to questionable far too often. The audio is serviceable with decent voice acting and great effects and ambience. The music is standard orchestral fare, but manages to set the mood more often than not.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter is an interesting beast. While it is certainly not offensive on any level, it also fails to be impressive most of the time. The campaign is all over the place, and the Fire Team mechanic is outstanding, but the rest feels inconsistent at times, and incomplete at others. MoH has still failed to get back to its original standard, but continues to improve year after year. The question is whether the team will figure it out before the military FPS craze dies out. I think it would do Danger Close well to take a little more time and really create a unique experience next time around. Warfighter simply falls short of being a must own in this sea of releases.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.