In the crowded first-person shooter market, it's important for a game to carve out a niche--do something better than or different from its competitors. Medal of Honor tries to do just that by representing a real conflict that is really happening in a real country between two real opposing forces. From the chatter among the soldiers and the authentic weapons to the environmental continuity, there are many elements that enliven the campaign with an invigorating sense of realism. Unfortunately, this energy is diminished somewhat by a bunch of video game-y elements, like invisible walls, invincible allies, and an incongruous icon that pops up whenever you get a headshot. The campaign finds a reasonable balance between realism and escapism, where it manages to provide a fairly engrossing experience despite its flaws. The online multiplayer offers many thrills of its own, and the adherence to realism makes for battlefields where the only thing between you and a swift death is your gun and your reflexes. Both the single-player and multiplayer components provide some robust entertainment, and though flaws and limitations keep it from being all it can be, Medal of Honor still distinguishes itself on the field of first-person battle.
6281791NoneThis is where the term "riding machine gun" comes from.
The single-player campaign takes place in Afghanistan, where craggy peaks loom over dry, rocky terrain. You are part of an American military effort to find and eliminate Taliban forces, and the grounded-in-reality premise feels more immediate than those that feature fictional enemies. The nicely varied environments provide an attractive array of places to wage war, and even though the visuals suffer from some technical imperfections, the fact that the whole campaign takes place in one region of the world creates a good sense of cohesion. It's easy to keep track of who you are and where you fit into the offensive even though you play as multiple characters. While come cutscenes provide good dramatic set-up, the ham-fisted interactions that take place in the command outpost often feel cliche and cheap. It's probably for the best that Medal of Honor didn't take on a wider representation of the current conflict, focusing instead on the characters you meet in the field and their soldierly attitudes. The great battlefield chatter portrays intriguing facets of professionalism and camaraderie among the soldiers, setting an authentic tone that enhances the experience.
During the course of the campaign, you engage in heated firefights and quietly infiltrate enemy encampments, which are familiar actions that feel good thanks to solid controls. Playing as different soldiers provides markedly different combat experiences, and the game transitions between protagonists in logical ways. For example, after fighting your way through enemy artillery positions, you find yourself facing a frightening onslaught that threatens to overwhelm your squad. Your desperate stand ends in a dramatic rescue, and you then play as rescuers as they take on their next mission. On-foot missions are punctuated by exciting moments when you direct powerful air support, and an intense vehicle sequence gives way to a more methodical assault. Things proceed at a good pace, and it's invigorating to realize that all of the exciting action you are engaged in takes place within the bounds of a realistic military operation.
Despite the focus on realism, however, Medal of Honor tries to tightly control your experience throughout the campaign, and this leads to some unfortunate problems. Part of the campaign experience immerses you in the dialogue among your squadmates and up the command chain (some of which is thoughtfully spent ensuring that the individuals in your crosshairs are actually enemies). Much of this chatter is delivered on the run, but there are times when your progress is halted at a flimsy door or a short rocky ledge to let your squadmates talk. There are also a lot of invisible walls that prevent you from going off the beaten path. These two elements seem designed to keep you in line so you can experience the campaign the way it was meant to be experienced, but they can feel heavy handed and restrictive at times. Perhaps more egregious is the not-so-hot enemy AI. The Taliban soldiers can shoot and take cover reasonably well, but they often enter the battlefield or stick their heads out from behind cover in alarmingly predictable ways.
You almost feel bad for a guy whose version of night vision goggles is an oil lantern.