Video Game Review: ‘Medal of Honor’ Looks Great But Shoots Blanks

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CHICAGO – The world of video game development can be oddly cyclical. There was a time when the creators of the “Call of Duty” games looked to the success of the “Medal of Honor” games and now the coin has flipped as the reboot of “MOH” has been clearly-inspired by the success of games like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” and “Battlefield: Bad Company 2.” While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, “Medal of Honor” too often feels like a mere a shadow of games that have traveled the same roads more entertainingly. Video Game Rating: 3.5/5.0
Video Game Rating: 3.5/5.0

There are several elements that the developers of “Medal of Honor” got right, so let’s start with the positive. First and foremost, the game looks great. As you travel through the intense campaign that tries to recreate what it’s like to be a Tier 1 soldier in a current Middle East conflict, you’ll be consistently impressed with the detailed environments and the remarkable attention to detail.

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
Photo credit: EA

Fire fights in “Medal of Honor” have a visceral power in no small part due to the exploding rocks, heavy smoke in the air, blowing leaves, and other elements that most war games have completely ignored. The sense of being in the natural world whether it’s climbing mountains to stage an ambush or digging in behind a rock to avoid one truly enhances the “MOH” experience. There’s also a depth and beauty to the skyline and backgrounds that’s notable. “Medal of Honor” looks great. To be fair, it sounds great too. The intensity of the explosions, the general chatter of your fellow soldiers, the sound of gunfire in the distance — the audio design is arguably the best thing about “Medal of Honor.”

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
Photo credit: EA

It’s also a notably deep game in terms of modes and gameplay styles even if they are merely variations on things that we’ve seen before. Regardless of their familiarity, fans of games like “Medal of Honor” want to make sure they get depth for their buck and while the single-player campaign is typically short, the variety of multiplayer modes should keep players busy for days.

But busy with what? For the most part, busy with things that we’ve seen before. Almost every single element of “Medal of Honor” feels not just familiar but like something that was done better in the recent past. Developed by the same studio (DICE), the multiplayer modes of “Medal of Honor” present a similar structure as “Battlefield: Bad Company 2” but the problem is that the maps are undeniably inferior to the perfectly-designed ones in “BC2”. The maps in “Medal of Honor” are incredibly small, making modes like “Sector Control” (basically a variation on “Conquest” from “Battlefield”) unbelievably frustrating. The elements that we’ve all grown to hate in war multiplayer titles — a tendency to get shot before you’ve even completely spawned, an overabundance of players per square mile that creates a “twitch” mentality that seems to reward luck more than skill — are far-too-prevalent in “Medal of Honor.”

The single-player campaign in “Medal of Honor” promises “the most authentic and relevant combat to date” but it feels so much like “BC2” and “Modern Warfare 2” that the familiarity makes it less exciting to play. It’s broken up into sub-missions that anyone who has played a title like this before could predict including a rail shooter helicopter mission, a few sniper missions, and, generally, just a lot of destruction. There are moments of intensity in the single-player campaign for “Medal of Honor,” including a sequence in which you’re trapped in a valley that is being descended upon by what seems like hundreds of enemies, but the whole experience has a deja vu feeling and nothing is less thrilling than familiarity. The fact that campaign missions can be played again in “Tier 1 Mode,” in which the player tries to land the best time and the most skill kills in an arcade-esque experience, is just a little bizarre. It’s hard to claim realism when a real combat scenario is being turned into an online competition based on best time.

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
Photo credit: EA

Of course, most people who play “Medal of Honor” will ignore the campaign and jump right into the chaotic multiplayer. It’s here where the game’s lack of design creativity really hurts the title. The MP section includes three classes — Riflemen, Special Ops, and Sniper — none of which are as deep or well-conceived as the classes in “Battlefield.”

Multiplayer modes include the most-unique “Combat Mission,” the standard “Sector Control,” the deathmatch “Team Assault,” and the co-op “Objective Raid.” “Combat Mission” takes place on three maps with five objectives per map. The player is either an attacker or defender and the objectives are story-based. Death depletes a Team Health meter, which is refreshed with each completed mission. It’s not unlike “Rush” mode in “BC2” but the story-based objectives are at least original.

“Sector Control” is pretty self-explanatory although several of the maps on which it takes place are horrendously-designed. Some are too small, creating a constant swapping of sector flags, while others have objective positions that are nearly impossible to overtake. A time-based “Objective Raid” mode plays like something of a blend of “Combat” and “Control,” as players either attack or defend two objective positions. Finally, “Team Assault” is a 12-on-12 free-for-all.

Is it being too hard on “Medal of Honor” to call it a disappointment? The fact is that while gaming is cyclical, it is also very much a market in which each release is expected to top the one that came before it. Those of us who thought that “Medal of Honor” could join the ranks of “COD” and “Battlefield: Bad Company 2” will almost certainly be disappointed that such is not the case. “Medal of Honor” features enough expertly-designed technical elements to warrant a look but the weak multiplayer map design and a generic campaign are too large a part of the title to ignore.

The game may not miss the target but it’s certainly not a skilled head shot. If you’re forgiving of multiplayer shooters, the game looks great enough that you should enlist. If you’re a casual player, wait for “Battlefield Bad Company: Vietnam” and “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and hope that the cycle turns completely to “Medal of Honor” for the inevitable sequel instead of this half-rotation.

Check out a trailer before you try and join Tier 1:

‘Medal of Honor’ was released by Electronic Arts and developed by EA LA and DICE. It is rated M (Mature). The version reviewed was for the PS3, but the title is also available for the XBox 360. It was released on October 12th, 2010. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

Robert C's picture

To me, it was the opposite.

I also don’t find the game on par with CoD MW2 & BFBC2. But it is the multiplayer a lot better than the campaign. The campaign is way, but way too short. Throughout the campaign I felt a weird feeling about it. The best scene of the campaign was effectively the Valley, but just to cut it short right after that one. Go figure.

I was pretty disapointed by the campaign, enough to almost bring it back to GameStop for a credit after only 2 nights of play. But then, I started playing the multiplayer, which changed my mind. I admit, I am a big fan of Bad Company 2, hence my linking to the multiplayer part of the game.

I haven’t found the maps to be less effective than BC2. I admit, that the maps are smaller, probably to look more like CoC MW2. But other then that, I find them effective enough, even without Destruction 2.0. Cheers

Anonymous's picture

I find this article holds merit

I was one of the many whom picked up MOH at its Midnight release and within 24 hours was done with its super short single player campaign on all diffiuclty levels. But to be fair I didn’t buy this game for the single player modes which comes up relatively uneventful with an all to abrupt ending. Upon my first completion I was left with a feeling that mimics the pharse “that’s it?”.

Now after breezing thru the single player if for anything more to seemlessly learn the controls, which were very similar to BBC2, I jumped right into the multiplayer landscapes. I tried every mode some felt like every other online shooter in many ways. Modes that are just a killing free for all bore the crap out of me. The maps were short but detailed and just left me feeling way too cramped, who really wants to be on a block of real estate with 23 other people trying to kill eachother. Most modes left much to be desired.

I did take a liking to the online combat missions which was probably because I loved the formula from Battlefield Bad Company 2 Rush mode. It is for all intensive purposes the eact same thing. You and your team attack or defend objectives while trying to stay alive. Attackers must set an enemy guarded charge and make sure it goes off before the team of defenders turns it off all before running out of a collective teams given set of lives. The only real difference between MOH and BC2 is in MOH your team cannot blow up the objectives, which is too bad because everyone knows blowing stuff up is fun.
Even the maps for this mode were fairly short and even if that was not an issue there are only three maps, yup thats right only 3. Leveling up each tier was not an issue came relatively easy with not any real interesting earned items and had a lot to do with luck over skill.

Spawn camping in this mode was a huge issue, so many times did I spawn to my death, very frustrating. Hiding places for the snipers was like prime real estate since I would find me a nice nook and the next thing I know my friggin team of apparent A-holes is stabbing me until I would leave the spot out of shear annoyance. Later finding out not only did they take the time to stab the crap out of me in my hiding spot but were so enraged I was there they would give me a bad gamer review, which I understand has more to do with the teens who got their hands on a mature game than the game itself. But a simple feature to rid ones team of disruptive players would have helped.

I loved BC2 for the shooting characteristics of the recon spec, more guns, more toys and something like mild bullet drop from great distances. In MOH anyone who wasn’t blind or wearing a depth vision restrictive eye patch was too lethal for their own good.

It is unfortunate that I did not read any game reiews for MOH before buying it because I could have saved the money while playing BC2. This game is nothing more than a compilation of other shooter games with not enough of their features inproved upon to be any better, I expected more and got far less. Lets hope this was just a trial junping off point for what may be in the future.

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