EA and developer Danger Close, yet again, try to present gamers with a different take on the military shooter genre. The story that drives Medal of Honor Warfighter forward contains a novel twist. The story attempts to present to players how Tier 1 operatives must balance their lives both on the battlefield and at home. We were given a chance to review the Xbox 360 version, and after putting some time into it, it’s safe to say Warfighter fails to successfully bring anything new to the ocean of military shooters.
As mentioned earlier, Warfighter strives to provide players with a genuine impression of what it’s like to live as a Tier 1 operator, the elite operatives at the center of the modernized Medal of Honor series. Danger Close establishes right from the start that they truly respect the brave men and women who put themselves on the line for others. Warfighter’s story begins through a series of brief cut scenes that show snippets of protagonist “Preacher’s” life. Initially interesting, the cut scenes bring up a lot of questions. Why Does Preacher put himself on the line every day? How does he maintain his relationship with his wife? So much potential is seen here, but so little information is given throughout the campaign about Preacher and his life past the introduction of the game. The globetrotting campaign tours terrorist hot spots like Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and the Philippines, but the weak narrative thread barely holds these missions together.
During my time with the entirety of Warfighter’s five-hour campaign, I encountered one stale design idea after another. Each mission contains linear sequences that end up feeling boring. Enemies constantly pop up and out of cover waiting to be shot. Once they’ve been dispatched, your squad kicks down a door, kills a handful of villains in slow motion, and moves onto the next section of the predictable mission structure. I was frustrated by the lack of strategic options during combat. NPC soldiers would block my path down narrow corridors, halting any progress towards alternative routes. Much of my time with Warfighter just felt too restricted. For instance, many doors wouldn’t open unless an ally opened them. It felt like Preacher forgot how to open doors. On top of that, Warfighter’s single player campaign takes the control away from players far too often. Helicopters fly in to destroy targets you couldn’t, and during the typical rail shooter sequences I soon realized that the boat I was in was indestructible. Simply put, this took away any challenge. On the bright side, the weapons do feel great. Thanks to the Frostbite Engine (Battlefield 3’s attractive powerhouse) Medal of Honor feels as good as it looks. Warfighter does win some points for impressive attention to atmospheric environmental detail.
Ultimately Medal of Honor’s single player campaign feels like a poorly done replica of what we have come to expect in a Military shooter. The disappointing part is that Warfighter fails to do anything better than its military shooter brethren. Hoping that the multiplayer would be its saving grace, I eagerly entered Warfighters online system. Danger Close brings in everything one would expect, from detailed stat tracking, unlockable attachments and weapons, and five different game modes. The setup is promising. Players choose between six classes – sniper, spec ops, point man, heavy gunner, demolitions, and assaulter. Classes are identified by their class abilities and support actions. After choosing your class, you are paired up with another person to form a two-man Fireteam. Warfighter encourages players to resupply and heal their teammate. If your partner is gunned down, a red halo appears around the killer to aid you in exacting your revenge.
The Fireteam concept is great, but Warfighter’s multiplayer is plagued by several issues. Inconsistent hit detection, sluggish movement, and a confusing user interface mars the gameplay. Danger Close even fumbles the basics, like respawn locations and terrain navigation. The game allows you to spawn aside your Fireteam member when he or she isn’t engaged in direct combat, but when playing modes like Hotspot (which tasks you with attacking or defending various locations), choosing to respawn can occasionally drop you directly into the line of mortar fire or right next to an enemy. Most of the objective based game modes encourage strategy and cooperation, and Danger Close includes a hardcore modifier called Real Ops that allows you to experience two of the modes with the HUD elements pared down and friendly fire turned on. Danger Close explores interesting twists in its game modes with Hotspot constantly changing bomb-planting locations and Home Run forbidding respawns during Capture the Flag. These modes are amusing, but other shooters, including Medal of Honor’s sister series, Battlefield, have executed similar game modes much better.
Even Warfighter’s class system disappoints in several aspects. Each specialty has its own unique skills, such as the heavy’s armor boost or the scout’s ability to see through walls, but the customization of those characters is restricted to their weapons. The frequent use of support items adds an unpredictable element to each match, but the moment-to-moment gunplay simply isn’t on the same level as the campaign. The satisfaction one receives while executing a perfect head shot does not exist online. More often than not, lethal shots to your foes’ heads and hearts often don’t drop them dead, completely ruining the pace of an already shaky online experience.
Danger Close made a good choice when they chose to use the Frostbite Engine. Warfighter looks amazing. When sniping, bullets drop over long distances, shotguns have plenty of oomph and each gun has its own individual feel. Environmental destruction is at play once again, like wooden cover that can be chewed up by gunfire, and plenty of vehicles and barrels of flammable liquid offer up impressive explosions. However, Warfighter does contain some very disappointing technical issues. As problematic as the rest of the game is, the technical issues only wound it more. In both the campaign and online modes, character models vanish from existence, sound drops in and out, the frame rate plummets, and textures sometimes look washed-out and low-res. Even after applying a 2GB HD update in the Xbox 360 version I still found many sloppy looking environments. All of these issues showing up in a game using an engine as gorgeous as the Frostbite Engine is truly disappointing. The audio in Medal of Honor Warfighter is good for the most part. The voice acting is well done, and is complimented by the solid score. The sound of bullets whizzing by is alarming and impressive, and the score is both appropriate and well composed. Sadly the audio also has some technical issues. When the audio is working properly, it’s great, but on a few occasions the audio would fade in and out randomly, and stutter.
Much of Medal of Honor: Warfighter comes so close to being good, but ultimately so much of it falls completely flat. The game is full of missed opportunities and one firefight that feels exactly like the one before it. The AI is erratic, the story isn’t well presented, and the uneven design doesn’t feel inspired. The general control of the game is reliable and responsive, and the multiplayer is occasionally amusing. As a whole though, Warfighter feels like it was released unfinished. At its core, Warfighter is hurt by its significant technical issues and its cobweb covered, stale design choices. Warfighter isn’t a terrible game, but it really isn’t worth your time when other titles do everything it tries to do so much better.