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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

Danger Close / DICE

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

October 12, 2010

 

 

- Realism and historical accuracy are refreshing
- Highly tactical multiplayer gameplay
- Overall high production values

 

 

- Online player balance issues
- Questionable scenario design choices
- EA Online Pass

 

 

Review: Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (360)

Review: Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (360)

Review: Metro 2033 (360)

 

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Medal of Honor

Score: 5.5 / 10

 

medal of honor           medal of honor

 

It has been almost a decade since the United States invaded Afghanistan, subsequent to 9/11 and the Taliban's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden. It has been long, bloody, and filled with not only tragedy but heroism. It is in this theatre of conflict, what many had claimed for years was a "forgotten war" after the invasion of Iraq, that the newest iteration of Medal of Honor takes place.

Set sometime during the early days of the invasion, MoH's single-player campaign takes us through a cinematic storyline involving two different Advanced Force Operation teams, a squad of U.S. Army Rangers, and a brief sequence with a pair

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of Apache gunship pilots. Meanwhile, the multiplayer end attempts to recreate places such as the ruined streets of Kabul and the marketplaces of Kandahar as the arenas for the bloody fighting between U.S. Coalition forces and Taliban fighters. And, while MoH is certainly stylish, it's not precisely an unqualified victory for first-person shooter fans.

There's very little to

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complain about with regards to the visual aspects of the game. Character models are well detailed, as are weapon and vehicle models. Effects such as smoke and swirling dust help add to the depth of realism in the game, as do the visual enhancements of thermographic and night vision modes when the player has the opportunity to use them. While there weren't any obvious visual problems in the single-player campaign, there were noticeable problems in the multiplayer component, including clipping issues, model pop-up, and a bit of texture cracking here and there. During one multiplayer match, it was particularly troublesome when the crosshairs of my scope on a sniper rifle wouldn't display at all until after I had fired a shot and right before the animation to work the bolt commenced. Needless to say, it was an impediment to my effectiveness for the team.

As with the graphics, sound has little to provide in the way of complaint. Weapon sounds are distinctive and well done, the voice work is top notch in terms of clarity and characterization for the single player mode, and the musical score being evocative without being overwhelming. If there's any complaint on the single player side of things, it's packaging in Linkin Park's "The Catalyst" as the end credit song. I like Linkin Park quite a bit, but tacking on one of their singles and not having any other songs from similar artists just makes it feel like a cheap tie-in. Multiplayer fares a bit better, with the only problem that I observed being a small issue with my headset not seeming to pick up my voice properly from time to time. Usually, leaving a match and going into a new one resolved the problem.

It is in the gameplay that Medal of Honor does some really good things and some really stupid things. For the single player campaign, the developers take us through the early days of the Afghan invasion when Special Forces units, the fabled "Tier 1 operators," roamed the rough countryside of Kandahar and Paktia looking for Osama bin Laden and the hiding places where he and his recently ousted Taliban supporters were laying up. From there, the action builds to a fever pitch as Rangers, SEALs, Delta Force operators, and a pair of Apache attack helicopters move through the mountains of southern Afghanistan, culminating in a series of events which appear to be loosely based on the real life events of Operation Anaconda, staged in and around the Shahi-Kot Valley in March 2002. I give high marks for Danger Close's efforts to make the single player campaign fast paced and engrossing. However, I have to also penalize them for delivering a campaign that's way too short. With nine years worth of material, they could have given players a much better view of the Afghan War and the role of Special Forces in that war. Instead, we get an abridged history of one major operation with a lot of the meat cut away. If there was any one mission that I simultaneously enjoyed and could have done without, it was the short level playing as the Apache gunship designated "Gunfighter Six." The sequence itself was fun, but it was far too short, and the only level of its kind. It was a tease, really, which pretty much sums up the whole single player campaign. At the end of the campaign, when the credits start rolling, it feels not like you've had an engaging experience, but that you've had an engaging experience dangled in front of you which never gets delivered.

 

medal of honor          medal of honor


Some will argue that Medal of Honor's main selling point isn't the single player game but the multiplayer. Here too, we see results which are very satisfying and results which are totally unsatisfying. The gameplay is not quite so over the top like Modern Warfare 2, and it definitely pays to have people on your team who know how to work well together. There is definitely a strong tactical feel to the maps and the various objectives of the gameplay modes which is a definite change of pace from the pure run-and-gun of Call of Duty.

Players can choose one of the three classes, usually switchable after being killed, with which to do battle. Advancement is made on a class basis rather than a player basis, so a player who has reached the maximum level in the sniper class won't necessarily be as dangerous if he hasn't been keeping up on the rifleman or SpecOps class. As a player goes up in a class, new weapons and weapons modifications become available. Certain maps are more conducive to one class or another, so the opportunity for a balanced rate of progression through the ranks is certainly possible. The problem here is that the rate of progression is painfully slow for new players. The chief culprit for this is the lack of dedicated servers. Without the servers, the players are thrown into a jumble which might lead to a well balanced mix of roughly equivalent ranked players and classes or a bloodbath of low ranked players being slaughtered by higher ranked players. While the map designs themselves are quite well done, there are some questions about the gameplay modes that leave me scratching my head. I cannot fathom why the Objective Raid scenario is locked with respect to the defenders always being the Coalition forces and the attackers always being the Taliban (or OPFOR as they're referred to in the game). By the same token, I cannot understand why the Taliban are always the defenders in the Combat Mission scenario and the Coalition forces are the attackers. The two scenarios are distinctly different from each other, yet there's not any realistic reason I can discern outside of designer fiat that an Objective Raid scenario couldn't be run where the Taliban has to defend their two pieces of equipment, nor is there any equally realistic reason that the Coalition couldn't be require to hold off a large scale assault. Locking down aggressor and defender forces in this fashion robs the game of some perfectly good gameplay value.

As for the "free" DLC pack that adds a "last man standing" gameplay mode, it's a fun and to me highly realistic scenario which nicely mimics the life-or-death nature of a combat operation. I just wish you didn't have to use EA's idiotic Online Pass to be able to download it. It should have been included in the actual release, not held back and dangled in front of players to justify EA's banditry.

While the developers took a commendable risk to bring Medal of Honor into the current era, and are to be praised for trying to bring us a more realistic experience than the competition, the effort suffers from the overly short single player campaign, questionable scenario structures and player balancing issues in multiplayer, and the continuing stain of EA's Online Pass scheme. Fans of the series and those looking for something less over the top than Modern Warfare 2 can find a lot to like in the game, but they need to be aware of the very strange limitations within its Standard Operating Procedures.

 

- Axel Cushing

(November 19, 2010)

 

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