Poor Afghanistan; itâs really had it rough. Thanks to the strange twists of geo-political fate, it has been given the dubious honour of being wedged right on the boundary of the East and the West. As a result itâs been a staging post, a frontier, and a perpetual battlefield for over two millennia.
Darius of Persia, Alexander the Great, the colonial British, the âCoalition of the Willingâ; all have gotten up in Afghanistanâs kitchen and blown up, set fire to, or shot at most of that mysterious country.
And we can add one more entity to the long list of Afghanistan's conquering heroes and marauding mobs: EA Games.
The iconic Medal of Honor series has been going for some time now. Since its first release in 1999, it has come to define the World War Two shooter genre (along with its eternal rival Call of Duty).
But itâs now 2010. Thatâs a long time. The Medal of Honor series has lasted nearly twice as long as World War Two did. I donât know about you, but I find that a little bizarre. The simple fact is that eleven years have passed since EA Gamesâ pixelated troops landed on Omaha beach. Thereâs just no more gas in the World War Two tank.
Itâs time for a change of scenery, and what better place to go than a country thatâs never not been at war.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare may have beaten EA to the âmodernâ warfare punch. But Medal of Honor 2010 is gearing up to give Call of Duty a run for its money. The single player is currently being polished off by EA Games Los Angeles, but its multiplayer offering (tweaked and moulded by EA Gamesâ subsidiary DICE) is now out in beta form. I decided to sit down and put it through its paces. Hoooah!
DICE have two game styles on offer for Medal of Honor enthusiasts to sink their teeth into. Firstly a team assault mode, featuring the map Kabul City. And secondly a combat mission, which places you right in the middle of a squad of American soldiers or a band Taliban insurgents, both who are fighting for control of the strategically important Helmand Valley.
The first mode is fairly standard. Team assault is essentially just team death match with more ruined cars to hide around. Even if youâve only played a first person shooter online for a few minutes youâll be familiar with the drill. In all honesty, I was a little disappointed â but maybe years of Counter-strike and Day of Defeat have numbed my appreciation for a good ten versus ten fire fight. But, therein lies my criticism of the game mode. Itâs essentially the same as every other first person shooter that has sported a multiplayer option. But you canât really fault DICE for including online gamingâs bread and butter.
The second offering, the Combat mission, was much more interesting and seemed to more appropriately gel with the switch to both modern combat, and the Afghan setting. The map is quite well designed, with many sneaky sniper spots and defensive positions. It even comes complete with French-era palaces (which unfortunately you canât retreat to â that would have been badass) bunkers, and machine gun nests. If you play as the Americans you can even hop into a Bradley, and bring some motorised pain to the terrible Taliban. Just watch out for RPG rockets. They pop out of nowhere. Its bloody annoying.
In both modes you are afforded the same three classes; Rifleman, with, well... an assault-rifle; the self explanatory sniper, and a middle of the road support class â with handy anti-tank capabilities. The balance seems to work so far. Although the continued (and in my grumpy traditionalist view, somewhat unnecessary) fad of levelling up better players does skew the balance at times. But at least it means you can add upgrades to your boom-sticks. Shiny new toys are always nice.
Itâs a little hard to judge the graphics of the title from a multiplayer beta. It wouldnât be fair. As expected there was the odd glitch here and there, and I delighted in defying the laws of gravity by scaling rock formation I shouldnât have been able to. The addition of semi-destructible environments does make the experience more visceral than other multiplayer titles, but the graphical design is nothing to stage a homecoming parade about. It does the job, and looks reasonable. For multiplayer dogfights I donât really see that as much of a problem; hardcore multiplayer gamers arenât looking for intense water reflections and individually rendered bullet casings. They are going for frame rates â and MOH performed admirably on the two computers I tested it on. However, the physics engine really took the term ârag doll' to heart â some of the death animations would have been funny if they werenât so bad.
Spineless soldiers aside, special mention should be given to the sound design. Sure, the rock wall I was cowering for fear of my life behind may have looked a bit naff â but the bullets flying and explosions in the distance went a long way towards increasing my emotional immersion.
Medal of Honor 2010âs multiplayer is shaping up to a solid addition to the title, and one that if given enough community support, could have a bit of longevity. However, while I hid behind rocks, or landed an impressive headshot from five hundred metres away, I couldn't help feeling that Iâve played this game before.
Recognition isnât a bad thing. But after pondering about why I felt this sense of dĂ©jĂ vu, it dawned on me. Even with all its new environments and attention to realism, The Medal of Honor multiplayer beta didnât really show me anything new or interesting enough to get my blood pumping.
Thereâs no doubt Medal of Honorâs 2010 multiplayer offering does what it set out to do. But in a cramped multiplayer market that demands differentiation, itâs going to be interesting to see how close to the bulls-eye the series sixth PC title will score.
The Good: Charging roadblocks in an armour-plated Bradley
The Bad: Four Taliban firing their RPGs at my Bradley
The Ugly: Not being able to get out of the Bradley