Medal of Honor

War is hell. And the Medal of Honor series has been serving up fresh versions of that hell since 1999, because from behind a TV, it’s perfectly safe. Typically set in World War II, MoH games are some of the most realistic shooters on the market. They attempt to re-create as stringently as possible the atmosphere of hot combat. Certainly there’s no claiming that the 2010 version doesn’t live up to the latter part of this legacy - the hornet-like hum of rounds ought to cause adrenal liquefaction in the most hardened gamers. But it does take a step out of its comfort zone in one important respect: Medal of Honour, by Danger Close, is set in Afghanistan.

This is not a recent conflict. That would imply past tense. This conflict is happening right now. You have to appreciate the cojones on the developers and publishers, in making a game they had to know would attract detractors the way Apaches attract RPGs. It’s not for me to pontificate about the rights and the wrongs, here. But it did make me wonder whether MoH could potentially turn people off modern conflict, or turn them on to it (and perhaps incite a mad rush at American recruiting stations). But that’s not about the setting or timing. That’s simply about how intense and visceral this game is.

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Now, you’ll either be the kind of gamer who finishes up a session at the controls of an intensely realistic war game and thinks, “Wow, I’m glad I’m not in combat for reals,” or the kind that goes “Point me to my imminent doom, Sar’nt.” But that doesn’t even matter. If you like tactical shooters, your decision is as good as made.

The story goes that Tier 1 Operators are the elite of the elite, and it’s the shoes of these men you wear into the war-torn mountains and wadis of Afghanistan. These are soldiers who know more ways to kill you than you know cheesy pick up lines, but fortunately their focus is on eliminating the Taliban. In consultation with actual military professionals, the devs have created a campaign in which you’ll get to play as a range of different characters, attached to different squads, with a range of brilliantly laid out missions. The way they have tied them together is fantastic; an overarching storyline cut through with superb cutscenes. In doing so, they have also managed to create a real bond between player and character, and a seamless flow from one mission (and part of the story) to the next.

After your pinned-down squad is relieved by a pair of Apaches, for example, you’ll find yourself in the gunner’s seat of one of the birds in the next mission. The radio chatter will continue as you move from chapter to chapter, so you always know what’s going on with the other teams. You’ll use accurate weapons, fight against Taliban speaking accurate dialects, in extremely believable terrain and weather conditions. The scripting in MoH is excellent, without any of that hammy bonhomie you so often get in squad-based shooters, and delivered through the squelch of a radio, it too, is extremely authentic.

MoH also includes an online single player mode, called Tier 1. Unlike regular single player, there are no checkpoints, which means if you die, you have to restart the level. Just imagine how your friends will mock you - and that’s the rub with Tier 1 mode; you’re competing against people you know to get the most kills and the best time in each of the campaign missions. You can track your friends’ progress by markers throughout the level, and the difficulty is ramped up too: you can’t beg ammo from team mates, health regenerates more slowly and there is no “Snap” feature on your weapon sights.

That’s not to say the game’s easy in regular old offline single player. In fact, this game is damn hard, even on the easiest difficulty. I died lots. Fortunately, forgiving checkpointing means you don’t have to backtrack too much, which is a very good thing. I probably couldn’t have had nearly as much patience restarting missions, otherwise. But, you know, that’s all part of it. Again, those military consultants come into play with their bold stories of war and the developers set the effect of taking too many rounds accordingly.

Naturally, a massive drawcard for this year’s MoH gamers will be the multiplayer modes. There are a stack of modes included, along with the ability to play as a range of character classes, gain experience, customize weapons and battle it out across a number of different maps. Due to a lack of competition during the review period, I actually spent precisely zero time in multi, so can’t give any impressions from the public battlefield. On paper, it looks fantastic, but soon after the game is out I am sure you won’t need us to tell you that. When a game comes stacked with so many multi options, it’s a tough thing to review anyway: we can say it’s varied just by looking at the PR material, and the experience will be completely unique from player to player. Among good devs, that’s often the intent.

The two things that really bring MoH to life are the graphics and the sound. Both are excellent, but the star really is the frantic, gut-churning sound effects and excellent - almost haunting - use of music. MoH has often done this exceedingly well - you won’t hear a single rifle report that doesn’t match more or less exactly to the real thing; the chatter of the enemy as you cower in the shadows is frightening; the explosions, jet engines and buzz of your comms, exhilarating. In addition, and this is something I actually mentioned this in my review of Enslaved last week, sometimes the absence of sound is just as important: silence is as terrifying as it is golden.

Bullets find their mark with the trademark kicks of dust, or, if you’re sharp, a gout of blood. The physics in the game are almost always good - except when bodies are blasted, seemingly frozen in shape, into the air by hellfire rockets. The environments could have maybe used a bit more work; this is mostly in terms of up-close vegetation, but this is something we see artists getting wrong in the best of the best, so it’s no big concern. Best (or worst) of all, is that your foe is unmistakably human in the way they move, interact with each other and react to your presence. This keeps the intensity at a fever pitch for the entire game, but unfortunately that human element isn’t seen everywhere.

Those unmistakably human enemies sometimes becoming unmistakably stupid as they charge right into your position, only to fire off a couple of rounds and then run away again. What makes this even more infuriating, is that they’ll usually be shooting you, while you’re peering down the sights at their mates. Your own team won’t do jack about it, and won’t even shoot them in the back as they scarper.

Your buddies also have an infuriating habit of jumping into your field of fire then having a go at you shooting them, “I’m on your side!” they moan, after jumping in front of your SAW when you’re already halfway through a clip. “I’m only laying suppressing fire LIKE YOU ASKED!” you’ll scream, before you realise you’re the only one in the room.

Miraculously, it seems Tier 1 soldiers can’t make their way up small slopes or through gaps that should be no problem. What I’m getting at here is that the linear paths you have to travel with your crew (or in some cases to rally with them) allow for very little deviation. This can sometimes mean you spend ages trying to walk fruitlessly over or around an obstacle that should pose absolutely no hindrance to a military man of your calibre. Very annoying.

Fortunately, there is very little to be said about the controls that’s negative. Sometimes it can be a bit fiddly using the control pad to change the fire rate on your weapon in the heat of battle, and getting your meagre HUD to appear by the same method can feel a little unnatural. Other than that, it’s plain sailing.

Between sniper missions, marking targets for air support, gunning from choppers, warming your knife, close combat and laying suppression from a distance, MoH should deliver everything shooter fans are looking for. The single player campiagn isn’t huge, but if the multi has the distance it appears to (again, on paper) then it should provide plenty of game time for eager armchair soldiers.

As I go on to replay MoH, I will be asking myself again if it is just maybe a little too realistic. But in a market as saturated as this one, developers need a hook. Danger Close’s is surely something along the lines of “it’ll make you want to go.”

Either that, or, as I said, “keep me the hell away from there.” Happy hunting, everyone.

Note: More impressions of the online multiplayer will be coming with our PC version review in the coming days.

"Even Special Forces can’t eat bullets."
- Medal of Honor
Follow Own it? Rating: R16   Difficulty: Hard   Learning Curve: 15 Min


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Comments Comments (23)

Posted by Moneyshot
On Wednesday 13 Oct 2010 11:12 AM
linear paths....yawn.
Posted by Ubercuber
On Wednesday 13 Oct 2010 12:24 PM
Reviews have been really average for this seems like people want to score it lower - but just cant.
Posted by KoneHead
On Wednesday 13 Oct 2010 12:29 PM
Who cares about the single player anyway - bring on the multiplayer online - Beta was awesome!!!!! Played really well too and that was on a US server. ;)
Posted by NetPirate68
On Wednesday 13 Oct 2010 12:49 PM
Are any of these Teir 1 Operators part of the NZ SAS, I'd love to have a crack at the Talibahn as a member of the NZ SAS, now that would be fun.
Posted by MA3LK
On Wednesday 13 Oct 2010 1:06 PM
13 October 2010, 12:29 PM Reply to KoneHead
Who cares about the single player anyway - bring on the multiplayer online - Beta was awesome!!!!! Played really well too and that was on a US server. ;)
Single player has always been the MOH series draw card. Seems pretty good, so ill probably get this later this year.
Posted by souljah685
On Wednesday 13 Oct 2010 1:53 PM
mate this is gona be STUNNING HAHAHAHA!!! cant wait for my order to come thru :)
Posted by ChatterboxZombie
On Wednesday 13 Oct 2010 4:51 PM
hmmmmmm, strange
Posted by Hervard
On Wednesday 13 Oct 2010 6:12 PM
Sounds generic and boring. Where's the appeal?

Doesn't help that I didn't like the MP beta...

Posted by Hato-kun
On Wednesday 13 Oct 2010 6:32 PM
13 October 2010, 12:29 PM Reply to KoneHead
Who cares about the single player anyway - bring on the multiplayer online - Beta was awesome!!!!! Played really well too and that was on a US server. ;)
Yeah, because no one cares about single player.
Posted by Ninja-15
On Wednesday 13 Oct 2010 7:25 PM
Don't think I'll pick this one up on release. I'll wait for it to drop in price me thinks.
Posted by Syn-Ryn
On Wednesday 13 Oct 2010 8:56 PM
13 October 2010, 12:29 PM Reply to KoneHead
Who cares about the single player anyway - bring on the multiplayer online - Beta was awesome!!!!! Played really well too and that was on a US server. ;)
The beta was.... average...ish...sort of.
Posted by emetic
On Wednesday 13 Oct 2010 11:56 PM
I wonder why it scored only a 7.0 for "value". The rest of the review seemed overwhelmingly positive.
Posted by highnzbudsmoka
On Thursday 14 Oct 2010 6:07 AM
Kinda questioning my preorder after reading this. Still 7 day return at eb so what the hell
Posted by onehitter09
On Thursday 14 Oct 2010 8:56 AM
14 October 2010, 06:07 AM Reply to highnzbudsmoka
Kinda questioning my preorder after reading this. Still 7 day return at eb so what the hell
You got me thinking! :)
Posted by aaronechelonz
On Thursday 14 Oct 2010 5:16 PM
wow I really cant wait to play! I hope I win a copy, this is my favourite war franchise on the playstation that I have the whole lot frm ps1-ps3, this really is a game worth playing and the fact you have scored it at 8.5 makes it an even better wait! thank you NZGAMER! - MOH FAN!
Posted by Lethal_Omega
On Thursday 14 Oct 2010 6:37 PM
I'm all over this tomorrow after work...Can not wait. I loved the beta despite the bad points about it... I love bad company 2 as well so the multiplayer will make this game worth it even if it turns out i don't like the campaign.
Posted by laser101
On Thursday 14 Oct 2010 7:38 PM
This will get owned by black ops
Posted by SkinBintin
On Friday 15 Oct 2010 12:43 AM
The industry doesn't seem to think too much of this. I guess they tried so hard to beat CoD, that they ended up failing to get close.

After reading many reviews, it's gone from must buy to rental. If it plays well, I might still get it. But lets be honest, once Black Ops arrives, I'll never touch it again.
Posted by highnzbudsmoka
On Friday 15 Oct 2010 5:26 AM
14 October 2010, 08:56 AM Reply to onehitter09
You got me thinking! :)
Let me know if ya do get bro. We'll hit up some online play.And anyone else whose interested let me know
Posted by AshPuppet
On Friday 15 Oct 2010 8:08 AM
14 October 2010, 07:38 PM Reply to laser101
This will get owned by black ops
This would have gotten owned by Ghost Recon: Future Soldier but they (Ubisoft) decided to hold onto it (even the beta) until next year for 'financial reasons'.
Posted by oblivious2
On Friday 15 Oct 2010 9:20 AM
finished it in 5 hrs to short and rip off for the money good action toooo small and wich way do i go man why all the hype
Posted by ChiefHank
On Tuesday 19 Oct 2010 10:15 PM
Good game... I thoroughly enjoyed the single-player game, but it was waaaaay too short! Seems like each game is getting shorter and shorter. Tried the multiplayer several times... it sucked! Never got past my respawn point. Got artilleried, missiled, and snipered before I could even move. Screw that! Nubes get lumped in with the no-lifers who already have achieved the highest ranks, and they watch the bases and respawn points, that they have devoted to memory, and all they do is improve their K/D ratio. Screw that! I'm not payin' my ISP to be some loser's wet dream!
Posted by souljah685
On Wednesday 1 Dec 2010 6:45 PM
i really enjoyed SP but have to agree THIS GAME WAS TOOOO SHORT i was gutted... multiplayer is pretty fun but can be a pain when u have to wait for players to join the match!!