Sometimes, I play games. Mostly when I’m supposed to be doing something else, but I play games. For the past few years I’ve somehow managed to complete a single player game during the school/Uni study break period (swotvac). I think the first time this happened I was playing Fallout 3 GotY, but that’s for another time. What follows is my review of Medal of Honor (2010), which unfortunately didn’t get completed in the study period just gone by, but only just recently. There are a few spoilers, but I figure that if you haven’t played it by now you don’t likely care that much anyway. Enjoy!
When I first started playing Medal of Honor, it wasn’t very compelling. The main appeal of this particular triple-A shooter for me wasn’t that it was an alternative to the Call of Duty juggernaut, but that it featured guns. Like a druggie looking for his next hit, I was chasing the feeling of looking down the sights (preferably ACOG, but I’ll take whatever the developers choose to throw at me) and taking down some enemy combatant at range with a well-timed headshot. As cliche as that may sound, I was in it for the gunplay — how the guns “felt” within the context of the game, in different situations, and so on — and Medal of Honour (MoH) has that in spades.
In the beginning, it feels a little like you’re a nameless, faceless grunt fighting someone else’s war — because you are. It’s a little “go here, shoot those guys, rescue this dude”, and it feels like we’ve already been here before in every other big name, A-grade FPS — because we have. The enemies pop up at predictable locations, you advance through different scenarios with your squad in a predictable manner, and it’s all very predictable, even nice, but doesn’t make for very compelling gameplay (even the gunplay is average and just doesn’t feel good).
I don’t know whether it was because I had taken some mind-alterating substances that day or whether I was just in a different state of mind, but I recently re-visited the single player campaign, and, well, everything was different. The good different, not the bad kind. Somewhere between taking out snipers in a tower and lasing targets for laser-guided missile strikes or strafing runs I started to enjoy the game. I was no longer a nameless faceless soldier fighting someone else’s war, I was Rabbit, a Tier 1 Operator part of AFO Neptune, lasing targets with SOFLAM for Predator air strikes under the cover of darkness, or taking out the bad guys at 1000 meters with the Barrett. All I know is, at some point Medal of Honor started being compelling and sucked me right in.
The pacing of the game is fantastic. The action scenes are truly hectic at times, and yet there’s always parts where you never feel overwhelmed by enemies — unless that’s exactly what the developers intended, as they do in one particular scene. Like I said, the story starts out pretty slowly with you saving some guy and then just clearing out the same old enemies in the same old locations, but soon you’re on ATVs assaulting enemy compounds at night, or planting locator beacons on enemy transports, or blasting away at enemy RPG positions from the safety of the skies in an Apache. Some sections leave you truly exhausted, but you’re a SEAL; you just get back up and ask for more.
All that stuff is truly enjoyable, don’t get me wrong. It’s exciting, the gunplay at that point is incredible (oh selective fire, how I’ve missed you), and everything is as you would expect for a shooter of this calibre (pun not intended). It isn’t until about the last third or last quarter of the game that the whole story element comes into play and you start to feel that all this might actually be real. I won’t lie; I felt real relief after playing through one particular section where the position you’re holding for extraction is quickly becoming overrun by enemies who are almost constantly firing RPGs and all manner of rounds are whizzing past you, and just when you’re about to throw in the towel (your companion tech specialist even tells the brass to hold off the support troops he called in earlier), the calvary comes and saves the day. From the desperate calls over comms to having to put down guys left right and centre while running pretty low on ammo, that feels real.
And it only gets more real from that point on.
As a game, the model animations are as good as any. When you’re huddling with three other soldiers behind a wall talking about how you’re going to smoke the enemy position for an air strike, things seem real.
When you’re falling out of a friendly chopper, things seem real.
When you have to choose between bullets and broken bones, things seem real.
When you’re falling off a cliff (broken bones heal), things seem real.
While I have huge respect for people that serve I’ve never gotten into the whole military aspect of life that Americans seem to have. All that cliche gung-ho, trigger-happy, shoot now attitude just seemed too far fetched, a little too removed from reality to actually be. After playing Medal of Honor, I’m convinced that is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s games like this that demonstrate what war is like, how people like Rabbit live, and how they die.
Medal of Honor is easily the best military FPS I have played in a while. While I do enjoy the sheer excitement and pure action of the Call of Duty series, there’s nothing quite like a good plot to keep the story going, and Medal of Honor delivers on all fronts. The multiplayer uses a different engine to the single player, but is still quite enjoyable (although perhaps not as much as Bad Company 2). Medal of Honor keeps it real while delivering everything a military shooter enthusaist would want, which means it’s a pretty damn good game indeed.