Annual military first-person shooters (FPS) come in thick and fast as the year draws to a close and arguably the biggest players are the long-running established franchises. After modest success with the rebooted Medal of Honor in 2010, Danger Close Games are back in the driver’s seat to deliver Medal of Honor: Warfighter; the successor tasked with pushing the envelope and taking the franchise one step closer to shooter perfection. With a solid pouring of new features and “authenticity” being the buzz-word this time round, Warfighter isn’t short of innovative ideas but unfortunately fails to fire in execution.
Developer: Danger Close Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, Windows PC
Players: Single-Player, Co-Op, Multi-Player
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release: (AU) October 25th 2012
For the FPS genre, it’s a fine line to walk between producing a title encapsulating originality while keeping with the tried and true formula that has worked countless times in the past. Innovation means introducing something fresh and for some, the concept is a scary proposition. Kick the hornet’s nest a little too much and risk incurring the wrath of franchise faithfuls. With EA’s Battlefield series taking a well deserved break and the Call of Duty juggernaut steam rolling ahead, Warfighter is under immense pressure to deliver. Although ambitious and signs of promise, the lack of synergy as a whole is where it all falls flat.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter selling point, or hook is incorporating real world “Tier One” operatives and their experiences into the single-player campaign. Tier One operators are the crème de la crème of special unit forces from around the world, all bought together in Warfighter where each unit type feature their own distinct brand of war expertise to differentiate them from country to country. Trained in the art of military warfare; these tough guys globe-trot the world fighting terrorism from Bosnia, to Pakistan, and all the hostile warzones in-between. If you want authentic, there’s nothing more authentic then going straight to the source as Danger Close liaised with the real-life macho men that experienced it all first hand. Knowing all this, it’s disappointing that one of the weakest elements of Warfighter is in the storytelling.
In an attempt to develop an emotional attachment between the player and on-screen characters, the narrative bounces from the war-hardened action of counter-terrorist deployment filled with routine assassinations, interrogations and adrenaline-charged activity to the flow on effects of war on a personal, individual front. In one scene, Warfighter illustrates the fallout through the strained relationship between soldier, wife and child. What should be a sympathetic and emotional moment with the threat of his wife leaving him due to his occupation and lack of fatherly duties has little impact on the heart strings, but rather negative connotations by disrupting the pacing of the game.
The overall lack of cohesion and time-jumping plot creates an air of confusion for the player, or at least for me as I tried to understand the happenings between each of the individual soldiers. On that point, the characters themselves are uninspired and lack in personality to really drive home that elusive, authentic sense of war in which Warfighter so desperately wants to portray. Unlike the gripping storytelling of Spec Ops: The Line, Warfighter best attempts to strike a nerve with its audience is unconvincing at best. Tapping into the human psyche and articulating deep seeded feelings with conviction is hard enough to deliver, only made more difficult by the genre in which Warfighter finds itself in. For players of first-person titles; action reigns supreme and interestingly Warfighter doesn’t stumble quite as poorly in that regard.
Action is intense and delivers thrilling moments in the heat of battle, even if it is less true to life and more over the top in approach at times. Heart-pumping situations such as running and gunning down a target in the midst of a lively marketplace in an unknown territory makes for explosive centre-piece gaming more in line with the Medal of Honor brand. You’ll be fist-pumping away on successful completion, although some scenarios can be less gratifying than others given the build up. Vehicular chase scenes adds a nice break from the norm as Warfighter changes gears to rail-style shooting mixed with a hail of bullets and mayhem to quicken the pace of the campaign excursion.
The use of the “Dynamic Breach” system adds fluidity to door breaches as your team of commandos are able to work like a well-oiled machine to smash through locked door like the trained professionals they are. A solid kick followed by a well-placed flash grenades leads into a momentary slow-motion event where hostile forces can be picked off with precision one at a time. It may defy the laws of physics but who really cares when it all functions and looks so good. Additional methods of door breaches can be unlocked as rewards to add even more customisation and flair to the explosive initial confrontation.
Fundamental controls are solid given the amount of iterations we’ve seen of Medal of Honor over the years. Cover fire is a sure fire option for pushing through objectives with minimal fuss, however there’s still some displeasing qualities such as interaction with the environment, namely climbing, to throw up a spanner and complicate manners. Weaponry choices and customisations are diverse and provide plenty of unique combinations to make your gun truly your own, some options will need to be unlocked giving purpose to devoted play. Excruciating attention to detail has been paid to the anatomy of a firearm, to change the look and balance to better suit your gameplay style.
With developer Danger Close Games tackling both the single and multiplayer aspects for the first time, Warfighter is deeply lacking in the solo mode. The fire-team system encourages co-operative play with teamwork based rewards as a motivator and plays fairly decently alongside the tier-one concept. Fire-team may not be game changing, but its use shouldn’t be dismissed as it provides a higher level of strategy and thought usually absent from other FPS titles on the market. It feels a shame that the maps in which the action takes place feels far too uninteresting to engage or entertain given the possibilities with fire-team. In addition, Danger Close subtle hints at guiding player progression isn’t concealed as well as other story-driven shooters, particularly if deviating from the scripted path will cause the game to bug out and break it. Thankfully, campaign mode is a short exercise as the multiplayer component provides slightly more reason to boot up Warfighter.
Multi-player mode is void of the scripted scenes and tacked on problems which plagued the single-player component. Without a need to drive a narrative or directly link character development, Warfighter can run free and do what it does best as its solely focuses on military carnage. It isn’t perfect as the maps could have been better thought out and the lingering bugs are still evident, but it does leave a lasting potential of what could have been, or possibly could still be with an updated patch or two.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter is a game which most will criticise and look back on with general disdain, failing to meet its potential due to lacklustre implementation. There are moments in Warfighter where you can see glimmers of possibility, but in a competitive genre and strong contenders churned out year on year, it’s a far cry from being the cream of the crop. It may not be the kind of reception Danger Close Games would have hoped for, but there’s plenty to learn and improved upon. Medal of Honor fans may still want to experience Warfighter, even if just for comparison sake. Who knows, you may very well find some surprises.
6.0 – Above Average. Fun but it is let down by some questionable design choices. While it has its own identity, it doesn’t go beyond its own limits.