STAFF REVIEW of Medal of Honor (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010.
by Adam Dileva

Medal of Honor Box art The Medal of Honor series has been around for quite some time and truth be told, it was one of the first very successful World War II shooters to come to the masses. Medal of Honor (MOH for short) arrived a few years before Call of Duty and really did pave the way for successful World War shooters in my eyes. Medal of Honor titles have always been about authenticity and soldier respect and because of the nature of the material, also controversial; this reboot for the series simply named Medal of Honor, is no different.

Now that MOH is about to come out of hibernation after a long slumber, it?s also taking new steps for the series and is going to be the first that doesn?t take place in World War II era; this campaign takes place in modern day Afghanistan (queues the critics now) which has also brought with it much controversy. So let?s get this out of the way first; the big uproar more than anything that I?ve notices is that people are being vocal against the game because you were going to be able to play the Taliban in multiplayer. Obviously this ruffled enough feathers that Danger Close (the EA studio which has a very fitting name) decided to change the playable Taliban to simply be renamed Opposing Forces. Will a simple name change muzzle some of the opposition, hard to say, but know that because of this last minute change that no gameplay has suffered in any way; it?s simply a name change in l of Honor this time around focuses on a super elite group of soldiers aptly named Tier 1 Operators. There are more than two million American men and women enlisted into service, of those roughly fifty thousand falls under Special Operations Command. The elite Tier 1 Operators are a very select group even above the Spec Ops and while there is no publicly known numbers of how many exist, it?s said to be in the low hundreds. These soldiers are so precise and are unquestionably a living and breathing instrument of war that is called upon when a mission simply cannot fail by any means.

Meet Dusty, the badass soldier on the front of the cover with a beard that makes me even envious. He is a Tier 1 Operator (T1) if you haven?t guessed that by this point. While technically you don?t play as Dusty, you will play alongside him as Deuce who is also another T1 for a good portion of the campaign. Why do I say that? Well, you are actually going o take control of 4 different playable characters throughout the campaign from different teams; Rabbit, Deuce, Adams and even an Apache Pilot. The story mostly focuses on the T1 team, but the stories will intertwine and you?ll get to see each squad?s side of the battles.

I don?t want to give anything away about the story as I did find it quite engaging and it wasn?t a simple ?kill everything? or ?clear this area so that?.? scenario that plagues a lot of warfare shooters. The setting is in Afghanistan and while you may think that the area is only dry and barren desert, there are more locales that you?ll be fighting through like city slums and the snow covered mountains. You may be surprised that Afghanistan isn?t what you may think. As the campaign progresses and you make your way through some bloody battles the mood, narrative and goals will change based on the events that take place. A brilliant score accompanies the mood changes alongside and perfectly fits the situations that you find yourself in.

When you finally shoot your last bullet and the mission comes to an end, you?ll be treated to an amazing and very heartwarming dedication before the credits roll that was actually written by soldiers in service. Danger Close made sure that it was something that they (the soldiers) could send out to their community and makes for a very emotional and fitting ending that was very powerful and climactic. From beginning to end, the story will keep you engaged and there is enough variety in levels and proper pacing that won?t give you fatigue or lose interest. At the core is a great shooter experience with tight controls that make the ATV, Sniping, and Apache levels seem like great additions and variety.

So what is there to do other than multiplayer once you finish the campaign? Well, once you finish the game, Tier 1 Mode will unlock. This mode is for the hardcore and is essentially a Time Attack mode but with a twist. You replay the campaign missions but you have a very short time limit and the only way to extend your time is to play well by getting head shots and kill streaks. Everything is generally harder as well since there are tougher enemies, your health doesn?t recharge and there are also no mid-level checkpoints either. If you die half way through the mission, you need to start over from the beginning; this is for the hardcore no doubt. Your par times will be uploaded to the leaderboard and you can see how you stack against your friends and others.

While Danger Close focused on the single player aspect, DICE made the multiplayer as its right up their alley. Multiplayer uses a modified version of the Bad Company 2 engine and while it does feel like a Battlefield style of gameplay it does have a MOH experience and feels a little quicker and more skill based.

If you?ve played the multiplayer beta that was going on over the summer then all you need to know is that there has been a vast improvement such as balancing issues, graphic updates and more which was all based on user feedback.

So what makes MOH stand out online compared to other shooters? There is a leveling system that we?re now used to but they?ve done things a little differently. There are three classes; Rifleman, Special Ops, and Sniper. As you play a class and gain kills and scores, those points go towards leveling that class up and ultimately unlocking new weapons and perks for that class. So instead of unlocking weapons and more overall, you need to work each class to gain their unlocks. For example, a sniper won?t have a zoomable scope until you gain a few levels. The more you use a class, the more you?ll unlock for said class.

Something else done a little differently is the scorechains (or kill streaks as we?re used to). So instead of needing three or more kills to gain a UAV or other advantages the system is place uses a scorechain system instead. This is done by points and not kills, so playing well and getting headshots and doing other objectives will get your scorechain up and net you the choice of an offensive or defensive action. Choose offensive and you can use mortar strikes and other rains of death, but choose defensive and you can get a UAV or even replenish ammo and give armor to your whole team. I really enjoyed this system much better than the standard killstreak mechanic as there?s some more strategy in choosing the ?right? choice for the moment.

Easily the strength of multiplayer is the audio, (just like the campaign) and there is so much detail given to everything from sound effects, voice chatter, callouts and explosions. The hindrance of multiplayer though at the moment has to be the unbalanced maps and some of the spawn points. You will be frustrated at first when you spawn near a team mate and instantly die time after time. Some maps are also heavily unbalanced with attack and defending positions; hopefully these can be fixed with a future patch. The other issue is that two teams doing different sections of the game makes each component feel very detached from each other; the controls are slightly different and there?s also no lean control in multiplayer like there is in single. It can be confusing at first if you are switching back between modes but the fact that the two modes feel independent from each other feels confusing at times.

Again, the absolutely strength of MOH is the audio in all aspects; there are even some audio directors that?s been aboard on every single MOH title. Everything sounds authentic and realistic, the voice acting is perfect, the voice chatter is directional, and everything as a package is simply believable.

Nothing is perfect though; there are some pop-in texture issues and things become very laggy when there are a lot of explosions going on and especially during the ATV missions when speeding down the mountain. If you can look past these issues, there?s a great story and long-life multiplayer game to be experienced. There are some great nods to previous Medal of Honor titles if you know your stuff and a fan of the series. It?s hard to say how MOH will stack up against the competition but if you were on the fence know that there is an interesting and emotional single player included alongside a multiplayer offering that has enough modes and unlocks to keep things interesting for some time. It?s been awhile since I?ve been excited to see where EA will take the Medal of Honor series next and I?m glad that there is finally some competition aimed directly at Call of Duty.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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