War — what is it good for? Video games!

Medal of Honor tackles contemporary warfare, beards and all


Medal Of Honor

Danger Close, Electronic Arts

(Xbox360, PS3, PC)

GAMER Though it arrives a few years behind its contemporaries in updating the mechanics of the original World War II series, Medal of Honor follows Call of Duty and Battlefield into the modern age of warfare. The most memorable aspect of this reboot's PR muttering was that it was going to be authentic. Game developers working closely with members of the military is nothing new, but developer Danger Close wanted its take to be relevant to today's war by setting the fight in Afghanistan and making the villains the Taliban. The game's professed intent is to honor the soldiers who die every day in the conflict but, while the locations lend the game a sort of theoretical accuracy, Medal of Honor mostly just feels like War Games 101.

You won't have any problems jumping into the action. From the first moments, Medal of Honor's game play, pacing, and button layout recall Modern Warfare's winning formula. The story is a tad more down to earth, but not without thrills and chills, and a good chunk of the game is devoted to sniper missions that do more than pay homage to the iconic Modern Warfare level "Ghillies in the Mist." There are a few new twists (I will say, it's been a while since a war game has made suppressive fire a mandatory game play element) but for the most part Medal of Honor emulates Modern Warfare's "shooting gallery" experience, which makes it fine, if not terribly inspired.

First-person shooters now ship with split personalities: single-player and multiplayer. The experiences are so divided (literally, with completely separate title screens) at this point that they might as well be two different games. Many developers have begun to send multiplayer development out-of-house, with the intention of focusing all their strength on the single-player experience. It's probably a good idea — if one team is spread too thin, both experiences suffer.

Medal of Honor seems to have taken the stance "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," enlisting Battlefield developers DICE in creating its multiplayer experience. As such, Medal of Honor's multiplayer emulates the tight feel and style of Battlefield 2 fairly well, but lacks the balance of the different classes. Limiting the choice to assault, spec-ops, or sniper doesn't encourage teamwork in the same way that including a medic or engineer does.

I suppose Danger Close deserves some kudos for even attempting to engage with a real, contemporary war, but it's also the sort of thing that needs to be done right. If you're going to talk the big talk, you better walk the long walk, and Medal of Honor doesn't really offer much that you can't find in either of its competitors' more refined products. Nonetheless, it remains an engaging, well-made war game that delights adequately enough and could indicate a better game to come. 

Also from this author

  • Vinegar and salt

    It's a good time to be a fan of vintage exploitation cinema

  • Play on

    Gamer singles out the mainstream videogame hits of 2013 — and a few smaller picks, too

  • Pros and cons(oles)

    Will Microsoft or Sony win the battle for consumer love? Gamer tests out the new consoles.