Déjà vu all over again

Video game ourbouros: Warfighter is a sequel to a reboot.

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'Medal of Honor: Warfighter' (Danger Close/Electronic Arts)

Xbox 360, PS3, PC

GAMER I hate to start off a review by highlighting the competition, but — Call of Duty. The biggest name in gaming casts a long shadow, and a good number of publishers are happy to step aside and let Call of Duty have the holiday months.

Publisher Electronic Arts has more aggressive plans. Last year they pitted their Battlefield franchise against Call of Duty, and made a pretty good go at taking the crown. But that was last year. The Call of Duty franchise has at least three different developers working at getting a game out every year; can EA compete on an annual level when they have just one developer working on Battlefield?

Enter Medal of Honor: Warfighter. The sequel to a reboot of another World War II franchise, Warfighter sports the same engine as Battlefield 3 and to EA probably seemed just the thing for the off-year between Battlefield entries. But competition isn't always healthy. If last week's hefty day-one patch — which introduced a litany of simple fixes and features that should have been in the game to begin with — is an indication, Warfighter's release date became more important than the quality of its content.

Warfighter's single-player campaign isn't as egregiously inconsistent as the 2010 Medal of Honor reboot, but it's hardly memorable. Dropping its predecessor's gritty, controversial setting of Afghanistan for a hammy international terrorist plot, Warfighter delivers nothing gamers aren't familiar with. You get cinematic set-pieces, characters delivering a mish-mash of military jargon and acronyms, and plenty of shooting at bad guys; there's no real context and no real stakes.

Battlefield 3's Frostbite 2 engine provides nice lighting and animation, but most of the pretty environments are window dressing on cheap thrills and glorified shooting galleries. Car chases through Pakistan and Dubai are nice diversions with solid mechanics, considering we're talking about an FPS, but you're probably better off jumping directly into multiplayer.

Fewer frustrations inhabit the game's multiplayer, and it's a good bet more time and care went into this part of the Warfighter package. Gamers looking for something that's not Call of Duty will find Warfighter multiplayer serves up military excitement that's similarly addicting, if safe.

Military shooters can mine real emotional territory and there are amazing stories to be told, but Warfighter isn't really interested in telling them. With more time spent on development we might have gotten an interesting game, but its fall arrival is intended to fill a hole in this year's release calendar, and its creative successes are an afterthought. Warfighter passes the time amiably and it's hard to chastise it for giving people what they want, but it's also a lesson in why the annual franchise model doesn't always work. (Peter Galvin)

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