Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Multiplayer woes could tarnish Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
Developed by: Danger Close/DICE
Published by: EA
Available on: PS3, Xbox 360 and PC
Price: $59.99 for Limited Edition version that also includes Medal of Honor/Frontline
It all started with the quest for realism in a modern-day first person shooter. The Pentagon had signed on, offered soldiers to assist with advising Danger Close studios on the game. The coast looked clear for Danger Close. When word got back to military leaders that online Medal of Honor players could play as Taliban, talk about a snafu. Controversy seemed to tarnish this game's already gritty feel. The Pentagon decided to ban the shooter from military base exchanges worldwide. EA changed the name of the terrorists to OPFOR - opposing force. The military didn't bite.
What a hell of a way to kick off a reboot of a 11-year old franchise.
Developed by Danger Close Studios and DICE and published by EA, Medal of Honor lets players slip into the shoes of soldiers and Tier 1 operators fighting in modern-day Afghanistan. You know who they are. They are the men and women of the armed forces who do the jobs too dangerous to even mention, just to keep terrorists on the run. They are lethal killing machines, ready at a moment's notice to snipe/help/rescue and even die to give all of us freedom. It wasn't until a few years ago that the military even acknowledged their existence. But they are very real and do dangerous missions, day in and day out, to preserve our way of life.
The game follows the lives of a U.S. Army Ranger, a Navy S.E.A.L., a Tier 1 operator and an AH-64 Apache gunner. Each soldier has a very different role, though they all work together to finish their missions.
Danger Close's executive producer, Greg Goodrich, said the shooter aimed to be realistic. Mr. Goodrich, you've achieved that goal.
The game is intense - relentless in fact. You never feel like the job is done. You find out that all of the operators' stories eventually overlap effortlessly. You will see how an AC-130 gunship blasting the devil out of Taliban and Chechen positions - the hunter - becomes the hunted in a matter of seconds. You will see a story unfold that seems to skirt the edge of reality. You soon realize this game is telling a very realistic story that made me wonder, as I played it, if this story for Medal of Honor wasn't based on a collection of true stories.
The shooter switches between the roles. Some of the soldiers speed around snowy parts of Afghanistan (yes, folks, it's not all desert) on tricked-out ATVs and snipe enemies with a Barrett .50 cal sniper rifle. Some will pose as tribal elders and try to blend in with the townsfolk. Some will risk everything to save the lives of missing comrades who may or may not be dead.
Controls in MOH are fantastic. There was some stuttering a few times, but the action was so intense, I barely noticed (I look for those things constantly). The shooter plays like any modern shooter - aiming is not as easy as MW2, and if you aim down, the weapon won't automatically up-aim for you. In the heat of battle, on the lower levels of the game, you can ask a teammate for ammo instead of searching for a weapon similar to yours or just grabbing a weapon off a dead enemy. In the Tier 1 mode, you have very limited ammo and your team won't help you out.
Controls in the Apache helicopter proved to be very challenging. I got shot down several times before I got the hang of it. You don't fly the helo, fortunately - you just fire at enemy positions. The coolest piece of tech on the Apache has to be the 'What you see is what you kill' gun sight. You look at something, the gun barrel swings to where you are looking and you fire some hot lead in that direction. This game recreates that perfectly. Having to fly and fire would be fun to some, but really it's a lot to juggle. Even real Apache pilots need help, hence there's a gunner.
Graphics are very good, but not perfect. In some spots, they are awesome. The helo mission, on a 42" LCD screen, was absolutely wicked. The sharpness was amazing. During missions, the graphics weren't heart-stopping or stellar, but looked great considering everything going on on-screen.
Gameplay was not entertaining at all. Once I played through, I found myself not wanting to replay it. I had to sit for a few days and marinate on it. It doesn't give you a rosy ending. It doesn't give you 'there's gonna be a sequel' ending. It just reminds you that this is very close to real life - that the characters are just like people you went to high school with, in your family who enlisted after 9-11 to fight tyranny.
When they come back to the World, they won't share what went on. They won't tell you how they held off an enemy advance and told their superiors there were 30 KIAs. These are people from the heartlands, who would likely be hunting elk or bighorn sheep in New Mexico but now, riding on ATVs in a warzone, are sniping folks from miles away.
Be forewarned - this game is gritty. You'll likely want to play it, but the game hit an emotional chord with me. The Tier 1 operator puts their lives in harm's way more than we care or even want to imagine. This game honors their service, their hard work and for some, their ultimate sacrifice.
This is more than a shooter - it's the soldier's story that we get to play through. And it's one intense ride into hell and back to stop the march of terrorism. I would pay money to find out if this was real or not.
However, with any shooter review, multiplayer is the part people are dying to read about. Well, I did get a chance to experience multiplayer - the same day everyone else did. EA sent out an e-mail to media types and said "Please note the multiplayer servers will not be live until October 12 when the game hits store shelves in North America." Bummer.
Regardless, I played several matches on team assault. It was not possible for the EA servers to validate my online pass (nice), so I had to settle for team assault. I got booted once from multiplayer, but was able to reconnect to play more team assault matches.
I am concerned about the multiplayer aspect, but I think EA can release a patch to correct that.
The verdict? 3 (out of 4 stars). The story was one of the strongest ones attached to a shooter I've ever played. The game is all about sacrifice - putting your life on the line for your brothers. It's about the thankless job of these soldiers, often away from loved ones, and honors them and their service. It's about getting a tiny glimpse of a side of combat that isn't pretty, isn't fun, but is hell. Though I wish I could have played the multiplayer, this game is strong enough with a compelling single player campaign.
To the Tier 1 operators, thank you. To the Pentagon - this game honors our soldiers' service. Gamers have for years played as terrorists. Don't be childish; lift the ban in base exchanges.
Having to wait until the day of release to play arguably the main reason people want to buy this game soured the entire experience for me. Unless I have a bad, early review copy, the multiplayer had some issues that may initially turn off most hardcore gamers. While I did thoroughly enjoy the single player campaign and can see the huge effort put into that, the MP seems lacking. And having to wait until the day of release to play the main draw of the game was inexcusable.
Here's to hoping EA corrects the server issues and that it's just an opening-day issue, not something that will could hamper this otherwise fine shooter.