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Medal of Honor (2010)

DICE has been putting out some quality material lately. Mirror’s Edge was my game of the year in 2008 because it dared to try something new in a flood of first-person sludge. And since I’ve been playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on and off for months now, Medal of Honor became the first game I purchased because it was produced by a developer I trusted. It was a pre-order. I watched my brother play some of the beta, and that was when I first developed some concern. I had purchased it primarily for the multiplayer, and it was revealed to me that DICE was getting as close as possible to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare for its multiplayer experience. There are a few trademarks I find it easy to pull out of that franchise:

An explosion creates particle effects, and a comrade shoots an enemy.

If you look to Medal of Honor for any of these things, you’re certain to find them. Is that a good thing? Maybe if you’re in desperate need of a shooter that will give you all of the satisfaction of Call of Duty without actually playing some CoD. But you can’t even say that all the satisfaction is there. Who knows exactly what it is - a combination of factors to be sure, including the fact that the campaign is disappointing. If there’s one thing you can say about Modern Warfare, it’s that the campaign will give you a big, loud, exciting experience to follow linearly until the credits roll. The set pieces in both entries are fantastic, and in Medal of Honor there are some shining moments, but I was never nearly as exhilarated, and I never had enough fun to claim the game was worth purchasing. Every shooter release, the concepts that are being explored become even more rigorously tiring, and with Medal of Honor I finally felt like I was buying a piece of gray matter accumulated by squeezing all of the mildly successful bits from the last hundred shooters to flood the market. It isn’t all terrible to play, of course. Every once in a while there will be a particularly enjoyable set piece that is basically the equivalent of a Mario Party minigame after watching the computer players take their excruciating turns. Riding a bike, for instance, provided the welcome change of pace you can almost feel coming after half an hour of shooting.

Dusty and two comrades on bikes in Medal of Honor.

The visuals of the game are not exactly stunning, but they do get the job done, and with excellent performance. I don’t think I saw one framerate dip that disturbed gameplay, and the overwhelming majority of the time a decent PC will see this game over 30FPS the whole way through. One of the things that I enjoy in every recent DICE game are the background environments, the ones you can’t explore yourself. The mountains in both of the Bad Company entries are excellent, and Mirror’s Edge had excellent background visuals as well. Medal of Honor maintains the tradition, although it is a notable decrease from Bad Company’s quality as far as I can tell, further pointing to the fact that this game was just meant to generate some income and be forgotten. I will be surprised if a sequel shows up.

Dusty holds binoculars, wearing sunglasses and a cap on backwards.

Through a sniper scope, two terrorists are seen looking suspicious.

Another crucial issue I have with the game is the lack of compelling plot. What little interaction between the game’s main characters exists is not worth the time spent on it, and most of the time your team will be repeating the standard “Take cover,” and “Grenade!” snippets, and even those are not near as exciting or intense as they could be. The terrorists in the game seem to exist only to be killed, and I wasn’t sure why they had AK-47s or why I was there killing them. There is us and them, and one guy back home that we’re supposed to dislike because he gives ridiculous orders. The main crux of the plot stems from disobeying orders because sometimes it’s the right thing to do, which didn’t exactly make me want to keep playing. I start to look at these games as excellent, comprehensive collections of video game archetypes, wherein if a game forgets to include one, a standard review will dock it a point. If a game receives a 10, well, maybe that’s the last game in its genre you have to play.

A blurred shot of a helicopter overhead after jumping out.

One of the reasons I enjoy this type of game is because although it’s so linear the player really doesn’t have any effect on, well, anything, it does usually allow for some impressive cinematics. I always enjoy scenes like the one above, which attempt to provide immersion with various graphical effects. Perhaps if I could interact with the game in any way whatsoever during sequences like these they might provide the ultimate immersion, but sadly there are precious few examples of that.

As the player holds a pistol, four terrorists patrol a dark, snowy mountain.

My favorite sequence in the game was fairly late, when you are stuck without weapons for just a moment. I wanted to like it more, but it was a very short “behind enemy lines” sort of gimmick that didn’t pan out to be anything worth mentioning for more than a second. You have to be moderately careful (by waiting until the game tells you to move) for a couple of minutes, but you’re returned to your standard shooting quickly enough. This illustrates how desperate the player becomes for variety, because that’s the only thing that developers are noticing spices up a dull campaign, forgetting about composition. Oh, and they were obviously taking notes on one last CoD concept:

Cockpit view of a helicopter shooting bullets and rockets.

Honestly, unless you’re in desperate need of shooting vague terrorists some more, I wouldn’t advise spending any time at all on this game. It’s short, with Steam clocking me in under five hours of gameplay for the single-player campaign, and the multiplayer, while I haven’t given it much attention, is clearly not in the same league as Modern Warfare and Bad Company 2.

Rating: Not Worth Playing