Medal of Honor: Warfighter|
It’s amazing how a carefully cut trailer and an E3 live demo can paint such a pretty picture and build so much hype for a game, only to get your hands on the finished product and be completely let down. If you would have asked me a few days ago I would have almost bet you money that this was the year EA was going to finally beat out Activision in the Medal of Honor vs. Call of Duty war, but rest assured Black Ops II fans…you have nothing to worry about. Even the mighty Frostbite 2 engine can't save this disaster.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter is as much an embarrassment to EA and Danger Close, and it is a disappointment to any who happen to play it. In a time where we should be seeing the ultimate evolution of the FPS genre, instead we get a linear arcade game that is no better than Time Crisis or any other light gun shooter you might play at Dave & Busters. There are no tactics, no strategy, and no cover unless you count ducking or going prone – at least you can lean to peek around corners.
The seemingly endless supply of enemies have no real AI other than to initially try to flank you before running straight at you. You’ll be crouched behind some object and try to look out only to find yourself with your face in the crotch of a terrorist who has rushed your cover and starts to pistol-whip you. Your own squad AI is no better. Unable to kill anyone, they are there merely to distract then enemy with suppressive fire while you do all the real work and occasionally call out, “Check your fire!” after they wander into your line of sight. They also serve as pack mules for an endless supply of ammo. And while the enemy can’t kill your men unless it’s part of the emotionally manipulative script, you can, and friendly fire will send you to the reload screen more often than you’ll like.
Levels are densely populated with “stuff” whether that be outdoor objects like plants and logs or urban items like burned out vehicles and crumbling buildings. Despite their complexity, your path through these levels is very limited, and you can’t help but feel you are on some elaborate shooting exercise range, only with real terrorists instead of pop-up targets like you’ll be shooting in the tutorial mission. Your "legal area" is so small you will often get an alert saying you are leaving the mission area and you have only a few seconds to return – four to be exact, so if you happen to be sprinting and/or diving for cover and end up sliding out of the “zone” the mission will fail before you have time to return.
There are a dozen missions, and all but two feel nearly identical in that you make your way down narrow ambush areas, engage a few dozen enemies, breach a door and do a slow-motion kill sequence to clear the room then repeat. It doesn’t matter if you are gunning down terrorists in the streets or in the bowels of a cargo ship – it all feels and plays the same. There is no intel to collect and nothing to search for or challenges to meet other than performing headshots that will unlock new ways to breach doors - even though the method you choose is a visual reward only. I saw no difference between using my boot or a doorknob charge or an explosive plate or strip. The door opens, a guy tosses in a flashbang and you get 4-6 seconds to pop as many guys as you can.
As for the two missions that stand out, apparently somebody thought that since the Frostbite 2 engine powers the Need for Speed franchise they had to have some driving levels in the game. Driving in a military game has been done before and it’s not a deal breaker if done right, but this game has you driving in pure NFS fashion, racing through the city and slums either trying to catch a fleeing suspect and recover his cell phone or escaping the city with a terrorist kingpin in your trunk. Both driving sequences are heavily scripted in that no matter how well you drive on the first mission, you will always catch and ram the target car in the same place at the same time. The second driving mission near the end of the game attempts to add some tactics by showing you an overhead map with patrolling search cars that you must avoid by parking in specially marked hiding spots until they pass. There is no shooting or combat...just driving and trying not to crash.
I can tolerate a linear game that holds my hand if it is telling a good story. At that point it becomes interactive entertainment, but the story in Warfighter is a convoluted mess that deals with Preacher, Stumps, Voodoo, and an assortment of other Tier 1 operators that you hardly know and probably won't care about, often in converging timelines and stories than bounces from present to past, often in the same mission. And when these plot threads finally unite in the final level and the score kicks up a notch to try and trigger an appropriate emotional response, I was left feel cold and uncaring. Even the final cinematic – a direct scene-by-scene rip-off of the funeral in the movie "Act of Valor" – was so manipulative that all I could do was sigh in desperate disappointment.
With the dismal single player campaign behind me I ventured into the online component in hopes that there was something here to salvage this operation that was clearly FUBAR. The multiplayer maps are some of the best examples of how NOT to design a level. While the Frostbite 2 engine is capable of incredible amounts of detail, when that detail is used to create unnecessary obstacles that prevent you from playing the mode you want to play on nearly every map, something has clearly gone wrong. Between the intense rubble, foliage, and other crap lying around, you will invariable get hung up on the environments simply trying to navigate the levels. Throw in some issues with snipers and spawn campers and you have a multiplayer game that nobody will want to play, and nobody will play when Halo 4 and Black Ops 2 arrive in a few weeks.
Everything Warfighter tries to do Battlefield 3 does already and does it better. The class system is all about weapons, even when it comes to the unique skills for each class. Streak bonuses earn points to “purchase” tactical upgrades much like COD or any other current online FPS, but most matches seem to be more about using these tactical perks than actual gunplay, and when you factor in some highly unrealistic gun damage where headshots are no longer fatal, even snipers can’t have any fun. There is also a game you can play that is specific to Battlelog by earning tokens while playing Warfighter.
On the plus side, the game looks really good most of the time, especially in some key levels like the village that is getting washed away by a monsoon, but then most of the game takes place in very similar urban and outdoor levels with repetitive terrain features, architecture, and rubble. Lighting and shadows are excellent as are most of the textures, especially the uniforms, but the weapons can look plastic at times, and this is all running on Ultra settings on a fully capable PC. And apparently Frostbite 2 can only render male characters because the women in this game are FUGLY to the point where they barely look human, let alone female. With stocky builds, thick limbs, and chiseled facial feature, the wives and daughter look like transvestites. – just creepy. The audio is quite good with realistic weapons sounds and powerful explosions. The dialogue mix is a bit off at times; almost always too soft, and in a few cutscenes drops out almost entirely, forcing you to read the subtitles. The score is quite good in places and blatantly manipulative in others, and there is support for stereo and 5.1 surround sound systems.
I am completely shocked that the game we voted as the best FPS of E3 and runner-up for best multiplayer of E3 turned out to be such a disappointment. When you stack this game on top of the disappointing Medal of Honor game from 2010 it’s almost as if someone is intentionally sabotaging the franchise, and in a world where Call of Duty and Battlefield have their yearly installments, perhaps these Tier 1 operator missions are better left classified. Fool me twice...shame on me...