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Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor

With the first-person shooter market drowning under a relentless flood of like-minded brands trying to emulate the top dog, the entire genre is turning in on itself. There are the rare gems which come through in a big way and attain universal appeal. The Bad Company and Modern Warfare games, in particular, are refined console shooters which have totally spun the age-old argument that shooters are best experienced on the PC in the opposite direction. While the Medal of Honor series may have faded into obscurity over the last couple of entries, EA’s reboot takes its cues from the best, while moving the franchise forward in a meaningful way by basing it’s story on an early US-led operation in Afghanistan.

Based on the events of “Operation Anaconda,” Medal of Honor’s story is told over the course of two days, through the eyes of three American soldiers. The mission is ultimately to uproot The Taliban from the many caves, military forts, and evacuated cities dotting the hills of Afghanistan. The game does a fair job of capturing the overall essence of the operation, without presenting an over-glorified or unrealistic perspective of the fight. While this inevitably lends itself to a more subdued, careful approach, this is where the United States military’s backing fills in the holes with myriad phrases, commands, and other language you’d expect to hear on the frontlines. This also means that, for better or worse, the game takes on an explicitly patriotic perspective. Politics aside, this semblance of American pride affords the game a respectable personality. However, placed side-by-side with the unremarkable character of the regiments you’re dropped into, there’s something left to be desired.

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That said, your allies are a godsend, as in addition to being invicible, they’ve also brought along infinite ammunition for the plenty powerful American weaponry, which you carry by default at the onset of each mission. They’re also not afraid of engaging the enemy head-on and do a good job of firing off a bullet here and there, downing the occasional tango. Rather than contently following your lead, they typically run ahead, expediating the game’s pacing. That is, until you’re sitting in front of a door waiting for them to make their way over and cue you to kick it in, or do so themselves.

Your character is often herded down highly-detailed corridors. Being confined to the linear design of otherwise inviting pathways through the mountains becomes all the more frustrating when the scripted enemy AI rears its ugly head. There are some clear opportunities for immersion shattered by numerous situations in which the outcome of any given firefight feels all but played out. This provokes an early sense of apathy that the game’s otherwise excellently paced single-player simply can’t shake. Once that dissapoint takes, it’s difficult to reel back in. Medal of Honor combats this with truly memorable moments between some helicopter sequences and an intense mountainside conflict which stacks the odds in the favor of the enemy. Then, just as the game’s winding up, it comes to an abrupt close.

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There’s still plenty of life left in the game, provided you’ve obtained the EA Online Pass, which enables you to play through a harder version of the single-player missions for a spot on the leaderboards in Tier 1 mode, and also enables the game’s well-rounded multiplayer component.

It takes a large chunk of time switching to the separately-developed multiplayer from the main menu, as it needs to load in a new game engine. While it may be worth the wait, this is the first of many reminders that Medal of Honor is a totally different, if not equally enjoyable experience online. Other differences can mostly be attributed to the concepts being easy to exploit for online play (I.E. going prone, diving for cover, and so on). That’s easy to overlook, however, as the consistent qualties of excellent audio, attractive level designs, and high production values more than make up for the excluded features.

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Playing as either the Coalition or the Taliban (re-named OpFor to dodge controversy), there are a number of well designed maps highlighting verticality and speed, while also weaving tightly woven into the developer’s spotless record with the Battlefield formula. So the online modes may all be slight variations on ones you’ve seen in other games, but the punishing ease with which players are killed, fast respawn times, and three classes, each with their own unlockables, should keep you coming back.

Between the online and single-player modes, EA’s attempt at rebooting their Medal of Honor franchise after three years missing in action results in a competent game. It doesn’t go forging new trails for all upcoming first-person shooters to follow, and probably won’t have any lasting impact, but it’s still a good enough time and doesn’t come off as gunshy, in spite of taking on an early segment of a yet-to-be-resolved conflict. In short, Medal of Honor’s a good military shooter and will quench your thirst between the next Call of Duty or Battlefield releases.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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