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Medal of Honor (PlayStation 3) artwork

Medal of Honor (PlayStation 3) review

"Medal of Honor can barely claim to being more than half a game, the half it does right, it excels. The other half isnít bad for a first attempt -- but thatís not really good enough, is it?"

Pity poor Medal of Honor. Looking to cash in on the current trend of rebooting anything more than a few months old, EA threw its flagship FPS out of the over-covered age of angry Nazis and Thompson machineguns and tried to bring it bang up to date. In their infinite wisdom, they tried to do this in between the releases of Halo: Reach and Call of Duty: Black Ops. Itís kind of held its own, helped mainly by the impotence of Black Ops and DICEís efforts in bringing a tight group-based multiplayer. Outside of this, there are not a lot of positives to visit.

If it should be commended for anything, then it should be how it takes the backdrop of war and gives it a huge audio rework. Sheltering your soft, saggy body in sparse cover under fire is a gauntlet of noise; tracer bullets scream past before ricocheting off the first solid item they strike. Explosions rock your world, sting your ears, dampening over sounds and screwing up your equilibrium. Survive a well lobbed grenade, and you still have to endure worryingly stretched out seconds of only being able to stagger, half blind and half deaf, away from the scene before someone pokes a nuzzle into your temple and paints your former safe haven with your brains.

Itís expected (these days: I still remember the misty days of Doom when aiming up was but a pipe dream) that modern FPSí come with all kinds of bells and whistles, such as recoil feedback, damage indicators and all the little things youíve taken for granted for the last decade. Medal of Honor doesnít try to change any of this. Cosmetic perks like the grenade hangovers aside, it furthers very little. Appreciated though they are, taking things through the single player campaign has little but the obligatory trimmings, and thus feels like a slog through well-covered grounds.

There are airborne levels that play out on rails while you click little white boxes to launch guided missiles and unskippable cut scenes where you watch Taliban agents set up mortars from afar. Very slowly. Theyíre not very good and provide the campaign low-light by some distance. Everything else is commendable, but rarely outstanding. Itís the same game youíve played from Infinity Wardís recent efforts, with a lesser coat of sheen and more teething errors.

You have the expected smattering of outflanking a couple of gun nests, holding a dishevelled stone hut from half the terrorist army and sneaking through unfriendly territory, capping enemies with knives to the back of the neck. Itís not all bad by a long shot, but it never achieves that one stand out moment all good FPSí gleefully display. Itís content simply to cover the same ground, provide the same set pieces and then get out before people can mount any significant backlashes.

Thereís that level where youíre behind enemy lines and you have to silently cap sentries with a silenced weapon to advance, and thereís that obligatory vehicle level where you drive quad bikes to outposts through a dried riverbed. Thereís the bit where you hold your ground against a much larger enemy force, the bit where you do a spot of sniping and the bit where you use night vision in the dark. Thereís not a single thing youíve not seen before.

That doesnít really sound like carving out a niche, and thatís because, offline, Medal of Honor really isnít anything special. Online, it gains momentum. Rather than put its main focus on being a stand alone all-vs.-all experience, here it concentrates solely on team-based warfare. No matter what you do, from playing classic death matches to objective-based games, youíre part of a squad of players heading off against another.

It means that youíre constantly relying on others. Taking on a combat mission has you either take on a string of objectives or try and defend them. A gutted airfield provides a key strategic position for the Allied forces, but they need to root out dug in Taliban (or OPFOR as the resulting media shitstorm forced EA to rename them). A roadblock needs to be blown, but it wonít be easy. Numerous holes in the defending walls means that enemy fighters can leak out around your flank and attack you as you dart in and out of rusting car carcasses. They need to be pushed back, then held at bay while explosives are set and detonated. Going in from just one angle is suicide; youíll need forces to attack the gate head on, and splinter groups to veer off, pushing back the flanks, attacking the dug in defenders from unexpected snipe points. The terrain and the cover is with the defending force, but the pressing numbers with the attackers. They flood in, nibbling at defences, backed by armoured vehicles and the ability to respawn in the thick of the battle.

It can easily go either way. Against a well set out OPFOR, the Allies run into corridors of death, mowed down before they can reach a semblance of cover. Snipers have time to bed in, to plant beads on expected paths. Explosives can be planted, machinegunners settled in and objectives jealously guarded. Should the barriers fall, then the Alliesí next target is a hangar door housed in an open plan courtyard littered with disused metal cargo crates and concrete barriers lined with barbed wire. To win, all they need to do is hold their ground. To lose, they need to be chiseled away at, to be whittled down to nothing.

Bypass the hangar, and a huge airfield awaits behind, with snipers sheltering behind broken wings, gunners hunkering down behind spent oil barrels. Forced to funnel neck at the hangarís exit, the Allies are met with a wave of bullets, grenades and explosions. Waterways carved into the scorched cement floor provide semi-underground tunnels while abandoned personal choppers and decommissioned commercial aircraft provide plenty of opportunities to hide people with ill intent. Take this airport -- drive out the defenders and claim it as your own -- and youíre just over the halfway mark towards victory.

Game modes are limited, but the heavy reliance on teams plays off against just how well you can go off on your own and, even if you ultimately lose, you can get enough out of the experience to make it individually worthwhile. Shamelessly stolen from that other contemporary FPSí multiplayer mode comes the ability to level up any of your three soldier classes with exp gained from fighting the good fight well. Kill chains open up mortar strikes or munitions upgrades for the entire squad. Guided missiles or UAV surveillance. All you need to do is kill a heavily armed psychopath before he or any of his dozen or so friends kill you.

While I played through the campaign and never looked back, I find many evenings still devoured by constant forays into enemy land, defending radio stations or desperately trying to blow them up. Trying to keep enough cover between me and the always-present snipers, stay low, moving slow, looking to paint an exit wound in someoneís face. Medal of Honor can barely claim to being more than half a game, the half it does right, it excels. The other half isnít bad for a first attempt -- but thatís not really good enough, is it?


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (January 14, 2011)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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