Medal of Honor: Warfighter review: a stump

By Andrew Yoon, Nov 05, 2012 9:10am PST

With yearly Call of Duty games and Battlefield's recent foray into modern combat, it takes something truly spectacular to make an impression in the highly competitive genre. Medal of Honor: Warfighter misfires, losing much of what made Danger Close's original reboot compelling. While far from terrible, Warfighter brings a B-game to a genre that demands so much more.

Whereas most games are judged by what they are, Warfighter is best summed up by what it's not. It is--for better and for worse--not another Call of Duty game. With many of the missions inspired by events ripped straight from the headlines, Electronic Arts' military shooter promises to be more "realistic" than its competitor. It's less bombastic than Activision's franchise, but also less of a spectacle. If knuckle-biting thrill-a-minute Michael Bay-style action is your cup of joe, then Medal of Honor clearly comes short.

Of course, not everyone is looking for that kind of experience. 2010's Medal of Honor attempted to offer a more authentic experience, to varying success. However, this year's iteration misses the mark completely. While not as over-the-top as an Infinity Ward game, Warfighter ratchets up the action considerably, resembling Rambo more than Black Hawk Down. Whether you're running atop an exploding crane, or single-handedly murdering an entire ship crew, the supposed focus on realism has clearly been abandoned.

Neither successful at being a spectacle nor being a grounded military experience, it's hard to understand who Warfighter is meant for. Linkin Park fans, perhaps?

One of the big changes made to this year's game is the switch to DICE's beloved Frostbite 2 engine. While there are some visually impressive set pieces, it's odd that most of the game manages to look worse than its predecessor. For all its faults, at least Battlefield 3 offered a visual tour de force--something Danger Close cannot offer with their game.

Falling short of the standards set by Call of Duty, Battlefield, and the previous Medal of Honor game give little reason to recommend Warfighter. But even judged in a vacuum, Warfighter is still a flawed experience. While many games in the genre are linear, Warfighter forces you to play in such a specific way that it might as well be considered on-rails. For example, one level based on a real-world scenario forces you to play in such a precise manner that it might have been better served as a QTE. Other levels have infinite enemy spawns should you not kill specific enemies first. Frustratingly, you will get randomly killed should you try to deviate from the path you're supposed to take.

While many of the levels devolve into simple shooting galleries, there are times where Warfighter surprises, showing off the game's potential. An early sniping mission is rather satisfying, as you have to account for the drag on the bullet. It's one of the few moments in the game where Medal of Honor's supposed realism actually comes across.

However, the game's two driving missions prove to be the real highlights of the campaign. These levels are not only the best-looking, but also the most clever levels in the game. These chase sequences play out like something out of a Bourne movie, testing your driving skills instead of your shooting skills. The late-game driving mission in Dubai is spectacular, starting with a surprising stealth sequence, culminating in a high-speed chase through a sandstorm--all with Burnout-esque takedowns. Someone at EA needs to greenlight a full game called Medal of Honor: War-driver, pronto.

Whereas the Medal of Honor reboot had a phoned-in multiplayer effort by DICE, Warfighter has an entirely new experience built in-house at Danger Close. To my surprise, the multiplayer offering is actually quite solid, with a number of terrific ideas that help differentiate it from the other military shooter crowd. Specifically, the fireteam system pairs you up with a partner. You can heal each other, share ammo, and spawn upon each other. You'll also see your partner's attacker through walls, which really encourages players to work together and protect each other.

I liked the unique packing of Medal of Honor's multiplayer offering; it's nowhere as twitchy as Call of Duty's online, nor as sprawling as Battlefield's. While the experience is largely enjoyable, it feels thoroughly bare bones. The matchmaking system seems rather simplistic, and the amount of customization offered is nowhere as thorough as that of Call of Duty. Even worse, the game's lackluster reception makes it unlikely that Warfighter will see much in terms of post-release expansions.

An adequate multiplayer mode is still not enough to recommend Warfighter. And while there are things to appreciate about the game, it's not polished enough to be a competitive player in the genre. It's not a bad game, but with umpteen options out there, it's easy to find a better alternative.


This Medal of Honor: Warfighter review was based on an Xbox 360 version of the game provided by the publisher. The game is also available for PC and PlayStation 3.

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