There’s a lot of graphics, coding, story and detail that goes into the making of a game, but nothing that quite matches the power of memories. Everyone has a few: games that they remember, not because of anything special about the title itself, but because of a memory so powerful, either because it was funny, heartwarming or just special in some way that made sure you’d never forget it.
Allied Assault – the first Medal of Honor game to hit the PC – was one of those games for me: a good, honest Nazi-bashing romp-and-stomp that used to be so common back in the late 90s and early 2000s.
One holiday, my family was entertaining my aunt’s family who we liked quite a lot, even though we didn’t see each other very often. I’d been able to save up enough money to buy a computer of my own then – rocking a good old Celeron 700 – and was steadily working my way through the Axis forces.
My aunt’s husband dropped in and had a peek. “What’s that you’re playing?” he asked, although I’m not entirely sure he heard the answer. It was almost like watching someone fall in love all over again. They stayed for around a fortnight, which is probably the longest I’ve ever gone without using a computer.
The gaming landscape has changed radically since then. Battlefield 1942 and the original Modern Warfare have completely rewritten the playbook for multiplayer shooters, a point made abundantly clear to me last Friday when I tested Medal of Honor: Warfighter, the sequel to EA’s reboot of the franchise a couple of years ago.
Danger Close have included five different player classes, modelled on the different special forces units of five countries – Australia’s own SAS being one of them. In practice, the five classes were largely what you’d expect; a sniper, assault, heavy weapons, run-and-gun point man and a support. Each class had two special abilities they could unlock each round provided they had enough kills.
We were given a single map to run around in, and split into two teams, which were further broken up into separate “fire teams” of two men each. Like Battlefield, you can spawn on your teammate, although a two second delay was added to the respawn time if your buddy was spotted. This applied even if you were fighting next to your spawn. That could be somewhat problematic if it’s The Expendables vs Bob Brown and the Greens party, which was apparently the situation during a very one-sided earlier preview session for journalists.
The map itself – Piratetown, I believe – made for a fun series of firefights not too dissimilar from Modern Warfare 3’s Seatown. Three flags were placed around the map, with a two-storey building located near each. The main difference between the two sides were the spawn points; one spawned towards the sea with a massive circular dome covering one flag, a centre set of stairs and a passageway around the side of the map.
Unfortunately for sniping fans, the scope zoom was far too much for the proximity of 99% of the firefights I took part in. There’s some traction to be had from either spawn, but I found the Steyr Aug on the SAS to be by far and away the most effective rifle. There’s a class with a sub-machine gun that was equally well-suited to the task, but its damage output seemed far lower and far less efficient, despite the easier (or lack of) recoil.
The assault rifle had quite a kick on it, which I always appreciate as an old-school Counter-Strike player and a fan of the original Day of Defeat. The AUG and the sub-machine gun were perfectly controllable with large bursts or just outright spraying; the assault rifle was far heavier and more accurate when tapping or bursting only a few rounds.
I mentioned before that each class had a couple of abilities that could be unlocked, but they also have a speciality accessible from the outset. The heavy gunner could go into a prone form that lowered the recoil of the machinegun, while the AUG-toting Aussies were equipped with special bullets that did an extra 20% damage, although you only had a single magazine.
The sub-machine gunner came with some form of x-ray/thermal vision that allows your opponents to be tracked if they’re in the nearby vicinity. I can’t remember what the special abilities of the other two were, but given that my team was having significant difficulty moving forward – I finished one round with 25 frags while my colleagues managed 5 frags or less each – it was more of a “fight for survival” session than anything else.
On the engine side of things, Warfighter looked good, and, most importantly for a game angling towards Call of Duty and Battlefield fans, it was smooth. You can’t really judge the engine’s capabilities just off a single map, but on that front at least, the signs are looking very good.
Somewhat more concerning, however, was the overall pace of the game. I spoke to a couple of pundits walking back to Wynyard and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was playing a cross between Call of Duty and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The latter’s largely down to the scope that was on show for us to examine, which will no doubt change when I see more of the game modes and what’s accessible.
But I can’t help but wonder what direction the game would have taken if the developers were free to make the game on their own terms, instead of having to cope with the expectations set by fans of the two major franchises. Nevertheless, I enjoyed what I played. It was smooth, looked good, was frantic enough without being balls-to-the-wall psychotic and the guns were reasonably enjoyable (except for the sniper rifle, but I’m yet to encounter any that I’m satisfied with since the railgun and the AWP).
I walked away from EA’s offices content. The game seems to be coming along smoothly and the multiplayer’s looking in shape – now it’s up to EA and Danger Close to deliver on the rest.