Medal of Honor: Warfighter’s campaign isn’t the most impressive thing you’ll see all year, with the excellent Frostbite 2 engine let down by a cookie-cutter story, tired mechanics and a complete lack of imagination.
If it wasn’t for the multiplayer, Warfighter might actually be the worst AAA release this year. It’s a competent effort on its own, but as it stands it’s still functionally the same as every other modern military shooter in recent memory.
Let’s get down to what’s actually different with the Medal of Honor sequel. There’s a squad system similar to Battlefield 3 - appropriate, given that the share the same engine – but it’s limited to two players, making you much more reliant on having a good teammate.
The importance of this cannot be understated. You have two options when respawning: either return to base or spawn near your buddy. If he/she gets spotted, it adds two seconds to your respawn time. Players get notified when a teammate is about to spawn on them, and they get a point bonus for a successful spawn. Most of the time that’s enough warning, but occasionally you’ll get paired up with John Rambo, wasting precious seconds and amplifying your frustration.
Players can choose from one of six classes, ranging from the standard Sniper, run-and-gun Point Man, Heavy soldiers, Spec Ops who can see through walls, and your basic Assault gunner. Each has a different set of abilities that unlock after a string of consecutive kills, including guided missiles, mortar strikes, UAVs and drones. Each class gets a different weapon or tool usable from the outset as well, ranging from proximity mines, grenade launchers, smoke grenades — basically everything you’ve already seen before.
One thing working to Warfighter’s advantage is Frostbite 2; the game is gorgeous. Unlike the reported problems on the PS3 and Xbox 360, the PC version runs like a dream and looks amazing. I’m running a i5-3750k with 16GB of RAM, an overclocked GTX 660 Ti and a couple of 120hz monitors. The game didn’t drop a single frame and remained smooth as silk, even when I was recording 1080p footage with Dxtory.
I have to give Danger Close some credit: you’re able to launch the game directly rather than going through Battlelog, if that’s your cup of tea, although you still have to go through a launcher first. The interface does unfortunately leave a little to be desired — the in-game server browser lists ping in bars instead of milliseconds. You can’t sort by ping either, which seems utterly bizarre and another sign that, like the campaign, the game wasn’t as ready for launch as it should have been.
But once you get down to playing, it’s enjoyable enough despite the lack of innovation. There’s seven game modes: the typical Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag (titled Home Run) to start with, for people who want to keep things simple. Battlefield players will recognise the Sector Control mode, while Real Ops is designed for Call of Duty’s Hardcore fans.
Combat Mission is ripped straight from Battlefield 3 — destroy an objective to move forward — while Hotspot is similar to the Headquarters mode from, again, Call of Duty. Despite that, I found it to be the most enjoyable mode given the arrangement of the maps, which have a wide variety of angles, shooting ranges and differences in height.
It’s a little chaotic, which isn’t a bad thing if you’re trying to capture the attention of the twitch-crazy gamers that inhabit modern military shooters. It makes it utterly crucial that your teammate has some sympathy and moves to a safe area for you to spawn, as the available space gets choked off quite quickly when you’re dealing with mines, suppressing fire, grenade launchers and all manner of weapons battling over a constrained space.
A major positive is the amount of customisation and unlocks for your weapons. Players that persevere with Warfighter will be rewarded with a variety of bullet magazines, stocks, muzzles, optical sights and barrels to choose from, all of which affect the guns weight and recoil.
Each class has 12 weapons to choose from. So far I haven’t managed to unlock all of them, although some were immediately useful off the bat. The Australian SAS-R Assaulter starts out with an assault rifle that literally has no recoil at all, making it perfect for spamming in tight spots. On top of that, he comes equipped with a grenade launcher, has middle-of-the-road movement speed and can unlock a mortar strike or a smoke grenade after a few kills.
That’s been the most popular class by far, even more than the Spec Ops and Point Man classes, which are much faster but carry weaker weapons. The overall balance between the classes isn’t too bad, although the obvious power of the stock Assaulter means you’ll see more Aussies in most games (besides, you know, the actual Aussies controlling them).
With a maximum of 20 players and a good enough dynamic between the maps themselves, it’s pretty easy to enjoy playing Warfighter for an hour or two. I haven’t come across any game-breaking bugs or the horrendous netcode that some of my peers reportedly have, but then again the PC is the master race, after all.
The game looks great and the multiplayer is fluid, functional and enjoyable. But it’s not outstanding. It’s not fresh and it’s not the kind of gamble you’d expect to see a developer take if they were competing with the big boys of the FPS world.
That’s a disappointment. Because at the end of the day, something, very soon, will come along that’s better. And that’s because there are other studios out there, right now, taking chances, taking risks, trying to push the genre forward.
If you’d rather just have the same shooter model again for a new year, Medal of Honor: Warfighter has got you sorted. But gamers deserve better than just a passing mark – especially from a major AAA-release.
- Game looks outstanding and runs like a dream
- Extensive weapon customisation
- Enough modes to cater to everyone
- Two-man fire team mechanic is really rewarding, provided you have the right teammate
- Nothing you haven’t seen before
- In-game server browser lacks basic options
- Bit too chaotic; more for fans of COD than Battlefield