Though the Call Of Duty franchise has shot into the mainstream with its declarations of "Modern Warfare", the plot's never been grounded as such. Medal Of Honor is a modern-day military game and a love-letter to the US army.
The campaign jumps between three different groups of US soldiers: AFO Neptune, Delta Force and the Army Rangers. Different portions of the campaign offer a different perspective of the same battle taking place in Afghanistan during the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks. The plot's treated lovingly, but ultimately amounts to nothing more than context for the missions and setting.
Medal Of Honor's single-player campaign lasts roughly 5-6 hours, but multiplayer is on-hand to flesh out the game's longevity.
Medal Of Honor's armoury of weapons are super satisfying to shoot. The guns have a weighty sensation to them, but offer the erratic precision of the Call Of Duty franchise. The sound design is also fantastic, making the weapons seem extremely powerful. One of our favourite missions in Medal Of Honor involves long-range sniping, where there's an extremely satisfying delay between the shot being fired and the bullet making contact. For a game designed around gunning people down, it gets the core shooting mechanics spot on. Which is essential.
Despite having a short campaign, Danger Close has done a fantastic job filling Medal Of Honor with mission variety. The game has brilliant pacing, which sees the gameplay seamlessly switch from large-scale shootouts, to tense stealth missions. The game also likes to put you in control of a variety of technology, which never really gets old. One standout mission half-way through the campaign puts you in control of an entire helicopter's arsenal. Despite being on-rails, the subsequent carnage is some of the most satisfying in the game. While it tries its best to carve out a plot that's exciting and action movie-esque, Medal Of Honor remains grounded in reality. That goes some way towards giving the game its own personality - but if you're someone who prefers the "soap opera" madness of Call Of Duty or Killzone, you might find Medal Of Honor's campaign a little slow.
Medal Of Honor's campaign really picks up in the latter-half of the game, when you're jumping between different squads and exploring different parts of the battle. It's a little contrived the way the missions are sewn together, but it keeps you involved in the plot. Medal Of Honor's a hard game to put down once you start playing, because the pace of the story-telling (and subsequent variety of the mission design) makes it difficult to find a reasonable spot to turn the game off.
As has already been mentioned, Medal Of Honor's guns are extremely satisfying to fire, largely due to the excellent sound design. The punch of the weapons is complimented by the game's voice acting and musical score. There are times when it genuinely feels like you are in the heart of a real war, and the score only adds to the poignancy of these moments. It's dark and gritty, but there's also a semblance of emotion to the way the game presents the gun fights.
Developed by DICE, Medal Of Honor's multiplayer plays like a Battlefield: Bad Company mod. While that could be construed as a negative, we actually found ourselves enjoying the game's focused battles. Smaller, claustrophobic maps give the multiplayer a deliberate pace that ensures you're always part of the action. The game's "Scorechain" mechanic rewards consistent points scoring (from kills, headshots, assists) with power-ups. Power-ups can then be used to score more points (whether it's helping the team by sending out a UAV, or launching mortar and rocket strikes). It's easy to run-away with the game when on a streak and it gives the multiplayer a groove that's super satisfying when found. Multiplayer modes range from standard team deathmatch to more varied objective battles. It's definitely an enjoyable component, but it's hard to see longevity in what's on offer. The modes are predictable, and there's not enough variety to the weapons that are unlocked as you level-up. It gives the impression of a week-long diversion — certainly enjoyable, but not the type of multiplayer you could invest a month's worth of gameplay into.
Despite making strides to be poignant, involving and layered - Medal Of Honor lacks the polish and execution to really stand above its contemporaries. We encountered numerous illusion breaking bugs that saw friendly AI characters stuck on geometry or repeating animation cycles. It breaks the atmosphere and comes across as sloppy.
Whenever Medal Of Honor's trying to do something amazing, the game grinds to a halt. Mostly these stutters are little frame-rate hiccups, but they can develop into full-blown pauses. What's most worrying is that the frame-rate problems can occur during CGI cut-scenes - why? Like the game's plethora of bugs, the frame-rate issues break the illusion that Medal Of Honor's trying to create.
There are times when Medal Of Honor looks amazing. The helicopter level, for example, is a great demonstration of the game's engine. Other times, it can look plain ugly. Dull, boring textures, flat lighting and a severe lack of anti-aliasing can lead to some dodgy visuals; definitely not what you'd expect from a game touted to go toe-to-toe against Activision's next block-buster Call Of Duty title.
Medal Of Honor's campaign is less bombastic than its contemporaries, but varied mission design and punchy weapons make it a worthwhile experience. The multiplayer is enjoyable yet derivative, though a host of technical issues plague both components of the game.