Medal of Duty
Medal of Honor affords the gaming industry a unique opportunity to appraise the plainly lacklustre results inherent in derivative game design. For a game that was heavily marketed on the merits of its realistic depiction of warfare, it is quite frankly an experience overwhelmed by a slavish devotion to the distinctive formula established by the Call of Duty series. While wholly competent and often enjoyable in its own right, it’s simply impossible to ignore the fact that developers Danger Close and Dice have effectively constructed a brazen imitation, rather than a truly innovative title.
Medal of Honor’s wholesale brand of mimicry ironically ensures that it’s a fundamentally solid and satisfying gameplay experience. The immediate familiarity of the game’s campaign and multiplayer portions is instantly welcoming; effectively removing any barrier to entry that a more imaginative approach might have produced. Consequently, the highlights of Medal of Honor’s design are more apparent than they otherwise might have been.
The game’s slide-to-cover system and the ability to lean around corners, cumulatively change the pacing of Medal of Honor’s single player encounters in a surprisingly refreshing manner. Adding to this, the game’s weapons strike a remarkable balance between lethal precision and the unwieldy, coarse weight you’d expect from such violent instruments. Yet the real star of Medal of Honor is the staggering sound design, featuring some of the most impacting and nuanced audio ever produced – it’s well worth experiencing.
A distinctively less welcome consequence of the game’s derivative style however, is the sheer clarity with which a player can detect its shortcomings. Those intimately familiar with the mechanics of the Modern Warfare series will immediately take issue with the game’s inconsistent hit detection and unsightly dips in frame-rate. On the other hand, those familiar with other recent shooters such as Battlefield: Bad Company 2 or Halo: Reach, may find the occasionally stilted animation, inconsistent visuals and structurally simplified multiplayer an unappetising compromise.
Despite this, the game’s incredibly familiar single-player campaign lacks the melodramatic storytelling of Activision’s flagship series – and is all the better for it. In fact, the low-key and consistent setting amidst the beautiful rural landscape of Afghanistan offers a genuine sense of location, grounding the events of the campaign in a fashion that the globe-trotting Modern Warfare series lacks. Having said that, it might have been nice if Danger Close had included the slightest trace of character development, as Medal of Honor is wholly devoid of any relatable protagonists.
Nonetheless, there’s a point towards the end of Medal of Honor’s brief campaign where the disjointed and ineffectual narrative finally blooms into an immersive scenario, giving events a definitive sense of purpose. The game’s locale is instrumental in galvanising this sensation, engaging you in a setting that feels topical and relevant to today’s real-world conflict. It’s just a pity that these moments of cohesion and engagement reside solely in Medal of Honor’s final sections.
The decision to farm-out both the single-player and multiplayer development to separate studios reeks of the ambitions conjured in boardroom meetings. Unsurprisingly, there’s an awkward and utterly tenuous connection between the two; this is literally two separate games. It’s a jarring experience, and the derivative nature of Medal of Honor’s design severely hampers the game’s multiplayer component. The accelerated pace and simplified structure of the modes on offer renders Medal of Honor a strange chimera of its contemporaries, leaving the game a middling example of any particular style.
You’ll find a relatively typical assortment of competitive modes in DICE’s multiplayer component, ranging from traditional team Deathmatch and Domination game types, to the objective based Combat Mission. Feeling like a stripped down variant of DICE’s more convincing work with the Bad Company series, Medal of Honor’s multiplayer offers little long term incentive thanks to its all too familiar styling. To be fair, it’s an admittedly enjoyable component of the game, but those tired of the formula set in place by other modern shooters will surely find little reason to invest in this particular game.
Ultimately, the campaign suffers at the hands of some underwhelming technical issues and a barely detectable narrative. The game’s multiplayer feels similarly malnourished and struggles to establish a unique identity. Yet none of the game’s shortcomings afflict the experience as dramatically as Medal of Honor’s general sense of tired, uninspired repetition; it’s simply a consequence of the game’s undeniable familiarity. Despite being a fundamentally competent production, it’s simply a shame that Medal of Honor does so little to distinguish itself from its competitors.