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Medal of Honor: Warfighter Review

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  • X360

Warfighter makes no successful effort to stand out in a very crowded genre.

So. Many. Beards.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter is a modern-military-themed first-person shooter with snap-to aiming, a short, globe-trotting campaign and a level-based multiplayer mode. You're instructed to go "weapons free" a lot. I feel compelled to speak about the game as dryly and matter-of-factly as the game seems to regard itself, because if you're reading this review, you're painfully familiar with the sort of game Warfighter is. It does all the things that sort of game is supposed to do, but not with the flair or invention that would make it possible to care again about playing something you remember having played so many times before. In such a crowded and competitive category, there's not much about this game that stands out, and that assumes you're looking for more of this type of thing in the first place. For a lot of people in 2012, that's a big assumption.

Warfighter's campaign gives you five or six hours of flying around the world to shoot at enemies every time they pop out from behind cover, breaking up the bulk of your time in the Middle East with the occasional interlude in places like Somalia and... the Philippines? While there may be legitimate real-world reasons that terrorist cells would be operating in such areas, the way you hop disjointedly from a hostage crisis in one country to a hunt for explosive contraband in another to kidnapping a shifty banker in a third--all largely without context and starring different sets of characters who don't clearly relate to one another--just made me think the game was looking for excuses to make sure not all of your enemies are wearing turbans.

The game admirably makes an attempt to at least humanize one side of the conflict, depicting the American soldiers' families and the effect their duty-bound determination-bordering-on-obsession has on their home lives. But these scenes aren't dramatically interesting in themselves (and plunge deep into the uncanny valley), and they're peppered so haphazardly throughout the already flat story of special-ops intrigue that it all just runs together into so much noise. There are no strong, memorable characters. I wish I'd had an easier time telling Preacher from Stump from Mother from Voodoo from Dusty, but they all look the same and talk the same and act the same to such an extent that at some point it all degenerates into a sea of beards.

There's just not much here you haven't seen before.

The campaign is intensely scripted and almost perfectly linear. That's probably not a surprise, but it doesn't make it any less underwhelming that every checkpoint plays out the same no matter how many times you restart it, that you need to do exactly what the game wants you to in every instance in order to trigger the next sequence, that you can never run any direction except forward. Once in a while the scripting breaks, as when the game failed to spawn in two key enemies so I could move forward until they spawned right behind me, or when I tried to stab the wrong enemy in the back during a stilted stealth sequence when I was clearly meant to stab the other guy instead. There aren't many moments when it doesn't work, but all the other moments are just boring, with the exception of the two driving levels. The first, where you chase a car through a crowded third-world marketplace, is simple but actually kind of exhilarating. The second is a stealth driving sequence (yes) that devolves into a vehicular version of Pac-Man. The driving and a couple of boilerplate rail-shooting levels don't do much to uplift what is otherwise as standard a shooter campaign as can be.

There is of course also the requisite multiplayer mode, which on the Xbox is split off onto a totally separate disc. As expected, everything you do online feeds into a persistent ranking system, though at least it feels like there are more ways than headshots and a solid KDR to rank up. You're put into a random two-man fireteam in most multiplayer matches, and you can earn a decent amount of unlock points by assisting your buddy with ammo and healing. The fireteam system is handled intelligently in general, allowing you to spawn on your ally in the field and even spawning you in with the same posture he's currently using. Points have a way of piling up further after matches, when various team- and mode-based ribbons unlock based on overall match performance. The game types here all fall into the standard buckets of capture-and-hold, team deathmatch, and so on. If I had to choose a favorite, it'd be combat mission, which tasks you with attacking or defending three points on the map and constrains your team not based on a time limit but a common number of respawns. There's nothing out of the ordinary about the online gameplay, but I'll admit it's still possible to feel that particular last-minute thrill when you barely eke out a win at the end of a taut match.

Whoa, buddy. I know she's your ex, but grenades?

Multiplayer features a sprawling array of player unlocks that range from cosmetic stuff like camo to support abilities like mortar strikes and ancillary weapons like grenade launchers. The most impressive part of the whole construction is an extensive weapon-customization system that lets you swap out stocks, muzzles, sights, receivers, and magazines for each individual firearm. Filing all of that under a section labeled "My Gun" feels just a bit perverse, though, and you'd have to be really into the gameplay here to spend the time unlocking it all. The game plays well enough when the pressure is on, but the performance isn't nearly as smooth as the annual Call of Duty offering and there's not nearly as much depth and scale as Battlefield. So there's not much here to explicitly recommend over the competition.

Warfighter has no real reason to exist, but it's not surprising that it does exist. The last Medal of Honor did surprisingly well in the marketplace, and Battlefield 3 must have sold significantly better. So I suppose you can't fault a publicly traded company for taking its annual stab at cashing in on the military-shooter craze that still inexplicably shows no signs of abating. If we're going to get so many of these games, though, it's a shame a few of them don't aim higher than a mark that's been squarely hit so many times before.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
97 Comments
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Posted by RandomInternetUser

Brad's review icons are no longer accurate. Needs more beard.

Posted by Ghostiet

I always wonder what makes this a 3 and the next CoD a 4/5. It's not meant to say that GB is biased or anything, I just wonder if MoH's reception would be warmer if we didn't have MW3 last year.

Posted by Brinty

3/5 is better than I expected, Was thinking it was going to get a 2.

Posted by EgoCheck616

Very accurate review. Great job, Brad. I've been enjoying this game quite a bit on PC but something seems off. I think some people have been a little to hard on Danger Close. There is a very fine line between a mediocre game and a terrible game. This one isn't terrible, it just doesn't surprise anyone.

With that said the driving sequences made me even more excited for NFS Most Wanted.

Posted by Hailinel

@Ghostiet said:

I always wonder what makes this a 3 and the next CoD a 4/5. It's not meant to say that GB is biased or anything, I just wonder if MoH's reception would be warmer if we didn't have MW3 last year.

The bombast, I'm guessing, though I have a feeling that BO2 won't be able to score that well on that point alone. It's evident that this form of FPS is wearing out its welcome.

Posted by BlazeHedgehog

EA already has Battlefield. It was actually kind of insulting that they showed MOH Warfighter and BF4 at the same E3. Like, wow, really? You're basically competing with yourself just as much as you are competing with Call of Duty at that point.

Posted by Imsorrymsjackson

Great review Brad, this type of game is getting so tedious.

Posted by Phatmac

@Ghostiet said:

I always wonder what makes this a 3 and the next CoD a 4/5. It's not meant to say that GB is biased or anything, I just wonder if MoH's reception would be warmer if we didn't have MW3 last year.

COD is tight experience that has a bombastic campaign that I ususally like. I loved BLOPS so I'm super stoked for BLOPS 2.

Posted by Metal_Mills
@Ghostiet said:

I always wonder what makes this a 3 and the next CoD a 4/5. It's not meant to say that GB is biased or anything, I just wonder if MoH's reception would be warmer if we didn't have MW3 last year.

Because this game makes CoD look like an unscripted work of art.
 
  
Posted by hollitz

I heard Brad grew a beard just so he could get in the heads of the bearded characters. That's commitment, folks.

Posted by CptMorganCA

@Ghostiet said:

I always wonder what makes this a 3 and the next CoD a 4/5. It's not meant to say that GB is biased or anything, I just wonder if MoH's reception would be warmer if we didn't have MW3 last year.

I feel like Warfighter's reception would've been warmer if it actually did anything that military shooters haven't been doing for 5 years better than anything else. It's a functional, pretty, unoriginal military shooter. Which is perfectly reflected in this middling review and score.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

I'm disappointed that a game like this with a high caliber of beards isn't that good of a game. Oh well.

Moderator
Edited by EpicSteve

@CptMorganCA said:

@Ghostiet said:

I always wonder what makes this a 3 and the next CoD a 4/5. It's not meant to say that GB is biased or anything, I just wonder if MoH's reception would be warmer if we didn't have MW3 last year.

I feel like Warfighter's reception would've been warmer if it actually did anything that military shooters haven't been doing for 5 years better than anything else. It's a functional, pretty, unoriginal military shooter. Which is perfectly reflected in this middling review and score.

The difference with COD is that while it's a tired formula, it's a well executed game that has a much higher level of polish that the MOH series.

Posted by Solh0und

I will always remember the grenade indicator during a cutscene. 
 
Regardless of that, this game still looks broken,Y'all.

Posted by Little_Socrates

I remain staunchly anti-facial hair at this point.

Nice review, Brad.

Edited by Deathpooky

It definitely seems like the press, and to a lesser extent those of us who follow games closely, are tired with generic Modern Military Shooters, but I don't think the general audience feels the same way. Here's hoping sales drop off so we can get a new CoD4 type revolution in shooters, but I imagine that won't happen till the next generation.

Posted by Kerned
Warfighter has no real reason to exist

Box quote!

Posted by JoeyRavn

When will people learn that there are too many full-grown beards? There would be no wars to fight if everyone understood that the stubble is the sweetspot.

Madness.

Posted by zombie2011

The biggest difference between this and COD is that COD is exciting to play and watch. Like Ryan mentioned in the QL the moment in MW3 where you are on a boat riding around Russian warships trying to destroy Manhattan is crazy as shit. Nothing in this game is like that, the game is just hiding behind cover and popping out once in a while to shoot a guy in the head, no flash, no spectacle.

Posted by Baal_Sagoth

Great review. Very enjoybale to read, balanced, aware of the larger picture and generally insightful. I really think the game got its fair shake here and that's excellent considering how many versions of this we've seen by now - even those of us not professionally playing or considering most everything.

@Deathpooky said:

Here's hoping sales drop off so we can get a new CoD4 type revolution in shooters, but I imagine that won't happen till the next generation.

That's the part that is really scary to me about this entire development - the halo this particular iterative entry into the CoD franchise gets from so many gamers. I fail to see what's anywhere even slightly close to revolutionary about this game. It opted to also use BF2's modern take on military FPS games. It expanded BF2's MP progression into a very skillfully delivered RPG-reminiscent system. And it mainly just did the same very limited, very arcady, very primitive but also very fun nonstop murdering FPS game even earlier entries like Quake et al. did except the tacked-on context. But some lipservice being paid to the fucked-up, horrific qualities war tends to have in real life isn't revolutionary when the gameplay fails to capture that on a fundamental level in my opinion. I really hope an actual next step in military games isn't going to be this uneventful. Let fun, mindless shooters live forever but give narrative games about war something much better if you'd ask me.

Posted by Colourful_Hippie

I want to dive into a sea of beards....wait...no I don't.

Edited by Mumrik

@Ghostiet said:

I always wonder what makes this a 3 and the next CoD a 4/5. It's not meant to say that GB is biased or anything, I just wonder if MoH's reception would be warmer if we didn't have MW3 last year.

The same here. I have no problem with this game getting a 3 (or 2 or whatever else they think it deserves), but it seems like everybody chastises MoH and other modern shooters for stuff that CoD gets away with.

Jeff keeps giving CoD games 4/5 and then making it clear that they can't keep repeating the formula, but if you went by what he says in videos and on the podcast you'd think he had given it a 2. CoD is sort of the joke of the office (or at least the podcast) through the year, but it doesn't get a joke score. The others do. It's not that CoD doesn't have the scripting jank these games do - there's plenty of that in there. Maybe I just can't see the difference because I think CoD 4 was a really bad and kind of broken game that the sequels haven't improved on.

Posted by Encephalon

Sea of beards!

Posted by Pokalapoketl

@EpicSteve said:

@CptMorganCA said:

@Ghostiet said:

I always wonder what makes this a 3 and the next CoD a 4/5. It's not meant to say that GB is biased or anything, I just wonder if MoH's reception would be warmer if we didn't have MW3 last year.

I feel like Warfighter's reception would've been warmer if it actually did anything that military shooters haven't been doing for 5 years better than anything else. It's a functional, pretty, unoriginal military shooter. Which is perfectly reflected in this middling review and score.

The difference with COD is that while it's a tired formula, it's a well executed game that has a much higher level of polish that the MOH series.

What's that saying again? "You can't polish a turd"?

Posted by Veektarius

Brad is hardly one to be complaining about beards.

Posted by TheVideoHustler

I agree.

Posted by Branthog

Wow, three stars? It's not the worst game ever, but three stars seems to be far too generous.

Posted by SomeJerk

This game is like the previous Danger Close MOH but on a really good engine, but worse than the previous Danger Close MoH, which I started replaying and duders it's really freaking good compared to this :( 
 
(and MW3 SP was really rather good and fresh, original in many areas, compared to what this brought to the table)

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@Pokalapoketl said:

@EpicSteve said:

@CptMorganCA said:

@Ghostiet said:

I always wonder what makes this a 3 and the next CoD a 4/5. It's not meant to say that GB is biased or anything, I just wonder if MoH's reception would be warmer if we didn't have MW3 last year.

I feel like Warfighter's reception would've been warmer if it actually did anything that military shooters haven't been doing for 5 years better than anything else. It's a functional, pretty, unoriginal military shooter. Which is perfectly reflected in this middling review and score.

The difference with COD is that while it's a tired formula, it's a well executed game that has a much higher level of polish that the MOH series.

What's that saying again? "You can't polish a turd"?

For the record, the Mythbusters totally polished a turd. Which says something about Call of Duty, though I'm not sure what.

Posted by Deathpooky

@Baal_Sagoth said:

@Deathpooky said:

Here's hoping sales drop off so we can get a new CoD4 type revolution in shooters, but I imagine that won't happen till the next generation.

That's the part that is really scary to me about this entire development - the halo this particular iterative entry into the CoD franchise gets from so many gamers. I fail to see what's anywhere even slightly close to revolutionary about this game. It opted to also use BF2's modern take on military FPS games. It expanded BF2's MP progression into a very skillfully delivered RPG-reminiscent system. And it mainly just did the same very limited, very arcady, very primitive but also very fun nonstop murdering FPS game even earlier entries like Quake et al. did except the tacked-on context. But some lipservice being paid to the fucked-up, horrific qualities war tends to have in real life isn't revolutionary when the gameplay fails to capture that on a fundamental level in my opinion. I really hope an actual next step in military games isn't going to be this uneventful. Let fun, mindless shooters live forever but give narrative games about war something much better if you'd ask me.

I'm not completely in love with CoD4, and I'd love to see more games tackle real war instead of Call of Duty's version, but I don't see how you can argue it wasn't revolutionary. All the parts that it created have since become cliched, and later Call of Duty games have simply tried to recapture the magic in vain, but at the time it singled-handedly revived the genre and spawned a generation of imitators. A compelling, crazy single-player campaign with varied locations and some amazing spectacle moments. Persistent multiplayer accounts with progression or leveling. All those things are present not just in FPS games, but in tons of other games now. And it did it all with top notch performance and 60 FPS.

It of course iterated on what came before, but it put them together in a complete, skillfully done package, innovated in the right ways, and defined what military first person shooters are for the last 5 years. If that's not revolutionary I don't know what is. Just because it's now resulted in a glut of imitators and less-original sequels we have now doesn't make it any less so.

Posted by jayjonesjunior

First MoH campaign was good because it was realistic and immersive (same bugs, same broken scripted events, worst looking, but fun and immersive), with this one they tried the more crazy-over-the-top-all-around-the-world-action from CoD and sucks here as much as it sucks in CoD.

Posted by Draxyle

Their attempts at "authenticity" with the gun manufacture gun cross-promotions and other things feel all the more shallow and distasteful given that it's just clinging to the coattails of CoD.

It's really a shame; if any franchise should try a new angle on the style, it's MoH.

Posted by PillClinton

Utterly predictable. I'll be skipping this. Sad to see yet another nail in the coffin of a once respected franchise.

Posted by Ghostiet

@jayjonesjunior said:

First MoH campaign was good because it was realistic and immersive (same bugs, same broken scripted events, worst looking, but fun and immersive), with this one they tried the more crazy-over-the-top-all-around-the-world-action from CoD and sucks here as much as it sucks in CoD.

My biggest problem with MoH's campaign were the script and linearity. It managed to get tense and emotional, but being guided screwed that experience.

The biggest offender was a mission where you are pinned down against endless waves of terrorists with environmental advantage. You run out of ammo, then, the air cavalry arrives. It doesn't sound much when described, but the music, dialogue and atmosphere really gives the sense of unavoidable doom, while seeing the helicopters save you is truly cathartic. Only problem is, it's all scripted and you have to defend yourself for a set amount of time. That's what bugs me with these shooters - make it a bit random, Jesus. If I die, make my dude fall to the ground and make me watch as my squad gets saved before I expire. Make it so that the helicopters can arrive at any time. Something.

Edited by Baal_Sagoth

@Deathpooky: Sure, I understand that point, I respect it, but I really don't agree personally. A huge amount of imitators don't devalue a great trendsetter, that's completely true but I'm not arguing against that. I do however like to point out that Modern Warfare itself merely reiterated on previous concepts while failing to add anything truly new. Persistent progression was in BF2 (even if that was a mere prototype), the crazy global SP campaign with mind-blowing spectacle (for the respective time period) was in previous MoH and CoD games since their inception. Just think about MoHAA's Operation Overlord! The technical polish and performance is a landmark in FPS gaming but that's only achieved by dumbing down the scope to that of a conventional corridor shooter.

Revolutionary, for me, implies smashing many conventions that came before and completely setting a new standard, a new system. I can see why you may see CoD4 that way but I really don't. To give an example from my perspective: BF1942 or 1998's Rainbow Six were much closer to a revolution than CoD4 was in my opinion. Maybe I'm getting close to mincing words, maybe it's a generational thing, but that's my perspective.

Edit: I actually forgot Operation Flashpoint: that one was sort of mind-blowing as well. And trying to present warfare in an entirely new fashion. Not dramatically interesting but with an intense simulation edge.

Posted by Benny

@Mumrik said:

@Ghostiet said:

I always wonder what makes this a 3 and the next CoD a 4/5. It's not meant to say that GB is biased or anything, I just wonder if MoH's reception would be warmer if we didn't have MW3 last year.

The same here. I have no problem with this game getting a 3 (or 2 or whatever else they think it deserves), but it seems like everybody chastises MoH and other modern shooters for stuff that CoD gets away with.

Jeff keeps giving CoD games 4/5 and then making it clear that they can't keep repeating the formula, but if you went by what he says in videos and on the podcast you'd think he had given it a 2. CoD is sort of the joke of the office (or at least the podcast) through the year, but it doesn't get a joke score. The others do. It's not that CoD doesn't have the scripting jank these games do - there's plenty of that in there. Maybe I just can't see the difference because I think CoD 4 was a really bad and kind of broken game that the sequels haven't improved on.

I've always interpreted the star rating system as a recommendability scale and a reflection of the text review. If a game's graphics were crappy, the animations were jacked and the story was terrible, but you had never experienced anything that played so well you could easily give it a 5 because you would recommend it to anyone, you might even describe it as 'better than the sum of its parts.'

COD gets 4s from Jeff because he would recommend them to fans of the genre, but they don't do enough to be recommended to absolutely anyone. I guess I'm trying to say the star rating system is not intended to be interpreted as a score out of 100% that deducts points based on every measurable facet of a game. I feel interpreting a review like this leads people down the dangerous path of comparing reviews like how Picross got a 5 and Zelda got a 4 for example when the star rating system just straight up isn't like that.

The score isn't the be all and end all.

Posted by dicnose

only rason this got so low is because theres a strong anti ea sentiment here...

Posted by Extreme_Popcorn

@dicnose said:

only rason this got so low is because theres a strong anti ea sentiment here...

Oh no! We've been rumbled!

Also

Posted by MarkWahlberg

"a sea of beards.... that devolves into a vehicular version of Pac-Man."

- Brad Shoemaker, Giantbomb.com

I like to imagine a world where box quotes are the weirdest non-sequitors that the PR team could find.

Posted by Marokai

This is a game I will never play in my life, in a genre that is completely overflowing with me-toos, but at some point a gaming publication/website needs to actually take a stand in reviewing "generic first person shooter" with lower scores than they do. Day in, and day out, the modern military first person shooter is viewed as this increasing joke genre that is stale and dull and increasingly without merit, and yet when reviewed they get average or above average scores. I get that score systems are complicated, I get that individual games are judged on an individual standard.. but at some point the rhetoric has to meet the action.  
 
If you went solely by rhetoric, you'd think the modern military FPS should die in a fire; if you went solely by reviews, you'd think they were defending the genre as still exciting and worthwhile. But a lazy game like this isn't really worthwhile anymore, and at some point I just really want someone to, for lack of a better cliche, put their money with their mouth is. There's no room or defense for an "average" modern military FPS anymore, and this is one of the rare instances where I feel like game reviews should be more "just my opinion" and less "objective summary of a product's features."

Posted by Animasta

@Kerned said:

Warfighter has [...] real reason to exist

Box quote!

fixed your box quote!

Posted by Kerned

@Animasta: Hey, it's not my box quote! I haven't even played it. :)

Edited by Bawlsz

The first MoH was surprisingly good it wasn't brilliant but I could see what Danger Close where trying to do, the game wasn't over the top, but tame, it made sense in terms of story, and had some nice moments, it felt that Danger Close were actually trying to be authentic.

But War fighter kinda took a nose dive into bombastic crap with OTT set pieces, they were touting it to be authentic but it was just another poor CoD clone, which is a shame because the first one accomplished allot more of what they wanted to do.

The multiplayer of War fighter is pretty standard fare, it isn't bad but it isn't something you'd put countless hours into. It has some neat ideas, but it feels rough, especially the MP UI, it's just incredibly unintuitive.

Posted by NTM

@dicnose: The only reason it got so low? Really, to be honest, I expected worse.

Posted by Hailinel

@NTM said:

@dicnose: The only reason it got so low? Really, to be honest, I expected worse.

Mediocrity in itself can be damning.

Edited by DonutFever

I've fought wars, you know.

Edited by JEC03

I still want MOHAA 2 I'm so sick of cod clones sad part is I just know that generic garbage codblops 2 will score high it's the same repetitive brainless shooter these games need to die already.

Posted by Skanker

@EpicSteve said:

@CptMorganCA said:

@Ghostiet said:

I always wonder what makes this a 3 and the next CoD a 4/5. It's not meant to say that GB is biased or anything, I just wonder if MoH's reception would be warmer if we didn't have MW3 last year.

I feel like Warfighter's reception would've been warmer if it actually did anything that military shooters haven't been doing for 5 years better than anything else. It's a functional, pretty, unoriginal military shooter. Which is perfectly reflected in this middling review and score.

The difference with COD is that while it's a tired formula, it's a well executed game that has a much higher level of polish that the MOH series.

Yep. The Call of Duty games feature co-op campaigns, specific co-op content (alternatively Spec Ops and Zombies [which is increasingly fleshed out]) and then the multiplayer, which runs at 60 fps. There's a lot more in a Call of Duty game than there is in these modern Medal of Honour games.

Posted by tourgen

My favorite part is putting Warfighter in the title then making you play the part of a cop straight out of Team America: World Police.

Online
Posted by Palaeomerus

"at some point it all degenerates into a sea of beards."

Possibly the line of the century ? It's way better than 'China Don't care'.

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