Review by You_Need_A_Life
"If you don't stand behind the troops, feel free to stand in front of them!"
Warfighter is the follow-up EA's 2010 Medal of Honor reboot that brought the series into the modern era that Call of Duty and Battlefield have been slugging it out in for the title of FPS king, and while it offered a fantastic campaign, it was good for little more than one or two playthroughs, and DICE's half-assed excuse for a multiplayer mode that, essentially, was just a stripped down beta for their then-upcoming Battlefield 3 left a rather sour taste in gamers' mouths. Nonetheless, the game offered something nobody had the guts to do: tell a true tale in gritty realism about the current "War on Terror." Now, two years later, after the attempt and failure of similar projects, namely Six Days in Falluja, Medal of Honor returns to the on-going struggle against Al-Qaeda, The Taliban, and their supporters.
Storyline - 5/10
The plot in the last game was heavily based and inspired by actual events that occurred in Afghanistan during the early years of the war following the attacks on 9/11. Gamers were moved by the touching and tragic events that transpired in the game, particularly by it's powerful ending that some have claimed brought them to tears. In their follow-up, Danger Close penned the plot for Warfighter with the aid of actual serving members of US SOCOM, or Special Operations Command, and if that still means nothing to you, Special Forces. This time, however, the plot is original and while the majority of the individual levels in the game are in one way or another inspired by actual events, they're only that, inspired. Unfortunately, Danger Close seem to have gone the Call of Duty route and sacrificed the authenticity that made the last game so special in favour of drama, more set-piece action, and a bigger, wilder plot. That's not to say the plot goes haywire and devolves into a mess of a WWIII scenario that made absolutely no sense, but the way the plot unfolds in Warfighter leaves a lot to be desired.
As I said before, the game is only "inspired" by true events, and these events in question certainly had nothing in common. Warfighter's missions take you all over the Middle East in various operations to thwart the international terror network, but the timeline jumps all over the place, with one level taking place eight weeks prior with one playable character, and the next taking place only a week ago with a different playable character, and cut-scenes that jump around from the present to god-knows-how-long-ago thrown in-between. What we're left with is a plot that would make enough sense if told in chronological order, but instead becomes a complex mish-mash of tales that are seemingly unrelated and really don't have much in the way of rhyme or reason, leaving the player scratching theirs heads and wondering "Who is that guy? Why am I here? When did he die?" and so forth. Even after two playthroughs, I found myself resorting to Wikipedia to try and figure out just what the hell was going on. The plot, once you actually understand it, is decent, and those heart-felt moments that made the first game so great are certainly there, but with the plot being as hard to follow as it is, you're often left not really caring about the tragic outcomes of things because you had no idea what was going on in the first place anyway. A real shame, especially considering how well-done the original game's plot was structured, written, and executed.
Gameplay - 8/10
Alright, here's where the points really matter, and in Warfighter's case, they're in the right corner of the ring. Gameplay is very similar to that in the last game's Campaign. However, this time around, Danger Close opted to adopt DICE's Frostbite 2 engine, showcased in their Battlefield 3 (and to much lesser joy, the online portion of the last Medal of Honor), rather than using their own in-house engine. Now while the last game played well despite some seemingly floaty controls, they've put Frostbite 2 to good use. More than that, they've gone a step ahead and added features that Battlefield 3 lacked, including the dynamic-lean function used in the last game's Campaign, the ability to slide into a crouch or dive to prone while sprinting, incorporated driving missions, and fine-tuned the engine to get maximum performance. Simply put, the game looks great, plays great, and feels great. Those who've played Battlefield 3 know what to expect, but with tighter controls and more responsiveness. Of course, the game isn't just Battlefield 3: Medal of Honor edition. The tone and style of the game is far more similar to the original game as opposed to Battlefield 3, and the unique filters for the camera that gave Battlefield 3 its distinctive style are traded in for a style more fitting of a Medal of Honor title. Sadly, some changes to the engine, while fitting in with the game style, are disappointing to lose. The environmental damage, for instance, has been toned down drastically, and many surfaces can't be shot through or even destroyed, including some odd items like cardboard boxes and sofas. With the sole selling point of Frostbite 2 being the ability to destroy the environment dynamically, it's sad that firing at a wall an enemy hides behind no longer disintegrates under fire, and explosives no longer punch holes through walls unless, of course, it's a scripted set-piece meant to happen. Many destructible objects do exist within the game world, but they're typically limited to obvious wooden structures, small sections of cover like concrete barricades, and things of that nature.
On the subject of set-pieces, like the last game, Warfighter's Campaign again follows a very strict, linear path with no room for deviation or free thought. Doors that can be opened can only be opened by team-mates or when the player is prompted to, and if the area you're in isn't surrounded by debris or walls that guide you where you're intended to go, you'll be warned to re-enter the mission area if you stray off the beaten path. The areas you engage enemies in are large enough to move around, but it still feels quite claustrophobic, and your team-mates always react to every situation the same way every time, and unlike the last game, their AI has been toned way down, making them incredibly inaccurate even when face-to-face with enemies, and are rendered practically useless during the game's many slow-motion Breach & Clear segments that, oddly enough, are generally harder to live through than the countless battles you'll have with the uncountable numbers of enemy combatants that you'll encounter on your way. That said, it's also worth noting that the number of enemies in any given battle have also been greatly increased compared to the last game, giving Warfighter much more of a mindless, CoD-style arcade shooter than an authentic mil-sim.
Finally, the driving missions, only seen in the Campaign, are pretty dull. One involves a high-speed chase through the streets and back alleys of Pakistan, but the challenge is so non-existent when things go well so as to be more boring than exciting, and when things go bad, you fail immediately and have to restart your checkpoint. Strangely, despite there being a Satellite overhead that tells you exactly where the guy you're pursuing is going, the INSTANT he's no longer in your own view, regardless of how far away he actually is, a timer starts counting down and if it reaches zero, you fail, even if he's just making a hard left turn around something and you're mere feet away. If you can't see him, he's gone, even if three seconds later, when the road straightens out, you could literally reach out your window and grab him by the collar. Another mission turns the tables and has you attempting to flee a number of pursuers, but there's no open world to race around in, and instead just another linear track disguised as a sprawling city, and so again, with nowhere to go but straight ahead, the level just drags on until it's over and done with.
All that said, the good outweighs the bad by a lot. Shooting and gunplay mechanics are decent, action is fast and frantic, and the game is loaded to the teets with variety. One mission alone has you assaulting a city from the shore, calling in airstrikes on buildings full of snipers, using an EOD RC Robot armed with machine guns and grenade launchers to attack entrenched enemies, fighting through bombed-out streets in building-to-building warfare, and ending with a Sniping segment complete with bullet-drop mechanics before seeing a whole city block being eaten up by friendly air support. Chaotic mess of a plot aside, the game sure gets the adrenaline flowing, and unlike the last Medal of Honor game, the difficulty is definitely there - acting without thinking will get you killed quick, and even a lone enemy has a good chance of sending you to your grave.
Controls - 7/10
Using the Frostbite 2 engine, I already stated how similar the gameplay feels to that of Battlefield 3. The movement and controls are solid once you get used to them, and while they still have a slightly floaty feel to them, veterans of Battlefield 3 will feel right at home, and players from the last Medal of Honor will get the hang of things easy enough. What you have is the standard FPS set-up with some minor additions, like the dynamic lean ability mapped to L2 by default, and the D-Pad being used to either display the HUD in the Campaign or activate your Class-specific ability in the online Multiplayer mode, change rate of fire, and other abilities. Strangely, in the Campaign, the L2 button that players will quickly learn to love also toggles your flashlights on and off with each press, causing it flicker while you take cover and return fire. More strange is that nothing is ever mapped to the D-Right button during the Campaign, so why the flashlights couldn't have been toggled by that is a mystery to me.
There are also a few different control styles to choose from, but you can't remap any button as far as I know, and I found that it took a while to really fine-tune the turn speeds, as I constantly found myself unable to reach a happy balance between ADS turn speed and regular look speed. It always seemed that if my free look speed was perfect, my ADS speed was always way too fast, and vice-versa, but once you get used to it, you'll have it, though going to a different game afterwards and then coming back will require some re-familiarization. There's also some instances where attempting to jump over certain objects or windows just plain won't work, and end up leaving you where you were when you started. If it wasn't for those few issues, Controls would have gotten a higher score, because they work fine when they work, but they take some getting used to.
Sound - 9/10
Much like Battlefield 3 and the last Medal of Honor, the sound department sure earned their salaries for Warfighter, and those who own good surround sound systems will literally feel their homes shake around them as building explode and crumble to the ground around them. AK-47s erupt with tremendous bangs and every little detail is accounted for regardless of the situation. Music is also one of the game's strong-points, with Ramin Djawadi returning from the 2010 Medal of Honor to score Warfighter along with some minor input by Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda. The result is a breath-taking score that builds on that from the last game and even surpasses it.
Unfortunately, as good as the sound and music is at the best of times, numerous occurrences of sound-drops or strange volume dips plague the Campaign, pulling the player out of the immersion and killing the mood. If not for that lone issue, this category would easily get a full 10 from me. Online, I've yet to notice any such occurrences.
Replay Value - 7/10
As far as offline content goes, there's not much to talk about. The Campaign is short, insanely difficult to understand, and while the gameplay itself is generally very good, the iffy driving levels and over-dramatic set-pieces and linearity make it worth only a few playthroughs, and only one or two of the 14 levels are all that memorable. There are five different Difficulty settings, including the standard Easy, Normal & Hard modes, plus Tier 1 mode that removes the HUD altogether and forces more tactical play, and the Hardcore mode that gives the player one single life to beat the entire game with - failure at any point for any reason returns you to the very start of the very first level, even if it was the very last enemy of the very last level that killed you. Other than that, there's nothing. Zip. Zilch. Not even the original Tier 1 Time/Score Attack mode from the original game, and still absent is any form of split-screen multiplayer or extra modes to add a few hours of enjoyment. As much as I'm not a fan of Call of Duty, it sure packs a lot of content onto those discs, with the 4-player split-screen modes, Survival/Zombies, and Spec Ops modes. The sad thing is that Warfighter's online maps would be excellent for similar modes, and it's a terrible shame that Danger Close didn't bother implementing anything even as simple as Rainbow Six Vegas' Terrorist Hunt mode.
Now if it were all up to the Single Player content, I'd rate this a mere 4, but the Online mode, much to my surprise, is simply fantastic. EA, this time around, learned that when DICE doesn't give a crap about something, they don't even try to fake it. That said, Danger Close developed not only the Single Player Campaign but the online mode as well, and what a terrific job they did!
The basis of Warfighter's online mode is team-work. Maps are small and tight and littered with choke-points and alternate routes, and lone wolfs will die quick, as the maps, while not as huge as those found in Battlefield 3, offer more than enough routes and access to every zone to prevent a lone player from hunkering down and holding the opposing team at bay. Like Battlefield 3, Warfighter groups players together into small teams (2 as opposed to Battlefield 3's 4-man Squads, due to lower player-count per match and the smaller maps), and these players are able to assist each other by resupplying & healing, marking enemies for one another, and so forth. Assisting each other grants XP bonuses, and the teams that work together the most get a nice bonus at the end of the round. Unlike Battlefield 3 and even the last Medal of Honor, however, there is a total lack of vehicles beyond those offered as Score bonuses (more on that later), essentially combining the teamwork-heavy style of Battlefield 3 with the fast, aggressive and visceral combat of Call of Duty.
But as fun as the gameplay is, there's even more at the game's core. Warfighter offers a truly unique way to customize your character. Utilizing six different and unique Classes that include Sniper, Assaulter (Rifleman), Demolitions, Machine Gunner, Spec-Ops (stealth-based) & Pointman (a sorta of mix between Sniper & Spec-Ops), the player unlocks members of real-life Special Forces units from around the world, and represent their own country on the Battlelog website. By unlocking and using the different countries' Special Forces Units' in battle, players unlock weapons and customizations unique to that specific Unit for use with others, allowing the player to create some pretty customized load-outs and represent their own country on the battleground. After matches, win or lose, players earn "Warfighter Nation" Tokens that can be exchanged on the Battlelog website for XP bonuses, and their Tokens go towards representation of a country of their choosing in a massive world-wide battle to see which country gets the most amount of Tokens cashed in its favour, allowing players to literally fight for their country!
As far as Classes are concerned, as expected, each is limited to certain types of weaponry (Snipers use Sniper Rifles, Gunners use Machine Guns and so forth), but more important is their individual Class abilities. Each Class is given certain unique abilities, like extra armour and faster arming/disarming of Bombs for Demolitions Classes, or the ability to hunker down on a Bipod and have access to unlimited ammo for Gunner Classes with which to lay down incredible amount of suppressive fire. On top of that are the Score-Chains, which function in a similar fashion to Killstreaks in Call of Duty, except that rather than being awarded for getting a certain number of kills without dying, every action you do that supports your team, be it killing enemies or completing an objective or resupplying or saving a team-mate, will earn you points. Earn enough without dying and you'll be granted the option of using an Offensive or Defensive Support Action. There are four levels of Support Actions, and while all four Defensive Actions are the same for all Classes and are comprised of special bonuses that aid your team, such as Smoke Screens or Ammunition resupplies, the Offensive Support Actions give players the chance to call upon devastating attacks against the opposing team, ranging from Mortar Strikes to rapid insertions into the Objective areas via Blackhawk helicopters, or using Spy Drones to spot enemies for team-mates, disabling enemy radar, and much more! And of course, depending on the tactical situation, it might not be the best choice to opt for attacking the enemy - your team might be better aided with a Defensive Support Action, so there's a lot of depth to the system, and the right choice can turn a losing battle into a decisive victory.
As far as game modes go, there's a healthy assortment to keep you busy. Combat Mission plays out on a gigantic map, initially on a small portion, in which Attackers have a finite number of lives with which to attack and destroy a certain target on the map before extending the boarders and pushing farther in enemy territory to continue destroying targets until all three have been neutralized, all while the Defenders do everything in their power to hold them off and relieve them of their respawn count. Essentially, this mode plays out like the Rush mode in Battlefield, and veterans of the last Medal of Honor will remember this mode from that game as well.
Sector Control also returns, and places three flags on the map, one close to each team's spawn area and one in the center of the map that grants an additional spawn point if captured. Essentially, the game plays out like a King of the Hill mode, only there are three Hills. Teamwork is essential and the action never lets up.
Also returning from the classic pages of FPS history is the Capture the Flag mode, that, much like its name would imply, has each team trying to capture the others' Flag with single lives per player - respawns are disabled for this mode, and the most interesting Hotspot mode, which acts similar to Sector Control, in that a number of sites scattered around the map exist to be defended or attacked by either team, but only one is ever active at a time, and which one is completely random, forcing lots of teamwork to cover all of the areas. And then of course, the standard Team Deathmatch is included as well. The more experienced players will also appreciate the addition of the Hardcore mode that increases weapon damage, incorporates friendly-fire and removes the game's HUD, forcing players to play more tactically and to look before they shoot. Full Clan support keeps players together and lets you create your different Fireteams prior to even joining a room, and Matchmaking is quick and painless.
As far as problems go, the only real complaints to be had are the overly complicated menus and interfaces that require a lot of getting used to before becoming comfortable, and the VOIP voice-chat system in the game is VERY faulty, and often doesn't work period. It's said that a patch is in the works, but this is the sort of issue that should have been resolved prior to release. Other than that, there's no real balancing issues to speak of. Classes and weapons are all nicely fit into their own grooves with no overpowered weapons taking dominance in the game and all Classes have enough upsides & downsides to keep players from only using one or two certain ones. And once the VOIP issues are sorted out, there really won't be much to criticize about Warfighter's online component, especially considering how deep the Class system really is and how well everything works together without creating balance issues. However, there really aren't too many maps, and most weapon unlocks come fairly quick, so once you get your preferred load-out set up, you'll probably stick with it until you decide to switch to another Class. Hopefully we get some new content down the road, but for what it is, the game's depth is certainly on par with that of Battlefield 3's and vastly surpasses that of Call of Duty's.
Storyline - 5/10
Gameplay - 7/10
Controls - 7/10
Sound - 9/10
Replay Value - 7/10
Overall - 7/10
"Good - a few problems, but worth the time to play" sums it up pretty well. While it lacks a lot of Single Player content, Warfighter is a solid title that offers a unique experience that few dare to attempt. It's not the greatest game ever made, but it's certainly enjoyable, none of its weaknesses overshadow its many strengths, and the solid Online component makes up for the lack-luster Single Player Campaign. It is a bit of a niche game though, and fits somewhere between Battlefield and Call of Duty, as it's neither as large and tactical as the former, nor is it as fast and twitchy as the latter. So if you're looking for massive-scale battles with jets flying overhead and tanks rumbling down the road, this will disappoint just as much as if you're looking for a straight-up arcade shooter. But if you enjoyed the last game in the series, or enjoy FPS games in general, it's definitely worth an honest try. While it doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the table, it offers a unique way to go about what others have done to death, and gives a refreshing mix of tactical team-based combat, and fast and frantic gunfights. So if you're into the FPS genre and want something a little different, slap on some boots, grab yourself a rifle, and go earn yourself a Medal of Honor, Warfighter!
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 11/02/12, Updated 11/12/12
Game Release: Medal of Honor: Warfighter (US, 10/23/12)
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