Medal of Honor review
Back in the Afghan desert, my four-man squad and I were faced with a well-fortified machinegun nest. My shooter instincts kicked in, and I went to flank, hopping up and down at a low wall in front of the gun like an impatient, gun-toting whack-a-mole. That didn’t work. I tried a grenade, only to see it pop apologetically in mid-air. Stymied, I skipped over to my squadmates, who gave me a job. It wasn’t to be the bunny-hopping hero – it was to provide covering fire. I did so, shouldering my light machinegun and popping occasional shots in a semi-accurate haze around my foe.
A woollier game might’ve made that process tiresome, but MoH’s shooting is fundamentally crisp and satisfying. Each bullet elicits the proper reaction. In the case of a shotgun applied to a head, that reaction is “oh no, I don’t have a head any more.” At least, that’s true of your hordes of enemies – on normal difficulty, your own character has no trouble absorbing bullets.
This disconnect is even greater when you take your exploits online, the multiplayer portion of the game having been handled by an entirely separate studio: DICE, of Battlefield fame. Weapons there are turbocharged, killing near instantly. I also found them to be more accurate: I had a float to my mouse-moves during the singleplayer that suggested the game was built for analogue sticks; online that was stripped away to leave me with a headshot-perfect reticule.
The ease of death on Medal of Honor’s multiplayer servers will frustrate some. It frustrated the (honour – Ed) out of me. But I adjusted to the slow tempo and rhythm of combat, and found it one of few games I’ve played against other humans where I’ve deployed actual battlefield creativity to succeed. An example: penned in by four assailants in an alley, I hurled a frag grenade forward. I didn’t expect a kill, but was able to use the dirt and dust kicked up by the detonation to scramble behind a bin before I was spotted. From there, I was able to plug two of them in the back of the head, and hide in a stairwell.
The online war is occasionally pretty – burning embers and smoke whipped across my field of vision as I sprinted for cover – but it’s never beautiful. I had most success as a sniper, squatting on a grey rock and scanning the horizon. Like the singleplayer campaign, MoH online matches are brown, grey, beige, serious, and rarely imbued with any kind of triumph.
Medal of Duty
Medal of Honour is a game that struggles with identity. It’s sometimes brave enough to let players not be the hero, and it’s invigorating when it does so. The back half of the game is more retreat than fightback, sprints away from combat and into the welcoming rotors of evac choppers. Moments like these carry the sense of martial respect that the game’s developers have tied the game up with, but they’re undone by tiresome tropes cribbed from contemporaries.
It may follow its dumber peers directly into pointless gimmickry, but for valour in attempting a tonal shift for genre, Medal of Honour should be rewarded.
MoH’s inventive and thoughtful sections are undermined by its desire to mimic other games it just can’t beat.