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Killing Nazis in VR with Respawn's Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond

The long-running Medal of Honor series will have a new entry in 2020, and for the first time it'll be in VR. Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond is coming to the Oculus Rift next year. It's being developed by Respawn Entertainment, makers of the Titanfall games and Apex Legends. Unfortunately, there's no wall-running, interdimensional rifts, or giant mechs, so killing Nazis with World War 2 era weapons will have to do.

Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond will feature over 50 levels split into three acts, spanning the years from 1943 to 1945. I got to try out two of those levels recently, each of which took about ten minutes to complete. Respawn expects the entire game to contain about 10-12 hours of play.

The key to crafting a convincing VR experience is to make it as interactive as possible, and the levels I played felt pretty solid in that respect. Your weapons are all attached to your virtual body: a pistol on your hip, two more weapons slung over each shoulder, and to pull one out you simply need to reach to the correct spot and grip with the controllers. All of your actions, like popping out an empty magazine or clip, grabbing a fresh one from your belt, and slapping them into place begin to feel perfectly natural after a few tries. You can fire your guns one-handed, but using a second hand to steady them gives you a stability bonus, even with pistols.

There are also lots of objects scattered around the levels to pick up, examine, and throw, and you can even catch grenades the Nazis throw at you and heave them back. Take note: your enemies can pick up your thrown grenades and toss them back, too, so don't think you're the only one who knows that trick.

There are some nice touches in the levels as well—I picked up a phone in a Nazi command center, held it to my virtual ear, and heard some voices speaking in German. Turning on any in-game radios you come across will let you listen to an authentic radio broadcast for a little extra immersion, and there's even a playable piano.

Though great pains have been taken to create realistic environments for Above and Beyond, this is still meant to be a fun and exciting action game and it takes plenty of liberties. Hence the trio of health syringes affixed to my left wrist which I could yank out and plunge into my chest when I got wounded to instantly recover. 

It's worth noting that Above and Beyond is going all-in when it comes to player locomotion. There's no option to 'blink' through the levels like you find in most VR games—blink being the movement option where you point your controller at a spot you want to move to, and then appear there as if by teleportation. In Above and Beyond you'll need to move using the controller to walk (or slowly sprint) through the levels. On the plus side, the movement felt very smooth to me and I never experienced any nausea, but I may not be the best test case because I almost never get nauseous in VR, even while flying or falling.

Above and Beyond will also see the return of disguise mode to Medal of Honor. While this isn't a stealth game, you will at times infiltrate the Nazi forces while wearing their uniform (such as a mission where you're brought aboard a U-boat while posing as a German soldier needing rescue after the sinking of a ship).

If anything felt lacking in the demo levels I played, it was the enemy AI. They didn't really move much, apart from rushing into whatever room I happened to be in, and when they did move it was often to uncovered positions. Once, a Nazi ran right past me and stood facing a wall. Grenades were a big problem for them as well: more than once I'd be behind cover reloading and hear an explosion, only to pop my head out and see they'd all been killed by one of their own poorly thrown grenades.

I can't be too hard on the Nazis: I made my share of mistakes, too. While trying to clip a grenade on my chest, I lifted my hand too close to my mouth, which the game interpreted as me pulling the grenade pin out with my teeth—something you can do in Above and Beyond (and one of those things that's done often in war movies but not in actual wars). The grenade fell between my feet and detonated. Also, embarrassingly, at one point I attempted to throw a grenade but wound up throwing the pulled pin instead. Again, I blew myself up. Not my best moment.

There's not much I can do about my sloppy play, but Respawn has plenty of time to tighten up the Nazi AI: Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond isn't coming out until next year. In the meantime, it's already feeling like a fun and highly interactive VR experience, even without mechs.

Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring stories in RPGs so he can make up his own.