previews\ Jun 14, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Medal of Honor preview


Ready to jockey for position in the race for the best first-person shooter on the market, Electronic Arts is gearing up to release the latest installment in the Medal of Honor franchise (aptly titled Medal of Honor for the reboot) with a move towards the war in Afghanistan. Balancing between plausibility and accuracy, along with realism vs. authenticity, Medal of Honor is set to take the world by storm all over again.

Developed individually by two companies (EA Los Angeles for single-player and DICE for multiplayer), Medal of Honor utilizes two engines in the form of Unreal and Frostbite. Running at a steady 30 FPS (Call of Duty runs at 60 FPS), the team decided to carry only one thing over from 2007’s Medal of Honor: Airborne, namely the animation system. The rest of what was developed was thrown away in favor of an overhaul in rendering, lighting effects, shading, textures, and much more. The animation system that was kept intact has also been improved upon greatly as animations will vary in movement speed, hit type (bullet, explosion, knife), being stationary, shot direction, and character stance. The NPCs will also react to every single bullet that is directed at them with the ability to go limp as a rag doll.

“There’s not a whole lot of opening and closing of doors. Just a lot of kicking them down.”

With the new-found goal toward reaching the perspective of realism – even with weapons that may be a year or two off to better serve the story – EA is implementing an extraordinary amount of features for single-player. Not only will players be sliding to cover, leaning around corners, and watching their bullets slope due to gravity, but enemy AI has been revamped with directives that allow them to charge, initiate blind attacks, patrol areas and stand idle when not prone to action. They even have their trademark “Taliban run” as they rush towards the players with the gun wobbling in the air as they try to scare off invaders from stepping foot on their soil.

Having NPCs change facial expressions due to the responses to game events, Medal of Honor is hoping to have players lose themselves in the world that is set before them. Careful implementations of blinks, head turns, gestures, and varying expressions such as anger, fear, and happiness push the title over the top with realism.

“You are at war, what are you willing to do?”

Playing as multiple characters from the two sides of the military branches for the US (Tier 1 and US Rangers), Medal of Honor is attempting to usher in a new era of storytelling. Having the Tier 1 as the precise “scalpel” and the US Ranger as the “sledgehammer” of the military, Medal of Honor offers a diverse set of gameplay styles for the player. Fans of the series will be glad to hear that one of the main characters (a US Ranger to be exact) is the grandson of Jimmy Patterson (hero of the original and Medal of Honor: Frontline). But let’s not forget, this isn’t so much about the heroes but the player controlling the hero.

Written by Mike McCarthy, the dialogue and story wasn’t slanted with derogatory terms to stand out and entertain. It’s homage of sorts to those who have endured the battlefield and lived the life of a military man or woman. Speaking about women, they potentially might receive a female heroine to play as though the developers weren’t ready to officially announce their inclusion. Players hoping to play as the other side of the war will be sad to hear that they will not be able to play as Al Qaida or the Taliban, though not all of the natives to Afghanistan are enemies to the player since a few will assist to finish objectives. In addition, their native language will be included such as Gulf Arabic, Pashto and Chechen in effort to keep the sense of realism.

“Afghanistan kind of chose us.”

As a linear shooter, with no customizable weapons mind you, EA wants players to “roll like a hobo” through the deserts and small villages of Afghanistan. The players will always have specific load outs that they have to use through the missions and have three NPC soldiers in their unit. In one particular mission, the player must make his way through the Shahikat Valley in March 2002 as they clear out a village of machine gun nests and hostiles. Throughout the course of the mission, it was evident that the team took notice to implement stunning smoke effects, quality environments to destroy, and fantastic action sequences as an enemy’s face was blown off by a shotgun. If players do end up taking damage, their screen will turn red, but they may not even notice as they peruse the background and see the jets flying around for support.

With a minimal HUD – which is brought up via D-Pad if ever needed – it was easy to see the superb draw-in distance. Sure, players aren’t able to climb to the highest mountain peak, but the sight of them in great detail is a sight to behold. If players do snap out of their daze from staring into the distance, they can see the evidence of destruction all around them as blood splatters to the ground and fallen bodies remain.

“Embrace the differences.”

As a single entity apart from the single-player, the multiplayer is a whole different beast. Both game modes were designed with different lead platforms, too (PlayStation 3 for the single-player, Xbox 360 for the multiplayer). The multiplayer has separate character models and doesn’t allow players to lean, go to prone or slide to cover. What it does have are 24 players online, a promise on improved dedicated servers in comparison to Battlefield: Bad Company 2, the ability for an admin to arrange teams to their own choosing, Spectator Mode (occupies one slot out of the 24), a persistent ranking system (individual for all three classes), a rewritten matchmaking algorithm, squad spawn, a hardcore mode, and weapon customization.

What Medal of Honor lacks as of right now is a battle recorder, no opportunities to host LAN matches, no mod tools, no support classes (engineer/medic), no demolitions, and no sharing maps. But let’s not continue on with what it doesn’t have and get back into where it excels at.

Leveling up in Medal of Honor grants players the opportunity to grow a beard, unlock new skins, receive more health, gain buffs, swap out weapons in classes, and more ammo as they rank up from a US Ranger to a Tier 1 operative or grunt to an elite for the Taliban side of things. As players duke it out and receive damage, they can take cover to allow for their health to generate, regardless if they are a rifleman, special ops or sniper. In comparison to the single-player, the multiplayer is a much faster game in general and also includes the ability to call in support actions such as UAV (defensive) and air-strikes (offensive).

“Battlefield games are very demanding.”

Showing off two game modes (Team Assault and Combat Mission), it was clear that the multiplayer was less violent than the single-player. Sure, there were tanks blowing up machine gun and road blocks, but the gist of the multiplayer wasn’t as aggressive as the solo affair. Of the two modes, Combat Mission was the group favorite as players had to work in unison to accomplish objectives while Team Assault was too similar to many variances of Team Deathmatch to get the crowd rowdy. Lastly, to spice things up, the weapon customization (Tier 1 can select their own guns) with three modifications per weapon (muzzle, scope and ammo) does aid in the longevity of the multiplayer since there are hundreds of combinations to take advantage of.

The grandest game in the history of the Medal of Honor, records are being broken with the longest soundtrack (100 minutes), largest voice cast (40 actors), and biggest amount of voiced dialogue (10,000 lines). It’s safe to say that EA isn’t cashing in early with Medal of Honor; instead, they aim to up the ante and make it known that Medal of Honor is back for good.

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