Review: Medal of Honor: Warfighter is a prisoner of war to generic gameplay
Medal of Honor: Warfighter is in a tricky spot. Having to follow up EA and DICE's impressive Battlefield 3 is no easy feat, especially knowing that Battlefield 4 is on the horizon. So for many, Warfighter seemed like nothing more than a gap filler while everyone waits until next year. The sad truth is that when it's all said and done, that's what the game feels like: something designed to hold fans over while we wait for something bigger and better on the horizon.
First let's start with multiplayer since that seems to be where the meat and potatoes of Warfighter lies. EA and Danger Close have placed a tremendous amount of emphasis on Warfighter's multiplayer, so much so that they delayed sending review copies so that we, along with others, could experience the "full" game — single player and multiplayer at once. What does that say about the single player experience? (We'll get to that later).
From a gameplay perspective, I feel Medal of Honor: Warfighter falls somewhere between Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. It has that fast-paced, action feel, but not to the point where it feels like an arcade shooter. I was surprised at how much aim assist the game had in multiplayer. It was almost like my reticule locked on to the target. At the same time, it still has that Battlefield-like tactical strategy — thanks particularly to the Fireteam feature.
Fireteam is basically a simplified squad from Battlefield 3. Rather than having an entire squad made up of a couple of other players, Fireteams are comprised of just you and one other player, known as your Fireteam Buddy. This is, by far, one of my favorite features in the multiplayer.
Managing an entire squad, especially factoring in online behavior, can be difficult. A simple, two-man Fireteam allows for easier communication, making the entire experience more simplified and manageable. Despite being on somewhat large teams (10 vs 10), the Fireteam feature creates a sort-of you two versus the world type feeling. It makes you really feel like a hero when you accomplish something for your team, a feeling that can be lost when your just one of many in a squad.
On somewhat large maps, you may oftentimes feel alone. It's imperative that you and your Fireteam buddy work together and look after each other. Having a good Fireteam buddy and being paired with someone awful like, let's say me, can make a tremendous difference in either the success or failure, or even the enjoyment of a match.
The purpose of sticking with your Fireteam Buddy extends far beyond just running around with a player. Warfighter, like Battlefield 3, emphasizes teamwork, just on a smaller scale. Being near your Fireteam Buddy allows you to heal off of each other and resupply one another with ammunition. Simply being near your buddy while they kill someone can earn you additional experience points. Also, if you or your buddy die, you can respawn near each other.
Unfortunately, this feature gets lost if you are thrown into a map without a Fireteam Buddy — an occurrence that happened way too often for my liking. There were times I was alone without a Buddy (not by choice) where I'd get shot from behind and say to myself: 'Well, if I had a buddy he might have had my back'.
Speaking of respawns, this seems to be a major problem early on for Warfighter. While I'm sure this will be patched in the future, right now, it's a problem. Oftentimes I'd select the "Fall Back" option and respawn either in front of an enemy and be shot, or behind an enemy and shoot them. Obviously I didn't mind the latter of the two.
As far as multiplayer gameplay modes, Warfighter has all of the bells and whistles. It offers five multiplayer modes that support up to twenty players — more than enough to appease all the types of players. You've got your Combat Mission which is basically attack and defend; Sector Control where you capture and defend various points on the map; Hotspot (my favorite mode) is a twist on Combat Mission, with five potential targets on the map which teams must race to to either attack or defend; Home Run is a six-on-six capture-the-flag-style game; lastly, there's your typical Team Deathmatch. For those who prefer a more hyper-realistic feel, Warfighter also offers a Real Ops mode that removes most of the HUD elements.
The beginning of Warfighter's multiplayer is somewhat intimidating. You're forced to choose which assaulter unit you'd like to start as from a pool of twelve nations, each with different stats and associated weapons and attachments. For those new to first-person shooters, it's not the most welcoming decision. The assaulter soldier you choose is your first and only class available at the start of your career, but as you progress and rank up you'll unlock additional classes and soldiers.
Like all other first-person shooters, the purpose of online multiplayer is straightforward: to level up through the ranks and unlock all of the various weapon attachments, classes, and whatever else is locked at the start of your multiplayer career. Each of the attachments and weapons have different stats, so you can find one that fits your playstyle. Once again, Medal of Honor: Warfighter makes use of Battlelog, a social hub that tracks nearly every action performed during multiplayer matches.
There's also a Warfighter Nations Meta-Game designed to raise national pride. Basically, you earn tokens while playing which you can redeem online for your nation and earn a ribbon and XP. Occasionally, Battlelog will declare a winning nation and you get bragging rights and national pride. Ok. Next.
If you're looking for an in-depth, emotional story in Warfighter, let me just tell you right now you should look somewhere else. Prior to release, EA and Danger Close hyped a story that really delves into the lives of Tier 1 Operators, and explores the struggles they go through; what we got was a convoluted story that jumps back and forth between time, barely touching on the emotional struggles of war veterans. If there's some sort of toll war takes on a soldier, then it isn't displayed in this game.
Part of the reason for the lack of emotion in Warfighter stems from the lack of connection with our main characters. Throughout the campaign you constantly switch between soldiers who are only revealed to us by their code names "Preacher" and "Stump". So right there, it's hard to form a bond with someone who you can't even identify with.
The other reason is that, at the end of the day, Warfighter relies on over-the-top action as a crutch to progress through narrative. Sure, there are some scenes that attempt to elicit an emotional response from the player, but those emotions are lost when you enter the next level and are tasked with running around a city, killing hundreds of "terrorists" with just a small group of soldiers. How am I supposed to believe a "realistic" story when I'm unrealistically running around a city shooting anyone I see?
Most first-person shooters these days rely on the Call of Duty approach - big, memorable action packed sequences that create a lasting visual memory. The nuke scene in Call of Duty 4, the Modern Warfare 2 terminal terrorist sequence, things of that nature. I don't think that's a requirement for the success of first-person shooters (in most cases I'm even worn out from the big action sequences). Medal of Honor: Warfighter doesn't even attempt to create a lasting memory. Everything about the campaign is so generic that it's forgettable.
There are very few things I can take away from the Warfighter campaign and say that was something truly fun and unique. One of them was a unique car driving sequence in which I had to escape multiple enemies by driving into construction zones to hide from them. This was one of the better gameplay moments in the game because it combined both stealth and action elements all in a driving sequence - something I had not experienced ever in a first-person shooter.
The second truly memorable campaign mission involved me chasing down a terrorist. Unlike most of the other missions, where I was tossed into a city and forced to walk through the city streets killing spawning enemies, this involved me running after an enemy and disposing of any enemies that tried to stop me. The gameplay wasn't any different, but how it was presented made it stand out among the other missions. Having to chase this terrorist atop buildings while shooting others created a sense of urgency. Unfortunately, those memorable gameplay experiences are far and few between in Medal of Honor: Warfighter and at the end of the campaign, there's no real payoff that makes it worth experiencing. Sadly, this same case could be made for most first-person shooters these days.
Despite using the Frostbite 2 game engine, I can't help but feel Warfighter's visuals are lacking. Don't get me wrong, it still looks good (especially the cutscenes), but have we made no progress since Battlefield 3? To some degree, I'd say Battlefield 3 looks even better than Warfighter. The colors in Warfighter are bland and the environmental destruction and physics, which is what Frostbite 2 has been known for, is lacking. There is a hefty 1.7GB HD texture pack you have the option to install on Xbox 360 which does make a difference, but on the whole, Medal of Honor: Warfighter does not make any leaps with Frostbite 2.
Let's be perfectly clear, Medal of Honor: Warfighter doesn't do anything wrong per say; it just doesn't really do anything different... or exciting... or memorable. It's multiplayer is comparable to other titles on the market, while it's single player campaign is sorely lacking the emotional drive to keep the player engaged. The end result is a generic first-person shooter. The majority of people buying this game are getting it for the multiplayer and in that sense, Warfighter does the genre justice. It has some glitches which will likely be patched out, but it isn't a bad game; it's just nothing we haven't already seen before from other titles — and in some cases, those other titles do it better.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]