Hype — it's a word that's uttered constantly throughout the gaming industry, and frankly, it brings about some mixed emotions. On one hand, you have what I like to call the "Peter Molyneux definition of hype," which basically ensures that a game is going to flop, and on the other you have the Mass Effect 3 definition, which says, "everyone is excited for this game and for a very good reason — it'll kick butt!" It's no secret, then, that 2010's Medal of Honor fell into the Molyneux definition, because it indeed did flop. Sure, it sold quite well, but it definitely did not stand toe-to-toe with Call of Duty. In fact, it was barely able to show its face in the FPS genre. But what if I was to tell you that EA's upcoming shooter, Medal of Honor Warfighter, is shaping up to be 2012's hottest first-person shooter? What if I told you that Call of Duty will finally be fighting to maintain its #1 spot on the weekly online activity charts? By now, you probably think I am crazy, but read on and you'll see why this opinion is anything other than foolish.
When contemplating this very topic, I continually asked myself how EA could overcome such failure with Medal of Honor and just move on and release a blockbuster hit. That's when it hit me: success is normally found after failure. If you sit back and think about it, Activision and Treyarch have had no "duds" the past four years. They've released mega hits that have sold millions and have been embraced by the overall community. EA, on the other hand, faced major criticism from their fans after the 2010 release of Medal of Honor. The community was angry and was quick to point out every major flaw. Since then, EA has had two years to sit on their mistakes and oversee how Battlefield 3 actually competed with the first-person shooter juggernaut. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a great mix for some sweet "revenge," if you wish to call it that.
In addition to failure, what a better way to reinstate your series in a genre than with an entirely new engine? EA's Frostbite 2.0 engine is simply gorgeous and mind blowing. The developer has also stated that they're "leveraging" the engine to reach its full potential, which is undoubtedly focused around a destructive environment. Check out the screenshots yourselves; EA is not messing around when they say that Medal of Honor Warfighter will be groundbreaking in terms of graphics and playability. Even if Treyarch updates the Call of Duty engine (which definitely needs to be done — the Cold War and WW3 look too similar), it will not even be able to touch Frostbite 2.0. Realism is what every gamer aims for these days, and realism in military shooters is all about destruction. They way I see it, Warfighter has a major advantage over Black Ops II.
So, we've been talking about Warfighter's leverage over the competition (mainly Black Ops II), but what must it do to actually become "king?" To start with, Warfighter must find its identity. 2010's installment straddled the line between Battlefield and Call of Duty, and it never really shined as its own idea. Once its identity is found, EA must begin selling that to fans, because right now most folks see Medal of Honor as a dead franchise with no real spark. In terms of gameplay, deliver a narrative that's simple to follow, yet in-depth in nature. Take Mass Effect 3, for example; it's apparent that the goal is to stop the Reapers using this unfamiliar weapon, but to do so you're taken through a journey that's heart pounding, even tear-stricken. Show us a story that's more than, "OHHHH RAHHHH, LETS SHOOT SOME BAD GUYS!" Present us with characters who matter, and allow us to be a part of their story — their backgrounds, their insights, and their (hopeful) futures.
On the multiplayer side, you have to reinvent the wheel in terms of game modes. At this point, I don't feel that anyone can throw us for a loop in terms of the core mechanics: you shoot at your enemy and hope to kill them, plain and simple. Instead, head back to the drawing boards and create original modes that are addicting, yet rewarding in terms of ranking up. In addition, map creation will also be important for Warfighter's success. Generic FPS maps have been just that… generic. Throw us some interesting features for each map: ex. Gears of War 2's hail-stricken map. Originality will set the tone for Warfighter, especially when it's against a concrete blockbuster shooter.
In reality, Warfighter has about the same chances of outselling Black Ops II as I do winning the Kansas Lottery, but that doesn't mean that it can't be the superior game. Heck, Ke$ha and Lady Gaga are selling more albums/singles than several of the big name 70s bands — that doesn't mean they're better artists (it just means that some people shouldn't be allowed to listen to music). If EA sticks to their roots and analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the FPS genre, the Medal of Honor franchise, and their competition, I believe Warfighter can reign supreme this fall. Hopefully others can see past the "OMG ANOTHER CALL OF DUTY" hype and realize that EA is on to something. Right now, though, it's one big waiting game — one I'm currently losing at it.
You can follow Tate Steinlage on Twitter – @SteinlageT