I’ve never seen combat, but I’ve heard it said that it is hurricane bursts of life-and-death activity bridged by an indescribably tense boredom. EA DICE miniaturises this model in an grimly realistic presentation of war for Medal of Honor
What I learned from my time with Medal of Honor, both at E3 and in its closed beta currently underway, is that the surest way to get your arse killed is to stand straight up and go looking for action. You may expect no forgiveness in this raw military shooter, least of all in the multiplayer. The pacing is slower, and absolutely places a premium on getting to and holding a safe position rather than trundling off in search of action. From there, if you have solid cover and an open firing view, keep yourself aimed and wait for the lazy or impatient to wander across your path.
Multiple kills are how you unlock the Tactical Support Actions of Medal of Honor multiplayer. Similar to the killstreak rewards of, ahem, Modern Warfare 2. Tactical Support Actions vary in that they also offer defensive bonuses to you and your teammates, as opposed to a solely offensive perk that helps you rack up kills in an upward spiral. TSAs – may I call them TSAs? – are known to me only theoretically. My best combat performance was something like a 4 to 11 K/D ratio with two of those coming as an insurgent when a couple hapless allied troops wandered across my open doorway.
That’s right, I am no Robocop, least of all in a military shooter, least of all in one tuned to deliver combat as unforgiving as this. I have never served and never seen war. I get the feeling that, untrained, I’d do about as well in it as I would in this game, absent the benefit of respawns (which are, gratefully, plentiful in the video game.) Enemy rounds arrive faster, more unexpectedly and with real-world force – I took a stupefying number of two-shot kills. There was no kill cam in either the hands-on (which I only observed), or the beta (which I am now playing). A kill cam simply has to be in the works, otherwise you’re left to repeatedly suffer the bewildering death of millions that have gone before, caught up in a war you can’t understand.
Medal of Honor multiplayer supports 12 vs 12 battles, and the larger purpose of this mode is to progress through three different ranks – rifleman, special ops and sniper, both coalition and insurgents – unlocking weapon and physical customisations that advertise how badass you are. When you make Tier 1 operator, for example, you get a beard like the “Cowboy” in the game’s cover art, but I could grow, shave and regrow that kind of steel wool in real life three times before getting it in the game.
Where Medal of Honor really announces itself as serious business is in what it chooses to show you and what it allows you to see. Shouts from insurgent fighters ring out through the Kabul ruins, mixed with the swearing and observations of unseen teammates. There’s a lot of blowing trash, which provides its own distraction as you sit in the corner of a bombed out rooftop, waiting for someone to break the boredom and make a wrong move. Your radar’s only assistance is to give you an awareness of your surroundings and the sense of someone, friend or foe, nearby. It won’t differentiate the two for you. Visually, Insurgents and Coalition forces look enough alike at a distance to give that moment’s hesitation that can mean the difference between life, death, and a friendly-fire kill. Did I mention IEDs? The insurgents’ kit-bashed landmines are also littered about the map.
This is no arcade game. In the multiplayer, at least, DICE has definitely tuned the experience for realism and grit over fast-paced, belt-notching kills and multiplayer variables that break the third wall. If you’re looking to Medal of honour for its multiplayer, know that is what you’re getting yourself into – a tough grind that presents either a hard learning curve or a high barrier to entry, I’m not sure which just yet.