Medal Of Honor Warfighter: The Kotaku Review

The flashlights look pretty good. As I went through my notes searching for something positive I'd written about Medal of Honor Warfighter, that line stuck out to me. "The flashlights look pretty good."

They do look pretty good. Whatever lighting magic Electronic Arts has handed around to its subsidiary studios is nifty and authentic-looking. Often, when a guy shines his flashlight at you, you'll think, "Wow, that really looks like a guy with a flashlight!" before shooting him.

If only the rest of the game measured up.

The questionably-named Medal of Honor Warfighter is a first-person military shooter developed by Danger Close and published by EA. The Medal of Honor series has become, in most every respect, a flagrant imitation of Activision's much ballyhooed Call of Duty series. You play the game from the first-person perspective. You hold a machine gun and shoot bad guys, almost exclusively foreigners. That's about all there is to it.

The video game industry perpetuates a number of tiresome trends, but none is more remarked-upon than the reign of the realistic military shooter. Ever since 2007's (quite good) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the world of video gaming has seen shooter after shooter after shooter after shooter, all set in modern times, all dedicated to the deft recreation of the latest in man-killing machinery. Given the earth-shattering financial success these types of games find, casual observers could be forgiven for assuming that all gamers prefer to view the world through a reflex sight down the barrel of a gun. "Don't be silly young man," the old woman replied. "It's reflex sights all the way down!"

Medal of Honor Warfighter has the dubious distinction of being the Ultimate Brown Military Shooter Of All Time. It's so brazenly unremarkable, its storytelling so amateurish, its action so rote, that it feels like a master class in middling modern warfare. Put another way: I've been playing the game for hour upon hour and the nicest thing I can say about it is that the flashlights look pretty good.

Well, that's not entirely true. There are exactly two non-flashlight things I enjoyed about Warfighter's single-player campaign. First, the fact that you can lean. This makes it possible not only to take cover while engaged in a firefight, but to use it. This is wonderful! As I plodded my way through the repetitive shooting galleries that Warfighter calls "firefights," I came to greatly value the fact that I could run up to a corner and peek around it. I would run up to the corner, lean out, shoot some guys, lean back, and reload. And then lean out, shoot some guys, lean back, and reload. It didn't exactly make the game fun, but it was a welcome change from the disorienting "run entirely out of cover, shoot, run back, reload" rhythm of Call of Duty.

Medal of Honor Warfighter

Developer: Danger Close Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC (Reviewed) Release Date: October 23 Type of game: Military first-person shooter, ostensibly based on the real-life exploits of a team of Army special forces operators. What I played: Completed the singleplayer campaign in about six hours, played an hour or two of various multiplayer modes.

My Two Favourite Things

  • A mid-game stealth/driving mission that's interesting, at least.
  • The flashlights don't look half bad.

My Two Least-Favorite Things

  • The often hilariously dimwitted enemy AI.
  • Several sections that are far too easy to fail, forcing you to restart at a distant checkpoint.

Made-to-Order Back-of-Box Quotes

  • "I like beards as much as the next guy, but this is ridiculous." — Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku
  • "For a bunch of special forces badasses, these guys sure can't shoot. Maybe it's the beards, somehow." — Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku
  • "There will be other opportunities to get into the Battlefield 4 beta, folks."— Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku

Warfighter also features some pretty good driving. Wait, driving? Yes, driving! At a couple points in the game, you'll wind up behind the wheel of a vehicle, tasked with putting the pedal to the medal (so to speak) and following a prescribed route until a scripted event happens. The two car-driving missions are well put-together (the studio behind Need for Speed helped craft them), and while they don't fit with the rest of the running and shooting, they're so much better-constructed that I didn't really care.

During one of those levels, you're suddenly — and I'm not making this up — put straight into a car-stealth sequence and given a glowing mini-map that shows patrolling enemies' lines of sight. You then have to escape a locked-down neighbourhood by stealthing your car through the streets. It's cool! The part of your brain reserved for new experiences suddenly wakes up, stretches out, and blinks: "What day is it?"

Maybe Warfighter should have been a driving game. Medal of Honor: Wardriver.

It would have been better than the rest of what's on offer in Warfighter. The story is a hodgepodge of unconnected ideas that leap and bound with next to no narrative glue tying them together. It's not for lack of trying — the games' writers have made every attempt to weave together some sort of vaguely emotional post-Clancy techno thriller, but by the time the last level rolled around I literally had no idea where I was, what was going on, or indeed, who I was controlling. Every character is a gruff white dude with either A) a beard or B) no beard. They have nicknames like "Stump" and "Voodoo" and "Tick" and there is no way to tell them apart. One guy wears a hat, but he doesn't turn up until the last level.

This may be a reality of the armed forces — at least, while watching HBO's adaptation of Generation Kill, I spent the first four or so episodes unable to tell all the young white guys with short hair apart. But while it may be realistic, it's not good writing — there's a reason that war movies default to clichés like The Rap-Loving Black Guy and The Big-Talking Texan. There's a reason Call of Duty's Gaz and Captain Price wear distinctive accessories. In the heat of the moment, you need to write in big letters for players to be able to read anything at all.

Anyway, the story. I wouldn't make such a big deal out of the story, but EA has marketed the story and its authenticity to an exhausting degree, and so that story demands scrutiny. Here it is: There are some guys. And they have some weapons. And you play as some other guys, who seem to do a lot of intelligence-gathering, considering that they're not CIA operatives. Or maybe they're working with the CIA? Anyway, they/you have to stop the weapons. So you visit the usual array of first-person shooter locales and shoot a lot of dudes. You'll shoot dudes in a desert, you'll shoot dudes on a boat. You'll shoot dudes in a castle, and you'll shoot dudes in a cave. Oh, the places you'll shoot dudes!

Missions usually end abruptly — you'll think, "Okay, and now we get to fight our way out!" only to have the game quickly cut forward/backwards/sideways in time to a post/pre-mission briefing. The story engages in a preposterous amount of timeline-jumping; everything is a flashback within a flashback within a flashback, with no exposition breaks to let the audience know what has already happened, what that we've played/seen still has yet to happen, and what is happening now. It's a structural disaster.

Players are regularly subjected to odd glimpses into the private life of one of the characters, a soldier who, like the others, doesn't have a name. We meet his wife and daughter, whose character models and behaviour occupy a part of the uncanny valley somewhere between "Why is it staring at me" and "There are many copies." At one point, the camera performed a slow-mo zoom on the little girl's tightly-drawn, hideous visage, and I half expected her to ask me to come play with her forever and ever. Also, the cutscenes hitch and freeze a lot. And most of them can't be skipped.

Back to the action. It just isn't engaging. The artificial intelligence is certainly artificial, but does not feel intelligent. Your teammates will dumbly fire into a wall while enemy soldiers hunker down on the other side, dumbly shooting… into the same wall, on the other side. See the video here to get a sense of what I'm talking about. Often, enemies will just run straight at you without making any attempt to take cover or use any tactics at all. With so many games on the market that feature smart, nimble enemies, it's increasingly inexcusable for a modern video game to pit players against the sorts of braindead whack-a-terrorists seen here.

Somehow, in their misguided effort to create a Call of Duty-killer, EA decided to fully and unironically embrace realism. "That's the ticket!" said the man in the boardroom, calling up a sniper-rifle manufacturer to work out a sponsorship deal, "Realism! Call of Duty is so silly, with its Michael Bay antics and its James Bondian storylines. We'll stand apart by being authentic!"

And yet Warfighter's dedication to authenticity is ultimately its greatest downfall. These soldiers may spit believable jargon; they may call enemy troops "skinnies" and effortlessly sling all manner of slick-sounding military acronym. But they never manage to feel like people. They're plastic army men fighting in a ridiculous video game world. Authenticity is more than real-world locations and accurately modelled weaponry. In order to feel authentic, a creation must, on some level, feel human. For all of Medal of Honor's jingoistic, on-some-level-well-intentioned hollering, it feels as lifeless as an abandoned amusement park ride.

If you have played a military shooter in the last five years, you've already done every single thing you'll do in Medal of Honor Warfighter, and done it better. The game so epitomizes the thoughtless, drab military shooter that it frequently lapses into inadvertent self-parody. It is lackluster in almost every way. But hey, at least the flashlights look pretty good.


Comments

    It's unfortunate that Warfighter is so far removed from the storytelling experience it's writers wanted it to be. It could have been something, if EA wasn't trying so desperately hard to create a Modern Warfare clone.

    Last edited 26/10/12 1:05 pm

    What is going on with that woman's head in the screenshot? did she dislocate her skull?

    Lol at the lone subtitle: "Copy."

    My favourite blunder is the one level mid game where the "level" consists of a 2 minute long cutscene, and then a prompt for the player to fire their rifle at a distant target....once. It's also impossible to actually miss that shot, from what I've seen. You can shoot at the sky and the bullet will still travel into the pirates skull via cutscene magic.

      this game has pirates!?!
      it must be awesome!
      ima play it tonight!

    Game was pretty meh gonna take it back think its funny all the fanboys trying to defend it when its getting nothing but bad reviews

    Dear kotaku, please don't talk about the military in terms of what's realistic or not as you no idea. Stick to talking about how bad the gameplay is.

      I'm pretty sure you don't need to have actually been in the military to know that the likes of COD, MOH and Battlefield aren't realistic.

      Whether Mark knows exactly what's happening in the military is kind of moot. If they say its going to be realistic and even a civi can tell it's not, then it probably fair to call them out on it.

      How do you know? Maybe the writer's in the reserve or something?

      Shit he could be ex-special ops for all you know. I mean, I'd be shocked if that were true but it's possible.

      Honest, real life military firefights are quite boring. Not if you're involved in them, because your adrenaline is through the roof. But imagine 3 hours of yelling target indications back and forth, not really manuevering very much and shooting to suppress a tiny figure you can barely see through a scope. The BF3 suppression mechanic is the most realistic feature Ive seen in ages, but its all heavily romanticised.

    Does this game getting a shitty review surprise anyone?

      Considering the author, not at all.

    I like how he didn't talk about the multiplayer at all really, which I am finding quite enjoyable.

    While I agree the singleplayer fell flat, the multiplayer is where the meat is.

    I enjoyed the SP. I like these kind of games and it was entertaining. Sure not mind blowing but entertaining enough. It's kind of what I expected and I was happy with it.

    My main issue that on PC the MP feels and looks like a different game in a different game engine. Where as SP looks great, the MP lacks detail in the environments, looks and plays like an old out of date game. The MP in the last game looked vastly superior.

    Also go into MP alter settings like textures and mesh from low to ultra. There's no difference at all. They didn't even attempt to make it anything different for the PC than a console. This extends to the menus, the UI, the movement, controls.. everything. We bitched about BF3 being consolised. This is way worse. It makes MW3 on PC look like it was designed for PC. I literally feel scammed by EA about the MP. It essentially feels like it's an out of date piece of crap game rendered smoothly.

    It also destroys the Frostbite engine as a quality brand. People say graphics don't matter, but they can elevate mediocre games. This handles and plays badly and looking like a tablet FPS just makes it worse. Honestly, it's below what the modding community has been bringing out for years. It's just rendered all smoothly because of FB2. It looks like it's imported from an old version of the Unreal engine though. Open up the MP in the last MOH it isn't as smoothly rendered but the detail, the design is so vastly superior.

    Many points of this review are indeed true. With the SP, I loved the driving missions, like the graphics on PC and hate the AI......especially friendly AI....they are so pathetic and can't kill anyone for shit. I had many moments of being flanked when the only way that could have happened was if my team let them walk right past and didn't care one bit.

    As for the MP, well I surprisingly like it, even if it is average at best (and that's being nice about it). I guess it's kind of like the middle ground between COD and BF; and for some reason it's something I like......why? I am not entirely sure. lol

    I'm about five(?) missions in, and I agree that the flashlights look amazing, and that that child is the ugliest little girl I have ever seen. Seriously, someone took to her face with a vacuum cleaner as a baby - all her features are smooshed into the middle of her face. Whoever did the character modelling for the cutscenes needs a little more practice... or a new career. The engine does a great job rendering, tho, so you get to see their horrifying visages rendered in every minute detail.

    As far as gameplay goes, it's pretty solid. The missions are a little too short for my taste, but that makes it easier to find time (in increasingly difficult resource to locate) to play it. I found it rather insulting when my squad mate asked me to 'take a guy out', and then got impatient and shot the guy himself, just as I was about to pull the trigger (I had no idea who he was talking about, and, thanks to my horribly dark TV, it took a while to locate him). Having just said that missions are too short, I did spent a good ten minutes sniping dudes in the face on a faraway colosseum, wondering where they were all coming from, before noticing the mission objective telling me to target it for an airstrike... Oh, and the driving mission that I played was awesome (aside from the traffic jam in the middle with no discernible way through, other than shoving everyone else aside).

    I'm enjoying it thus far, and having fun trying to piece together the story from the hodgepodge missions - it's almost like a temporal jigsaw puzzle. And, regardless of what the author thinks, they managed to make it more emotionally involving than CoD ever did, if only more or less as believable.

    graphics are good for pc imo, but the ai is terrible and they spawn behind you just as u clear out a section...
    edit: after reading the article i agree with everything there

    Last edited 26/10/12 4:48 pm

    hey kirk preachers name is tom but you wouldn't know that because you probably skipped the cutscenes......duh I'm enjoying what little of the game I have played so far and if it continues at the same pace I'd be fairly happy about my purchase, even if it is more of the same military fps we see so often. if you want a terrible shooter go play homefront........yikes anyone remember that hyped up turd?

    Anyone disappointed with the SP? I really enjoyed the first MoH (2010), it had one of the best story. But this one ... I felt really disappointed. It was too .... CoD in scale.

    Let's review, kids. MOH Warfighter sucks because:
    1. Kirk doesn't like the name of the game.
    2. Everybody you play as is white.
    3. Kirk's weird obsession with facial hair gets in the way of his enjoyment of the game.
    4. It's a modern military shooter NOT called "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare".
    5. The ai sucks.
    6. The story sucks.
    7. The gameplay is boring, bland and repetitive.
    8. The characters in cut scenes are creepy as hell.
    9. Multiplayer is... Oh wait, they didn't play enough multiplayer to even comment on it.

    Haven't played it personally, but I'm willing to believe Kirk's probably right about the gameplay aspects. I'm just thinking maybe Kotaku needs to find someone else to write FPS reviews. If you're so bored with the genre that you have to complain about the race of characters, their facial hair, and find flashlights to be the best thing, I think it's time to let someone else review them.

    I'm playing on PC. Ultra everything and tweaks. Not sure what console gamers are playing but this game looks amazing.

    Sure, it's a relatively mediocre entry in to an already over populated genre but as a whole the SP is very enjoyable. I got what I expected. A competent action romp with insanely detailed environments. The guns have weight. The characters have weight. And when sh*t hits the fan the whole area comes alive. Thanks to Frostbite 2 of course.

    Particle effects are brilliant, haze and smoke appear to have a much more malleable presence. And yes, yes the torches look good. In fact lighting effects in general are very decent. The cut scenes are normally pretty good. I actually like the stark reality of the whole thing. When the characters are interacting it has a much more natural feel (aboard the Hercules before your first drop for example). Something I appreciate in games. That is until the little girl stares into your soul for those surreal close ups. They got that face wrong. Just wrong...

    I also prefer shooters which incorporate ballistic physics. Gravity is a nice tool to use.

    I've played only one of the driving levels and it was great. A lot of fun and a neat little separation from the traditional on rails vehicle gameplay. Looking forward to the stealth level. Sounds good.

    I've only played MP for maybe an hour. I don't really have an opinion yet except to say that it is pretty mediocre at first glance. I didn't buy MOH for the multiplayer especially so if it ends up falling short I'll just play more Battlefield or Arma.

    Single player is a winner for me. If I spent too long making comparisons to the other FPS games out there I'd only conclude that I should have seen it coming. That I should have expected the same old structure. The same type of story, and similar pacing/ duration. And the inevitable gameplay loop of shooting the bad guys, taking cover to reload, shooting more bad guys. Rinse and repeat.

    It is just like any other MFPS out there but that doesn't make it a bad game.

    I am going to shut my eyes, block my ears and try my hardest to still enjoy this game when I get the chance. This review actually made me want to play it more.

    So the real question is do you have to buy it through EA Origin? If so it's not going anywhere near my PC. That diseased POS Software has been deleted for good.

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