Danger Close, to me, really is a mystery. As a game studio, I know they have very passionate people working for them, who absolutely believe they have a made a great game with Medal of Honor: Warfighter (like Kristoffer Bergqvist, who attended our Warfighter event at HQ). So it really does pain me to say this - it’s possibly one of the most disappointing games of 2012.
It’s not the worst, but for a game from a AAA publisher, and from a company made of some true veterans of the military shooter, it plays like a seriously compromised mess of a vision. If you look at the quality of the end-product as proof of Danger Close’s - and EA’s - dedication to the Tier 1 community, you could easily look at it as bit of slap in the face.
But it’s that dedication, and drive to so-called authenticity, that creates the biggest problems in the game.
It’s dangerous to go alone
The single-player game is almost ludicrously short. You can finish it on Normal in all of five hours with ease, but I’d bet cash-money that a lot of gamers are going to get sick of the confusingly intercut story, the player-takeovers, and general lack of tension in the game long before then.
I started to worry early on, when - after a brief-cutscene - the game first puts you in control of your on-screen soldier. Of course, it’s already placed your crosshairs over the back of a jihadist’s head, so all you have to do is click the mouse. That’s a poor enough start right there, to give you so little choice and control, but from there the authenticity claims just become a joke.
In the set-piece that follows you’ve got to dodge shipping containers and cranes falling from the sky in a scripted sequence that owes more to the A-Team than Black Hawk Down, before you find two convenient stashes of SMAW rocket launchers to take care of a helicopter firing on your position.
“Aim at the cockpit!” yells your partner. Well, thanks for that advice.
Early missions are meant to hold your hand a little, but the level of scripting, plus effectively endless ammunition, take the tension right out of the game. The controls are ropey at best, and a lot of the scripted actions of your squadmates defy logic. One of the core mechanics of the game is ‘breaching’ locked doors. As you successfully do this, you unlock more and more techniques, but it just comes across as a lame mini-game; what’s worse, though, is that you can be the fourth soldier through a door, and still be expected to shoot everyone. And when the friendly AI does shoot, it barely hits anything. The player of course needs to be the center of the action, but the incompetent AI is window-dressing at best, and downright lethal (hello, badly thrown grenades) at worst.
There’s not even a particularly interesting plot to hang this on, at least to start with. The game’s action is broken up by a series of flashbacks and cutscenes depicting the breakdown of a marriage, but we simply don’t know enough about these people to care. Maintaining a relationship while operating at this level of the armed forces must be tough, but if you’re going to bring it into a game it should be done with more subtlety than this.
There are some scattered highlights, like a driving level put together by the Criterion (Need for Speed: Most Wanted) team, but they are few and far between.
It’s a shame with friends
I had been hoping that even if singleplayer was a joke, at least the multiplayer would be solid. It may become so, and we have enjoyed it in previews, but in practice the combination of terrible net-code (always a problem for EA’s shooters) and generally buggy game performance make it basically a gamble whether or not your game crashes at the end of each match - and whether you can hit your mark with any kind of reliability. I know a lot of players are having no issue, but our experience is less than thrilling.
On the upside, the Fireteam system, whereby you buddy up to a player for tighter teamwork, is still great. There’s the usual range of weapon unlocks, the ability to pick nationalities is interesting. I just the Aussie soldier didn’t sound like such a total caricature.
The game looks good, too, though not using all of Frostbite 2’s destructive potential does seem a waste. With the generally smaller map-size of Warfighter, we can see why a truly destructible environment might become challenging, but still - after playing a lot of BF3 it seems positively backward that a grenade can’t blast apart a bunch of low crates.
The major issue through all of this, though, is that after the disappointment that was Medal of Honor, I really wanted Danger Close to learn from it and create a better game this time around. There’s potential in the multiplayer, and it’s certain the game’s going to get a lot of patching in the near future. For now, though, we can certainly understand the calls of many on the Warfighter forums.
Time to uninstall.