EA reboots one of its most famous franchises to take the fight to Call of Duty. But does it win the war?
The world of first-person shooters has a shadow cast over it right now by the behemoth that is Call of Duty. It's the Avatar of game franchises, the release you don't put your game up against - yet EA won't give up with its own Medal of Honor franchise just yet, opting for a complete reboot, shifting from gritty WW2 battlefields to the even grittier modern-day Afghanistan.
In single-player, you're quickly thrown into the midst of a plot that tackles the post-9/11 War on Terror in Afghanistan, and the opening level apes the first Modern Warfare game with a high-octane truck ride through a city crawling with insurgents. It's a bombastic opening for a game that champions its realism, yet the franchise's traditions soon come to the fore.
For starters, it's linear. While that isn't a problem in a game of well-designed set-pieces and interesting locales, MoH isn't that game. Many set-pieces lack surprise and you spend much of the game funnelled from war cliché to war cliché by way of battered streets, wrecked buildings and perfunctory turret and tank sequences.
Those war zones are packed with obvious cover even though the game lacks a real cover system, and the linear environments feel endlessly predictable. The visuals are good and the lighting effects excellent - although textures look blurred close-up - but the lack of destructible scenery means there's none of the fun of Battlefield: Bad Company 2.
The brain-dead enemies don't help matters. Most just squat behind cover and occasionally pop their heads up as targets, and they're not clever enough to react to basic tactical manoeuvres such as obvious flanking runs. You'll soon tire of nipping round the side and shooting them from close range.
The repetitive on-foot sections are broken up by restrictive turret sequences. You're not able to shoot drivers or tyres for a quick takedown, and the static environments mean potentially useful explosive items serve no purpose.
The campaign isn't all bad. It rattles along at a decent pace and the iffy script is at least performed with enthusiasm, while the constant rattling and booming of gunfire and explosions makes for a suitably volatile aural assault.
Unusually, EA divvied up the development duties, with the campaign handled by veteran MoH team Danger Close and the multiplayer segment given to DICE, the studio behind Bad Company 2. It shows in the quality online: there's a trio of classes available, experience points ready to be earned, and a host of new weapons to be unlocked. It isn't as involved as Bad Company 2 and the eight maps aren't as large, but the core gameplay is solid.
A fun multiplayer section, however, isn't enough to save this big-budget yawn. Instead of the intended authenticity, Medal of Honor offers up little more than a bland and repetitive single-player on-rails turkey shoot. If you're after some real modern warfare, answer to the Call of Duty.