As the season of first-person shooters approaches, no game has as much to make up for as Medal of Honor: Warfighter, the follow-up to 2010’s admirable and grossly underrated franchise reboot. That game had issues, but it set the tone for a morally challenging modern conflict raging across the Middle East. Disappointingly, for a series that arguably set the standard for the console FPS experience in the early 00s, the game went mostly unnoticed amid the hype for Battlefield 3 and the standard annual megaton that is Call of Duty. That’s not without reason: while the game was solid, its single-player experience failed to replicate the emotional dilemmas the real-life conflict projects, while its multiplayer borrowed perhaps too much from Bad Company 2.
Following the release of the 2010 game, the game’s publisher, Electronic Arts, saw its shares drop six per cent, something industry analyst Michael Pachter attributed to the game’s poor critical response. EA hit back, saying Medal Of Honor was an important part of its strategy to dominate the shooter genre, a response I think is important in looking at the development and forthcoming release of one of the year’s biggest games. That’s because much has changed since that first game was released almost two years ago, and Medal of Honor stalwart developer, Danger Close Games, seems to at least be attempting to create an original FPS experience separated from its spiritual successor in Battlefield.
It’s probably not possible that either Medal of Honor or Battlefield can ever take the mantle from Call Of Duty as the most popular shooter, at least on consoles, but Warfighter can certainly help gain gamer trust of EA’s brands, something it needs considering the decent albeit forgettable console offerings of its last two FPS releases. Sure, Battlefield 4 might be more anticipated that the follow-up of a 2010 game that too few people really cared about, but this is Medal Of Honor at the end of the day, and I think it’s safe to say that just as many people recognise that brand as do Call Of Duty: it’s just a matter of making a game that keeps people playing well after the release of Battlefield 4 and, of course, any Call Of Duty game released in between.
A True Global Offensive
Not surprisingly, much of the focus on Warfighter has been on the multiplayer component. This area of the game is where most of the change seems to have taken place, and if there’s any hope of Medal Of Honor building on EA’s place in the genre, in needs to excel in this area. Offering ten different Tier-1 special forces units, including Australia, Germany and the UK, there’s already something there that many other console shooters don’t have, and that’s a sense of national pride. The individualistic approach is hard to avoid in multiplayer shooters, as your statistics are always at the forefront of player comparisons and competitions. It’s just what the competitive gaming environment is like. Any CoD player will tell you that. But a sense of national contribution, a place with a large group of players, competing directly against each other, is something that gives Warfighter a special sense of team-mateship too often void in contemporary FPS multiplayer experiences. Most interesting with this addition is the “Blue on Blue” mode, which essentially pits good guys against good guys: how many other shooters are there with such a strong implementation of national competitiveness, rather than just a free-for-all sense of individualistic stat improvement?
An Authentic Attempt At Realism
The 2010 game was surrounded by controversy with the inclusion of Taliban forces in the multiplayer component. The developer’s justification was that “someone has to be the robber”, although the decision to change the name before release was probably the right thing to do. That game’s attempt at realism didn’t stop there, with actual Tier-1 special forces soldiers involved in the design of both the single-player campaign and multiplayer component to help replicate real-world events as closely as possible. The same attempt at authenticity has happened with Warfighter, too, although the campaign plot has a closer focus on soldier emotions and relationships outside of the battlefield than there was in the first game.
The Value Of A Life
Continuing on from that sense of nationalism instilled in the multiplayer component, the value of a character’s life in competitive action takes precedence over stat improvement. After the release of Counter-Strike: GO, there’s now a clearer gap between games like Call Of Duty and shooters that put strong, precise emphasis on team objectives and staying alive for the duration of a match. Medal Of Honor was able to do this to an extent, while Battlefield’s large, open maps made conflict lengthy and tactical. Just like the 2010 game, Warfighter will focus on smaller, tight maps similar to what we see in games like CS: GO, although limited respawns and quick matches mean you have less incentive to run-and-gun, and more drive to achieve the goal for your team rather than your own benefit.
While Medal Of Honor didn’t quite set the world on fire in 2010, it at least offered something different from Battlefield 3, which was released a year later. They are two truly different multiplayer offerings, developed by two different teams with two different goals. A series like Call Of Duty doesn’t have this freedom, and while Treyarch and Infinity Ward have different ways of changing that experience up every second year, the core experience is still very much the same each year. With Warfighter, we know we aren’t just getting Battlefield 3 with a new skin and some cool new features, because it’s a completely different focus and experience, one that has the potential to improve and build on its modest successor, and help give EA a place in the genre that gamers can benefit from.
Check back tomorrow for our Medal Of Honor: Warfighter single-player preview.
By Gaetano Prestia
How do you think Medal Of Honor: Warfighter can better the 2010 game, and what part of it are you looking forward to the most?