Just as many of us probably expected, the Medal Of Honor series has been shelved. Interestingly, it comes at a time when sequels make up a majority of blockbuster game releases, and shooters still appear to dominate sales charts.
So where did Electronic Arts go wrong with Medal Of Honor? The series’ last two releases are a shadow of the PS2-era games that made World War 2 shooters the mainstream material for the genre. And yet the series has been buried by its competitors, hounded by critics and despised by so many gamers, a sad case of what-it-coulda-beens and self-proclaimed prophecies of greatness.
It lacked identity
The Call Of Duty series is often mistakenly reported as being a “war simulator”, only it isn’t a simulator at all. The most popular shooter on the market, while admittedly losing a bit of steam, became the juggernaut it is because of its sheer accessibility and simplicity, not because it offered a realistic look at the complexities of battle.
So then why did EA try to turn a series so successful -- one might argue the success of the first Medal Of Honor in 1999 led to the creation of Call Of Duty, which first launched four years later -- into one so firmly embedded in notions of realism?
Maybe it was because it wanted to be something on its own, something that could differentiate itself from the Call of Dutys of the world but still compete with it on a grand scale. Sadly, in an effort to create an identity, the Medal Of Honor series is tragically defined as being a series without one.
Turning Warfighter on for the first time, I was met by a game unsure of itself: its ambition was blanketed by its own obsession with Call of Duty-esque map design, and a buddy system so influential that any failure to abide by the game’s focus on team play made the experience that little bit less enjoyable.
It’s inexcusably glitchy
Glitches and bugs were prevalent in both the 2010 release and last year’s Warfighter. The latter was so bad -- one only needed to play the beta for a brief insight to the horrors of the final product -- it required a day-one patch in the 200 megabyte region.
The series has also failed to balance the wannabe realism of the weapons with engaging mechanics. On the rare occasion Warfighter actually worked well, it was quickly hurt by glitchy firing (bullets shooting through walls), illogical grenade throwing (where you aimed to throw them and where they would land would often be a big miss), and awful AI that would often either get in your character’s firing path or drop dead for no apparent reason.
It was the big shooter that couldn’t
At the end of it all, Medal of Honor has gone from being the quintessential first-person war series, to being a big-budget flop with no identity, no consistent theme and no real direction. The campaign, while admirable in the 2010 iteration, ended up feeling like a cluster of erratic AI-controlled soldiers.
Both games also did a wonderful job of making us feel like we had open pathways and multiple directions, but we would almost always eventually end up heading down a linear path towards a predetermined location. While Call Of Duty sticks its head out from behind the door of linearity and repetitiveness, Medal Of Honor paints over it with the words “originality”. It hasn’t fooled anyone.
What does it all mean?
No one expects the likes of Battlefield, Call of Duty or Medal of Honor to have especially deep and intriguing narratives with characters we’ll care about. But at least characters like “Ghost” are recognisable. Heck, Black Ops 2’s marketing campaign was almost exclusively focused on Frank Woods.
Medal of Honor made us care somewhat, but it lost every bit of intrigue and interest with Warfighter: characters were nameless, directives were confusing and enemies mindless. While Call Of Duty takes the Michael Bay route with its senseless, sensationalised look at war, Medal of Honor tries to critique the moralities of it, only it fails miserably next to the likes of Spec Ops: The Line.
Where to from here?
The series might be in better hands at Crytek. The Crysis series is popular, accessible and unique, three things the Medal of Honor series desperately needs. Forget about trying to replicate the complexities of war, ditch the real-life war operatives, and return to what made Medal of Honor so popular.
By Gaetano Prestia
What do you think hurt the Medal of Honor franchise so much? What did it do right? Share your thoughts below