Review: Welcome to
Tier Beard 1.
Medal of Honor is here, and it's going to give all of your favorite first-person shooter franchises a run for their money. Kicking realism to the curb in favor of authenticity, it's done more than bring you a solid campaign with a gripping story and a robust multiplayer that is addictive and fun. EA wasn't kidding when they said they were taking this game to the next level with Tier 1. Medal of Honor does it all, and brings out your emotions ? and your A game ? with it. This is arguably one of the best games of the year, and definitely brings the franchise back strongly as a contender in the genre. DICE and Danger Close, a team within EA Los Angeles, have worked to bring us an incredible package here with these single and multiplayer experiences, respectively. The two engines ? and experiences ? complement each other very well.
An emotional single-player experience
The campaign is an unforgettable tour with four different characters ? Rabbit, the main Tier 1 operator; Deuce, another Tier 1 operator working behind enemy lines; Hawk, a helicopter gunner; and Dante, one of the Rangers called in for reinforcement. Each character plays his part in the drama that is unfolding in Afghanistan against the Taliban, and each chapter brings more answers to light ? and more emotion to the story. Set against the forces thought to cause the destruction of 9/11, each chapter brings the elite soldiers closer to finding the answers they seek. The ending ties all the stories together, and I'll admit it ? it made me cry.
The deep impact here on players will stem from the fact that this isn't just a video game, and this isn't just a story. This game is based on real events, and is brought to us with the knowledge that this is really what American soldiers are going through in these altercations across the world. Based on actual missions by real operatives, what happens in this game doesn't just mimic real life ? it is
real life. One scene in particular was jarring to me ? a scene in which my character and his cohorts are trapped in an area with barely enough cover, running quickly out of ammo as wave after wave of enemies pour out from the mountains. Hemmed in, counting bullets, getting attacked from every direction ? it was overwhelming as I was suddenly faced with the horrible truth: this is happening right now, in real life, to real people. Imagining myself in that situation, I felt sick to my stomach, and I had to take a break from the game and walk away from the controller. The game ? and what it stands for ? is that intense.
Gameplay-wise, Medal of Honor makes use of the basic mechanics of FPS games, with a few slight alterations. There's sliding ? while running towards cover, you can slide into cover, which isn't just there for the cool aesthetic ? it also helps you get to cover more quickly, shielding you from enemy fire and allowing you to adjust faster. Another interesting addition is the ?Request Ammo? feature, in which you can go up to one of your allies and request ammunition from them. This only works if you are using guns supported by your allies, though, so if you pick up an enemy's weapon, don't expect to be able to replenish your ammo once it's out.
Visually, the game is stunning. Danger Close developed the campaign, and they did a beautiful job with it. Night scenes are especially lovely, rendered in a way that makes you feel like you are out on a crisp, dark night. Everything has a very smooth and polished veneer, and there are chapters that go seamlessly from cut scene into the next character's chapter. More than once I found myself holding my breath at the end of one chapter, only to be placed into the shoes of the character who saved the day, starting the next chapter. In the scenes with explosions, the dirt and dust nearly made me feel claustrophobic. The audio, too, is commendable ? more specifically in the levels where there's not much going on. The hushed sounds are muted but distinguishable, and the characters and their actions stand out all the more starkly in the sneaking missions.
EA has delivered what they promised ? an emotional campaign that is authentic, drawing attention to what our troops are going through on a daily basis. By shedding light on these situations, they'll command a new respect for our soldiers, who have chosen to risk their lives for what they believe in. The single-player campaign ? which I beat in just over five hours on medium difficulty ? has even more to offer once you've conquered it, by giving you a chance to go to the next level.
Do you have what it takes to be Tier 1?
Once you've completed the campaign, you unlock Tier 1, an online, single-player experience that brings the game to the next level. You can replay every chapter again, but circumstances have changed. The enemies are tougher, their attacks do more damage, you no longer have the ability to snap to your target, your health regenerates more slowly, your handy crosshairs have disappeared, and there are no checkpoints. Dying means you have to start again from the beginning. There's also no more ammo request feature, meaning you have to ration your ammo in order to make it to the end. To top it off, you now have a time limit ? just 25 minutes to complete each level. You can get time bonuses for certain kinds of kills ? headshots and melee attacks give you plus two seconds, and chaining specific attacks together gives you even more. Tier 1 mode is online-only, featuring a leaderboard to encourage you to truly be the best of the best. If you felt unchallenged by the campaign and want more from it, this is definitely the way to go.
And multiplayer makes 3
In case there wasn't enough there to keep you occupied, Medal of Honor also brings a huge multiplayer experience to the table, courtesy of DICE. There are eight maps spanning areas across Afghanistan and four game modes, with an additional mode, Hardcore, that takes three modes ? Team Assault, Objective Raid, and Sector Control ? and puts them together in a playlist set on a more extreme difficulty level. Each mode supports up to 24 players, 12 on each team. There are three classes, each class with multiple unlockable guns and modifications. Ribbons and medals, as well as scorechains and support actions, round off the experience to keep it full of flavor.
The four modes ? Combat Mission, Team Assault, Objective Raid, and Sector Control ? pit the coalition forces against the now controversially named ?Opposing Force? (or OPFOR for short). No Taliban in the multiplayer. Combat Mission features three maps and has the coalition forces fighting for ground against the OPFOR. The coalition must destroy five objectives in order to win, each destroyed objective opening up a new section of the map to reveal the next objective. To win as the coalition, you must defeat all the objectives before your reinforcements run out (in the form of a Team Health meter); to win as the OPFOR, drain their reinforcements to zero. Team Assault is your basic 12-on-12 deathmatch. Objective Raid is a timed demolition mode in which the OPFOR's goal is to sabotage two objectives while the coalition must defend them. In Sector Control, players vie for power over three objectives, indicated by flags. The first time to achieve a preset score wins.
The three classes are Rifleman, Special Ops, and Sniper. The Rifleman is perfect for jumping into most battle scenarios, especially when you're going to be fighting all over the map in modes like Team Assault or Combat Mission. Special Ops are good for up close and personal fighting, and is ideal for a mode like Objective Raid, where a shotgun is optimal. The Sniper class is good for every mode, giving support from the back but also spreading the love by planting explosives. Ribbons and medals are awarded for achieving specific goals ? ribbons are awarded for accomplishments during the match and medals are given to indicate landmarks across your multiplayer progression.
Points are accumulated each round for achieving objectives and getting kills. Different points are rewarded for different actions ? for example, headshots and revenge kills give bonus points. Once you've reached 50 points in one life, you can call in a support action, such as calling in a UAV or bringing down a mortar strike on the enemy. Additional scorechains can be achieved after the first one, building up to more and more support actions ? so long as you don't die while accumulating the points. It's as fun and addictive as it is frustrating, but when it all works together, it's beautiful and satisfying.
DICE is responsible for the multiplayer engine, and the graphics are what we've come to expect from them ? but what really stood out for me was the audio. The subtle sounds stand out ? the jingle of my equipment as I played as the OPFOR in the Kabul City Ruins, or the distinctive clink of chains as my ammo clip runs through my gun playing as the coalition in the Diwagal Camp. Whatever the scenario, everything felt very authentic, and very detailed.
A word of caution to the FPS gamer: if you're looking for a game with a massive perk system and multiple loadouts, this game may be too simplistic for you. While the scorechains and support actions are a great system, there's not an overwhelming number of choices. The three classes have a limited number of guns to unlock, and while there are many unlockable customizations, there aren't multiple gun loadouts. This works well in that it keeps the game very balanced and focuses more on skill than weapon combination. But at the same time, I can see how some players would be frustrated with the inability to switch out multiple aspects of their equipment.