Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Medal of Honor (Playstation 3) 

EA's long-running franchise receives a reboot with the release of Medal of Honor. Instead of taking place during World War II, the game takes on a contemporary setting with the war on terror. Placing gamers in the role of a special ops Tier One operator, the game allows you to go behind enemy lines in Afghanistan. This sets up a new style of play with more modern weapons and less predictable single player missions. The linear portion of these missions are fairly simple and straightforward, but the multiplayer is much more interesting with large maps and some clever game modes. While it's not quite as polished as Call of Duty has been in recent years, Medal of Honor still represents a decent choice for military shooter fans.

Cynics might see the re-emergence of EA's Medal of Honor franchise as an attempt by the company to cash in on the success of Activision's Call of Duty. You can definitely see some of the Duty influence in Medal's slick production values, cinematic sequences and fast-moving gameplay. However, Medal of Honor takes a slightly different approach to its recreation of modern war that marks it as a unique experience. Instead of the hyper-pumped action movie approach, Medal of Honor's basis in reality is much more evident. The game uses a real world conflict (the war on terror in Afghanistan) as its basic premise which is evident right away. Even more dramatic is its use of realistic fighting and combat tactics. Instead of putting you in the role of a normal soldier, the game has you in the element of an elite force of combat operatives known as Tier One. These soldiers represent the military's best of the best, the absolute peak soldiers who know how to spearhead combat operations. Your mission is to locate and eliminate the entrenched Taliban and Al-Queda forces while collecting intelligence on their activities. Missions unfold during a series of chapters that take place in different locations, ranging from villages to airfields and other sections of the country. Its an interesting approach to set the entire game during this single war, but it works to create a coherent storyline that keeps you engaged throughout. It doesn't mean that the game lacks variety, with missions that take place in different locations such as valleys and villages, urban areas and armed camps you won't get bored. There are also day and night missions, plus different weather to encounter, which gives Medal of Honor a surprising amount of depth.

As a member of Tier One code-named Rabbit, you are expected to perform above and beyond what other soldiers can accomplish. Given these requirements, its not surprising that the missions you encounter are a bit more elaborate and interesting than normal shooters offer. During the single player missions, you have to simultaneously attack and blend in with the enemy Taliban forces then turn around and attack them. This requires you and your fellow Tier One ops to complete elaborate missions with multiple objectives. You can't go in with guns blazing all the time and there is an element of stealth you need to achieve in order to catch the enemies off-guard. For example, this means you have to move quietly in the darkness, sneak up on foes and then launch your attack. In turns, the game also delivers some fairly blistering combat sequences as well, with extended duration combat where you have to survive while being pinned down by mortar fire or escape from sudden ambushes. The enemy forces are surprisingly intelligent and attack you from all directions, which means you have to find cover and use it extensively in order to survive. However, players will also contend with destructible objects. Bullets can reduce the cover certain objects such as tires offer, this makes for a more realistic combat experience that allows the enemy to chip away at your position once they locate your operatives. This mechanic is fairly traditional by FPS standards, but the developers keep things realistic by using real-world combat maneuvers. It's difficult to get through the missions without getting hit by enemy fire at least once. Fortunately, all shots aren't fatal and you can recharge your energy by finding cover and resting for a few moments. However, you aren't invincible and can be put down by multiple shots or a nearby grenade. This could be frustrating, but the single player mode offers frequent save points that offer the chance to respawn close to where you left off.

Instead of giving players weapons that seem out of place, and marking up a too-elaborate storyline, Medal of Honor sticks to the basics. You can choose a variety of real-world weapons and their shooting mechanics are fairly straightforward. There's a limited amount of ammo at your disposal and you have to fire wisely or find yourself defenseless. In addition, you also have a limited number of grenades that you can throw at opponents. When you encounter a fallen soldier, you can pick up their weapons and any extra ammo they have, which is another FPS type of thing. You need to be careful since the opponents' weapons aren't always as effective as yours. Its on-ground FPS action is fairly good and you'll battle a traditional set of enemies that seem to pop-out at you from every direction - there are a seemingly endless supply of foes to blockade your progress. Mission objectives are typically clearly defined and you can usually tell which direction to head by the position of your team members. The FPS action is solidly executed with excellent set-pieces, such as an elaborate confrontation where you have to take out an encamped tower-based machine gun or take over an enemy air-traffic base that brings some expertly designed combat sequences into play. However, Medal of Honor is more than just a boots on the ground experience. There are some sequences that require you to call in air strikes. This is done using a set of binoculars and targeting enemy forces such as tanks. This needs to be done quickly or else these opponents will unleash heavy fire on your forces. When you're in this mode, you also need to account for the slight delay in getting the bombs to blow up the opponents, while also working quickly to avoid needless combat. The game also includes some missions where you need to drive an ATV through the night undetected. Unfortunately, the driving sequences fall a little bit flat since the vehicles are hard to control and seem to wave around too much. That said, Medal of Honor's single-player gameplay is generally solid throughout as the combat missions unfold at a fast pace throughout with only the occasional interruption for a cinematic sequence that moves the plot forward efficiently.

While Medal of Honor's single-player experience delivers a cinematic exploration of clandestine, anti-terror operations, the game also includes an elaborate multiplayer mode. Since the online portion of the game was developed by DICE, you'd expect a solid multiplayer component and Medal of Honor delivers a solid, if uninspired online experience. What's most interesting about the online modes is its ranking system. You begin at the bottom of the ladder and can work your way up to the Tier One level. In the online mode, there are three basic types of players you can use: Riflemen, who are the basic soldiers who carry basic weapons. The next type are Special Ops who are experts in close-range combat and finally Snipers who sit behind enemy lines and can use their goggles to call in strikes or take out enemies from a distance. Each type of player has their own advantages and weaknesses in online play, which means you'll need to discover which one is the right match for your skills. The online player starts with a basic weapon and can unlock stronger ones as they win matches and earn medals. Medal of Honor's ranking system comes into play after each match, and the game keeps track of your medals ribbons and overall ranking, which allows you to unlock additional weapons. The half-dozen maps on offer are fairly decent and mirror the settings seen in the main storyline. These include mountainous regions, the ruins of the Afghan city Kandahar, deadly valley encounters and more. Each map in online mode is expertly rendered and has the sleek production values and polish seen in the main game. Medal of Honor keeps the realism here as well, with the same weapons and tactics you see in the main game.

The half-dozen or so included maps makes for a fairly large battlefield and most players will have little trouble traversing them. There's a good cross-section of level types with different maps assigned for specific game modes. For example, you can choose to frag each orher in open areas for all out combat and more closed-in sections where strategic warfare and team tactics are more important. Several online modes are available including one that's very close to the single player game. This is called Combat Mission and the objective is to complete five tasks in a row while the opposition tries to stop you. True to life, the objectives that you need to complete change from map to map and include securing areas, cleaning out opponents and reaching the enemy camp. Another interesting mode is the Sector Control variation where you have to fight with an opposing team to secure three sections of the map, which is a more elaborate version of capture the flag made more interesting by the requirement that players can secure these sections faster by bringing in additional support troops. The online mode is fairly easy to set up and use and we found that it operated smoothly with little lag and only the occasional glitch. Medal of Honor's online mode is excellent and gives you the feel of actually commanding an elite force. This is enhanced by the fact that its modes can support anywhere from 2 to 24 players at once, which gives you a full compliment of soldiers at your side.

Whether you're playing online or in solo mode, Medal of Honor delivers a consistently excellent experience as far as aesthetics are concerned. The rendering of the various locations in Afghanistan is excellent with brilliantly realized locations that feel realistic and authentic. Its character models are superb with your forces and enemy combatants moving realistically through the various levels. The varied set-pieces and locations look quite convincing throughout and its this attention to detail that makes Medal of Honor so much fun to play. The action moves at a fairly consistent frame rate throughout and the various special effects, such as massive explosions and jets flying overhead are quite effective. There are some areas that feel a little glitchy or under-done, such as large empty sections of the map where there's almost nothing to see. These sections show a few rough edges, and feel a little bit rushed. The game does a decent job overall and its variety of locations is impressive. Medal of Honor's excellent sound effects are likewise superb with the sounds of gunfire and cross-talk from your fellow soldiers effectively creating an ambience of war. The game's mixture of action and stealth creates some tense moments where you wait to be discovered, knowing that full-bore combat will be unleashed the second the enemy knows you're there. Snaking through the dense mountains while avoiding detection makes for another key element that makes the game feel realistic, but there's definitely an element of quasi-realism in the way that things are structured that makes things a bit too predictable in some ways, while almost becoming completely unpredictable in others.

Medal of Honor's mission objectives are very straightforward and the game's linear design and level mapping approach means that there aren't very many surprises or branches to keep things interesting. The other soldiers on your team are usually effective in the more straightforward sections but you can't rely on them during the more complex areas. For example, they aren't very good at close combat and the opponents can penetrate your perimeter without much effort. This can make for a frustrating experience at points that becomes less realistic. Medal of Honor also suffers from some very poorly designed section and sub-par AI appears at some points that leaves you defenseless when there are too many opponents and not enough allies nearby. There were some instances where the game would seemingly lock up and your soldiers would stand by and would do nothing while you can under attack. Despite these flaws, the game was mostly solid and offered a fairly interesting and immersive combat experience. While its gameplay balance isn't quite as polished or smooth as the recent Call of Duty, this is still a reasonably entertaining shooter with an interesting single player campaign. Its solid multiplayer modes offer a challenging experience with an interesting ranking feature that keeps you motivated to keep playing. There are definitely faults with the design that detract from its overall quality, but EA and DICE have done an overall solid job in contemporizing the long-running combat franchise for the HD era.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

> Related Reviews

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
(Playstation 3)
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Playstation 3)
Call of Duty: World at War (Playstation 3)
Call of Duty 2 (Xbox 360)
Metal Gear Solid 4 (Playstation 3)