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Critical Reception: EA's  Medal of Honor

Critical Reception: EA's Medal of Honor

October 13, 2010 | By Danny Cowan

October 13, 2010 | By Danny Cowan
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This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Danger Close and Electronic Arts' first-person shooter franchise reboot Medal of Honor, which reviews describe as "a game that could have been a lot better." Medal of Honor currently earns a score of 75 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

Games Radar's Tyler Wilde rates Medal of Honor at 8 out of 10, but notes that two scores are required. "Medal of Honor, like Halo: Reach, really requires two reviews: one for the campaign, and one for the multiplayer," he explains.

"MoH's campaign and multiplayer weren't even created by the same developers, and don't run on the same engines. It's two games in one box, so even more so than Reach, its two sides need separate treatment."

Wilde goes on to rate the single-player campaign at 7 out of 10. "The most exceptional aspects of the campaign are the writing and voice acting," Wilde says.

"The Tier 1 special-ops teams, Neptune and Wolfpack, contain surprisingly likable, sympathetic bearded warriors. The story is kept simple, as it should be: there are a bunch of Taliban in a valley, the Tier 1 operators enter to weaken defenses and provide intel, a jerk-ass general insists that the rangers be sent in prematurely, and everything goes tits up."

"But despite some tense moments and big explosions, the campaign is underwhelming," Wilde continues. "The Tier 1 missions will get your heart rate up a few times, but they're nevertheless linear, 'go here do this' affairs, and lack much creativity or mental stimulation. Shoot guys, move to a new position, shoot more guys. If you're any good at shooters at all, play on 'hard' for any kind of challenge."

The multiplayer side, on the other hand, gets an 8 out of 10 from Wilde. "If you don't care for multiplayer, think twice before buying Medal of Honor," he warns. "But if multiplayer is your primary focus, then while you may finish the campaign in just five hours or so, you'll likely spend much more time combating human opponents."

"DICE has done a superb job combining the frantic, tight-spaces of Call of Duty and previous Medal of Honor games with Battlefield's open, objective-based matches," Wilde praises. "My favorite mode, Combat Mission, sees one side defend a linear series of strongholds as the other attempts to capture them one by one. It takes the experience of Battlefield and compresses it into a straight line, which I prefer, as it focuses the action to a single front. Yes, it involves less strategy on the part of each team, but I'd call it 'simplification' as opposed to a 'dumbing down.'"

"Medal of Honor's campaign is well-scripted and well-acted, and parts of it are superbly nerve-racking, but its uninventive missions and premature ending left us wanting," Wilde summarizes. "The multiplayer, however, is a different game. No, it's actually a different game, and it's what DICE does best. If you've tired of [Call of Duty], Medal of Honor might be just the medicine you need."

Arthur Gies at IGN.com scores Medal of Honor at 6 out of 10. "There was a specific point in Medal of Honor where my hopes for the game were at their highest," he recalls. "As I make my way through the wreckage of a small outpost destroyed by our AC-130 support, the smoke clears and I see the sun rising over the ridgeline, filling the sky with red and blue light. This was one of those moments we have in good singleplayer campaigns -- moments where your disbelief is suspended and you're in that experience."

"About two minutes later," Gies continues, "I was cursing Medal of Honor as I desperately tried to figure out exactly which 10-square-foot area I needed to enter to start the next mandatory scripted sequence. While you'll encounter both of these types of moments in Medal of Honor, the latter eventually overwhelmed the former."

Gies notes that Medal of Honor's strictly scripted single-player mode is its biggest detriment. "I felt a sense of unease throughout Medal of Honor's single-player campaign that I chalk up to its tonal inconsistency," he says. "The action in the game frequently devolves into action movie cliches like giant explosions, hundreds of enemy combatants to kill, and scripted death sequences of American soldiers."

Gies continues: "Medal of Honor is so heavily dependent on canned war moments and setpieces that it starts to feel like the Theme Park tour of the war in Afghanistan, rather than a respectful trip through a day in the life of a soldier - and yeah, that weirded me out."

Multiplayer suffers from its own unique quirks. "While the underlying mechanics are great, everything else comes off as half-baked," Gies claims. "Without Modern Warfare's fast, open maps or Bad Company 2's constantly changing warzone, Medal of Honor's online component lacks the staying power of its half-brother or impending competition."

"With serious stability and performance issues on console, level design that tends more toward turkey shoot than firefight, and a story and characters that stumble in their attempts at relevance and pathos," Gies writes, "Medal of Honor walks into a quagmire it never really escapes from."

Over at Giant Bomb, Jeff Gerstmann gives Medal of Honor 3 out of 5 stars.

"Though the setting may sound a bit edgy, in practice Medal of Honor offers a brief campaign with little story and a smattering of technical issues that range from annoying to decidedly disappointing," he begins. "It also delivers a multiplayer component that feels like it's desperately trying to split the difference between Modern Warfare 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. There are flashes of excitement peppered across the game's modes, but it's hard to get too excited about any of that when it's been done better elsewhere."

Gerstmann finds the single-player narrative to be lacking. "There really isn't much of a 'story' to Medal of Honor's campaign," he says. "Aside from a nosy general who's (poorly) calling shots from thousands of miles away, the antagonists are mostly faceless. So you'll spend four to six hours shooting your way through countless hordes of Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces, and then watch the end credits.

"Considering the game is at least loosely based on real-world events, it's unrealistic to expect some kind of big boss fight or some kind of central villain that you're trying to find and kill, but as it stands, the events of Medal of Honor completely lack impact and the whole thing feels like the middle third of a three-act story."

Multiplayer is marginally more successful, according to Gerstmann. "The multiplayer side of Medal of Honor feels like DICE took the action of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, streamlined bits of it to focus more on shooting and less on support roles, sped the whole thing up a bit, and placed most of the action on smaller maps," he writes.

Gerstmann elaborates: "Some aspects from the single-player game, like the way you can reload early to keep one bullet in the chamber, or the ability to go prone or slide into cover by hitting duck while running, aren't present at all. It's a weird disconnect that's unfortunate, because those features are neat additions that would have added to the multiplayer experience and helped give the game a feel of its own. Instead it feels caught between the fast, loose style of Modern Warfare 2 and the somewhat more surgical class-based play of Bad Company 2."

"Medal of Honor has some strong moments, but overall it feels like a game that could have been a lot better," Gerstmann concludes. "In the absolutely ruthless world of online shooters, there's little room for weakness. Medal of Honor alternates between its derivative style and its annoying technical glitches way too frequently to rise above the crowd."


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