Games review - Medal of Honor: Warfighter (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)
Second attempt to reinvigorate series lacks originality and imagination
Steven Spielberg launched Medal of Honor back in 1999 as a companion piece to Saving Private Ryan, setting in motion events which birthed the Call of Duty juggernaut four years later. As members of the original team left to join Activision’s rival franchise, Medal of Honor languished under EA’s control, despite a hopeful (and failed) reboot two years ago. This second attempt to reinvigorate the series succeeds only in aping the competition, without the technical mastery and imagination to do it justice.
In order to differentiate itself from its bombastic competitors, Warfighter desperately wants to make you care about its protagonists: the ‘tier one operatives’ who battle terrorism around the world. But rather than accomplish this with interesting characters and moral choices, it simply crowbars in some of the most unsettling pre-rendered cutscenes of recent years, as our hero fights his own battles at home with his estranged wife. It’s an odd way to tie the story together between missions, and matters are made worse by the freaky character models, especially the protagonist’s young daughter, a pallid mess of semi-photorealistic textures who’d look more at home in Silent Hill.
Of course, an FPS game is all about the shooting and, using Battlefield 3’s superb Frostbite 2 engine, developer Danger Close can hardly fail to get the physics right, even if the environments vary from atmospheric and dynamic to bland and blocky. But every firefight in Warfighter is a monumental slog against AI that is either psychic or idiotic and never anything in between. When you’re killed, rather than quickly respawning and jumping back into the action, you have to endure a painfully long load to see just how far back the game wants to dump you.
Compounding this is a host of technical issues which should have been ironed out long before release. It’s a terribly buggy game with some appalling menu design, graphical glitches and frequent crashes. It makes sense that EA would release Warfighter well before Call of Duty: Black Ops II but this smacks of a rush to hit release date no matter the quality. A mammoth day one patch to fix fundamentals such as ‘progression stoppers’ does nothing to suggest otherwise.
Although it implements an interesting teamwork dynamic, the de rigeur multiplayer mode is let down by poorly-designed maps that are dull and small, with invisible boundaries arbitrarily restricting such tactical staples as flanking. The graphics have also been dialled right down, although that doesn’t seem to have saved the framerate from frequently nosediving for no discernible reason.
It’s sad that such a popular series has come to this, released simply as a cynical attempt to dent Activision’s annual foray into big budget shooting. While the Call of Duty series feels a long way from its peak (2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare), Warfighter’s many failings should provoke serious questions about the future of this series.