I approached Medal of Honor’s reboot with skepticism. While I’ve been never a big fan of the series, I can’t deny its star power. To my knowledge, it’s one of the longest FPS series ever with multiple installments throughout three console generations. Its biggest obstacle has always been the repetitive setting. Sure, World War II was somewhat original when it came to the PS1 installment, but they’ve never changed it since then….until now that is. Even though this reboot rips-off CoD: Modern Warfare’s original concept from years back, at least we’re getting a present time period (albeit controversial) after a decade of identical entries.
I haven’t played the campaign yet, but I’ve heard from a close friend how intense and authentic it feels…even better than the recent Call of Duty and Battlefield modern retakes. Sure, storyline may contain your typical American cheese, but the experience itself is awesome. I’ve watched it being played and thus far I’m impressed. It’s a shame that it’s riddled with numerous bugs and glitches, but you can’t take away the quality of gameplay. After all, we’re talking about a development team which has been around for more than a decade. Many people don’t know this, but Danger Close is not a new company despite their so-called debut with this modern version of MoH; they’re just a re-branding of the classic MoH team within EA LA, which in itself is a re-branding of DreamWorks Interactive before they were bought out by EA years ago (confused yet?). The highly-modified Unreal Engine adds a lot to the experience, not to mention the moody soundtrack. Music encompasses Middle Eastern flavor (a mixture of darbukas, chants, and violins) with addicting acoustic and electric guitar riffs from time to time…certainly deserves a download through iTunes.
What baffles me is the multiplayer, which has been advertised in poor taste. Showcase videos have revealed an intense, fast-paced shooter which seemed to borrow a lot from the single player. Gamers have dubbed it as a combination of Modern Warfare and Battlefield: Bad Company. It’s no surprise that similarities to Battlefield exist as DICE is behind the multiplayer portion of the game as well. To be honest, perhaps this is the first time I’ve ever heard of an FPS game being split between two separate teams. On paper, it sounds like a good idea because they both know what they’re doing. In reality, however, things could not be more confusing since the “power team” is not better than the sum of its parts. Forget what you’ve seen with the videos; the multiplayer plays and looks almost exactly like Bad Company 2. Don’t get me wrong, I love that game….but why am I getting its expansion pack within a separate game all together? I assumed that DICE would be closely working with Danger Close to make the multiplayer as original as possible by using the single player’s Unreal Engine, but no; it’s so obvious that DICE took on the task on its own by simply swapping BC2’s scenery to match MoH’s setting, right down to the developer’s very own Frostbite Engine with recycled voice work and sound effects. It’s sort of disorienting to change from single-player sessions to multiplayer because the look and feel of each is entirely unique. I’ve never been so confused with one game before.
To be fair, some of the modifications DICE have included with their Frostbite Engine help attach online play to its single-player counterpart, yet various disparities and glaring omissions exist whether you like it or not. The game only focuses on three basic classes (ala Battlefield 1943) which don’t include medic and engineer…yet why can’t I lie prone or slide to cover as in the single-player? Maps are admittedly more compact and Modern Warfare-like…yet why aren’t there nighttime maps? There are a handful of offensive and defensive “kill-streaks” to obtain throughout your online sessions…yet why can’t I borrow ammo from allies? In a dumbfounding twist, BC’s infamous ‘destructible environments’ feature is severely scaled-down in MoH. It’s the most advertised component of Frostbite, but they’re holding it back in MoH? Who is the idiot behind that decision?
And yet, despite how similar it is to Bad Company 2, I surprisingly found myself playing it differently because of slight modifications to the default engine. Compact maps force you to always hide behind cover and tread ground slowly, which is an uncommon style of play in Bad Company 2 due to huge environments. The monochromatic, intentionally drab colors of these maps also lend a lot to natural camouflage, which may be frustrating to some players. I lost count of how many times I’ve died despite carefully looking around me and in the distance for any existing enemies. The faster speed and lower health tweaks further distance MoH from BC2, and let’s not forget ammo camps scattered in each map so players can restock. Again though, the Frostbite Engine alone is more than enough to convince you that it’s not made from the ground-up. This decision may be a blessing in disguise in a weird way. Imagine that all the bugs from the single-player existed online as well…that would’ve been a sad reality if it hadn’t used a more stable engine like Frostbite. As with any FPS multiplayer, expect exploits and imbalance issues throughout this launch period. DICE will undoubtedly patch these up in the upcoming months.
Finally, let me close off this log with a story about EA’s new online pass program. The version I own is the PS3 one which is based off the UK’s disc. I say ‘based off’ because almost all game companies use their UK branches to publish material in the Middle East. Surprisingly, MoH’s controversies have not blocked it from being sold in the Middle East. An even bigger surprise is the existence of Arabic text describing the game on the back of its hardcover, proving that actual effort by EA to publish and advertise this game in the Middle East. The first thing that popped up in multiplayer was registering the online pass code through my Saudi Arabian-based PSN account (also based off the UK version). I tried and tried but to no avail. As most of you know, codes and DLC packs are region-locked so I shouldn’t have any problems registering a Middle Eastern code in a Saudi PSN Store. As forums suggested, I tried registering the code through the PlayStation Store itself (redeem codes option) instead of the in-game notice message, but I continued to receive an error message stating that the code was invalid. Either the code is simply written wrong (just my luck) or the Saudi PSN Store isn’t updated with these codes (even though the region its based-off from contains online pass codes for sale). Turns out that it’s the latter. Solved the problem by simply creating a UK PSN account and registering the code through it. Luckily, multiple accounts in one PS3 may freely share downloads so switching to my Saudi PSN to play multiplayer shouldn’t be a problem. Anyway, the moral of this story is that EA UK (or EA ME) are stupid. Releasing MoH locally but blocking or forgetting to update the online pass codes for us may be one of the dumbest localization decisions I’ve ever heard of in a long while.
In short, I think only FPS nuts can appreciate the 6-hour-long single-player experience, the diamond in the rough of Medal of Honor’s reboot. With CoD: Black Ops and Battlefield BC2: Vietnam expansion hitting shelves soon, it’s just so hard to eat up MoH’s multiplayer at the time being despite small tweaks to make it stand out more….unless you’re happy with classic yet differently-flavored Battlefield gameplay.