Medal Of Honor Number Fourteen, Anyone?
When Medal of Honor Warfighter landed on my desk, I decided to brush up on my knowledge of the series. Can you believe that this is the fourteenth Medal of Honor title since the original was released back in 1999? The first twelve were a part of the World War II craze that had such a profound impact on first-person shooters over the past decade. But the prior installment (named simply Medal of Honor, and released in 2010) put the action in present-day Afghanistan. That title's single-player component employed a modified version of Epic's Unreal Engine 3.
The Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises have also shifted away from the historical themes toward more modern stories. Warfighter even employs the same Frostbite 2 engine for its single-player campaign that DICE developed for Battlefield 3.
In the crowded world of first-person-shooters, how does Medal of Honor Warfighter differentiate itself, aside from great-looking graphics?
Well, the game follows the stories of Tier 1 operators (members of Special Mission Units in the U.S. Armed Forces) through a number of locations. "Preacher," one of the main characters from the previous title, and a DEVGRU operator, is the character you play through much of the game.
The gameplay is fairly typical first-person shooter fare. Cutscenes often approach the private lives of elite military personnel, including uncomfortable and all-too-real topics like struggling to keep a family together and burying a comrade. At its best, this game had me thinking about the life of a career soldier, along with the disconnect between the conscienceless elimination of "bad guys" and caring for loved ones. Danger Close followed a path that other developers really haven't (but one that did remind us of the Bandito Brothers' Act of Valor). However, I think they approached sensitive topics with the respect they deserve.
At its worst, though, Medal of Honor Warfighter is just another slick shooter that invests more into keeping the missions fresh than a cohesive narrative. Every level is unique, but the flow sometimes feels forced. There's the requisite driving level, the stealth level, an open warfare level, an urban level, a jungle level, a level from a terrorist's perspective, and so on. The game's director clearly wanted to keep each mission different, tight, and polished. Those priorities sometimes cost the story its overall fit, though.
As far as technical aspects go, I never saw debilitating drops in frame rate, and the title never crashed (which, apparently, some folks had trouble with). Playing the game after its massive day-one patch, along with the latest drivers from AMD and Nvidia, yielded a pleasant experience.
Did I enjoy the game? It reminded me of its contemporaries from the Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises. I don't think it's as terrible as some reviews suggest, but it isn't a genre-defining masterpiece, either. If you love running and gunny through the typical modern military-themed first-person shooter, then you'll probably enjoy Medal of Honor Warfighter.
Our job isn't to review games, though. We're more concerned about how they perform on your hardware so that you know what you need to enjoy the latest titles. To that end, we didn't spend any time in the multiplayer component of this one, which was also developed by Danger Close Games using DICE's Frostbite 2 engine. Similar to what we experienced in Battlefield 3 Performance: 30+ Graphics Cards, Benchmarked, the single-player campaign has sequences that are repeatable, while multiplayer is much more random and dependent on actions of others, making it harder to test.
Of course, in Battlefield 3, we saw that the single-player game was consequently very graphics-bound, taxing our graphics cards for all they were worth. Meanwhile, big multiplayer maps were bringing capable CPUs to their knees. Because Medal of Honor Warfighter uses the same Frostbite 2 engine, we expect that it'll behave similarly.