Medal of Honor: Warfighter is a sad story. After the moderate success of the 2010 series reboot, and the continued success of its Battlefield cousin, Medal of Honor had potential. With the Frostbite 2 engine that powered last year’s Battlefield 3, and a sizable marketing budget, Warfighter had every chance for success. Unfortunately, a number of missteps has lead to a game that just doesn’t match up to the quality of other games this year.
The single player campaign plays out over a number of missions where you play as one of two Tier 1 soldiers, Stump and Preacher. Over the course of several missions, you are attempting to foil a terrorist plot to blow stuff up. There is no real antagonist, per se, just a number of forgettable bad guys looking to blow stuff up. This is a part of Warfighter’s narrative problem. In an attempt to add some flavor to the story, you are forced to jump back and forth from mission to cut scene where the end of the mission foreshadows some drama you will witness in a cut scene, or vice versa. I had a hard time following what was going on.
No game is perfect, and even a short game with a weak story can make up for its shortcomings with exciting gameplay. Unfortunately, that’s not happening here either. Don’t get me wrong, there were some very fun points in the game. My favorite sections of the game were the vehicle missions. At one point I decided this would have made for some great Need for Speed stages. I guess that’s not surprising given that the last Need for Speed used the same Frostbite 2 engine, so the physics felt right and the vehicles handled much better than any other vehicle missions I’ve ever played in a non-racing game. Need for Speed: Warfighter? The best stage in the game even added a stealth mechanic very reminiscent of Metal Gear where you are trying to slip past patrolling baddies. But just when things start to get interesting, you find yourself back in an uninspired firefight with the same generic enemies we’ve seen in every military shooter for the past 5 years. Oh, but you’ll get to break down a lot of doors. Medal of Honor: Doorfighter? Also conspicuously missing is a co-op experience. When most other games in the past few years have brought some pretty awesome co-operative experiences, it is strange to find a AAA game entirely void of one.
It’s not all bad news. If you can get past the weak story, the last-gen AI and yet another bunch of terrorists to shoot, there is some pretty decent technology behind the game. This shouldn’t be surprising, given how many times we’ve heard about the Frostbite 2 engine over the last year. Lighting is very good, the sound quality is great and the guns feel right. It’s a shame that Medal of Honor: Warfighter didn’t get a few extra months to iron out some of its issues, because it definitely had some potential.
The multiplayer side is a much better story. Although there are not a whole lot of new ideas to bring to the online dude shooting genre, Warfighter is at least an enjoyable multiplayer experience. If you enjoy shooters, then there is a lot to like here. While the 2010 Medal of Honor had a pretty limited multiplayer experience with only a few classes and a few weapons to choose from, Warfighter gives you a lot to choose from. A LOT to choose from. Seriously, it’s overwhelming. I have put a good 10-20 hours into the game, and I am still trying to figure out which guns I like the most. Unfortunately, the user interface is a bit clunky so it can be hard to find what you are looking for, but once you figure out its quirks there is plenty of fun to be had.
I shouldn’t say that there are no new ideas in the multiplayer. I really, really like Warfighter’s addition of the Fireteam concept. Rather than split you up into the traditional 2 sets of teams, Warfighter adds another tier (no pun intended) of cooperation. The 10 player teams get further split into 2 player Fireteams. You and your “buddy” get extra points for helping each other. When someone shoots your buddy, in addition to your buddy cursing you out for not being a better buddy, the enemy that shot them gets outlined in red and you can see them through whatever obstacles are between you. You are highly encouraged to give that jerk a beat down, and when you do you get extra points for doing it! YES! Your buddy can help you recover from being wounded quicker, they can refill your ammo and they can use you as a roving spawn point when they die. I love any game that helps to encourage and reward teamwork.
The progression system is a little overly complex. Instead of slowly doling out better and better gear as you rank up, you unlock new real world Special Forces units, as well as a bit of a geography lesson. It’s pretty cool to be able to choose whether you want to represent the SAS or the Navy SEALs, but it’s hard to tell what you’re getting with each new unit. Even worse, when you first start the game you’re asked to pick a soldier to start with. Since each unit starts with different gear, you better hope you picked one that has gear that you like or you’ll be spending several hours cursing your impulsiveness. Oh, and there is no way to choose a new starting unit if you don’t like it, so learn to like it. You’ll start unlocking new gear quickly, but it’s an early lesson to keep a close eye on the details. Maybe that is a calculated move from the developers, showing us the care that a Tier 1 operator has to take in choosing their equipment?
The multiplayer experience mostly makes up for the faults of the single player campaign. If you are the kind of player who spends more time online than shooting dudes by yourself, you might not care. The lack of a co-operative experience is surprising given that its older cousin Battlefield 3 had some pretty good co-op missions.
Like I said in the beginning, Medal of Honor: Warfighter is a sad story. Unfortunately, the game was not given the time it needed to work out the problem spots. The business need to get the game out in time for the holidays and to beat Call of Duty to the shelves was put before giving the developers the time to polish and refine the game. Beneath the awkward plotline and the average gameplay, you can see the game that it was meant to be, and that is the saddest story of all.