Popular video game franchises operating on a yearly release cycle tend to be soulless affairs regurgitating the same core trademark elements, with little or no push towards innovation. While this game development model was a preserve of sports and racing franchises, war shooters eventually overshadowed them for elementary reasons. You see, gamers may prefer football and cricket simulations over racing games, or vice versa, but an overwhelmingly large number of them wholeheartedly love the Call of Battlefields of the world for their brand of linear set piece porn interspersed with on-rails shooting sequences and Quick Time Events. Not surprisingly, when you cater to casual gamers, style reigns supreme over substance and spectacle tends to supersede gameplay.
A large chunk of the playtime is spent breaching doors and shooting people in slo-mo
Medal of Drama
Delivering a polished cover shooter experience along with a competent multiplayer component requires more effort and time than it is possible to deliver within a year's worth of development run. The reigning military FPS franchise Call of Duty gets around this challenge by dividing the development load biennially between Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare and Treyarch's Black Ops games. Lately, EA has adopted similar strategy by alternating between Battlefield and Medal of Honour releases. One would therefore assume that a timespan of two years and access to huge budget and resources ought to make Medal of Honor: Warfighter a competent shooter. Unfortunately, that isn't the case.
Instead of shuffling between multiple playable characters, Warfighter focuses on Tier 1 operative Preacher, who reprises his role from the last game. Alternatively, you also play as a US Navy SEAL codenamed Stump, whose missions run parallel to Preacher's, as they hunt down an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist ring hell bent on unleashing another 9/11-like attack, courtesy of a huge cache of PETN explosives in their possession. The 5 hour long single-player campaign features familiar faces from the last outing such as Mother and Voodoo, but attempts to break out of the mould by trying to capture the human aspect of the war on terror.
A major chunk of the narrative is laid out in cutscenes depicting how Preacher's frequent and dangerous missions have taken a toll on his family life. For the sake of authenticity, Danger Close sought inputs from real Tier 1 operatives for game design as well as the story. Unfortunately, writing isn't obviously their day job and it shows. While these brave men are quite competent at snapping necks and shooting insurgents in the head, they aren't very good at writing scripts. Not surprisingly, the whole human angle business just falls flat on the face. Warfighter's overly long and numerous cutscenes evoke no pathos and only come in the way of what gamers really want to do—shoot people in the face.
Car chase sequences exhibit surprisingly good driving physics
A Crushing Bore
What Warfighter lacks in a compelling plotline isn't compensated by great gameplay either. It commits the same folly that the original was panned for—lack of innovation. What you have here are the same boring cover shooter mechanics, which are compounded by painfully linear levels that don't put any effort towards infusing verticality or any such level design cleverness. It's a banal grind of pushing through one corridor after another, which is frequently interrupted by door breaching sequences. It's almost as if every time the level designers ran out of ideas, they plonked in a couple of terrorists hidden behind a locked door. By the looks of it, that sure must've happened a lot. Shooting baddies in slow motion is only fun for the first five times, because it gets painfully boring real quick. In fact, some of the levels were so linear and scripted that I could have finished them blindfolded with one hand tied behind my back.
The whole affair could have been somewhat redeemed, if the AI and combat mechanics were handled competently. Both the enemy as well the buddy AI, however, are downright hilarious. I know Jihadists are suicidal in general, but I would have appreciated if they didn't just stand out in the open or make a beeline for the business end of your gun. Your computer-controlled teammates have even less regard for safety or common sense. They will want to take cover in exactly the same spot as you, which comically nudges you out in the open, all ready to be swiss cheesed. When they aren't busy exposing you to enemy fire though, AI buddies have a penchant for putting themselves in your firing line. It must, however, be noted that the stupidity of the enemy and partner AI tend to cancel themselves out.
While there is no annoying mouse acceleration in the PC version, I could still feel the presence of input lag most probably brought about by some sort of mouse filtering, which cannot be turned off from the menu. Your character tends to move rather slowly, which forces you to use cover. That wouldn't have been a problem if the game had a half decent lean/peek system. Peeking out of cover in Warfighter involves pressing a modifier that lets you use the sidestep buttons to lean out and return fire. This is a clunky and unintuitive affair, which is made worse by the fact that leaning is no different than a glorified snap-back version of, well, side-stepping out of cover. In effect, not only is the lean system horrible, but it is pointless as well.
The abysmal lean mechanics ruin the cover system
If that wasn't bad, the developer Danger Close takes a stab at realism by introducing excessive amount of recoil-induced inaccuracy. While I may not have shot automatic weapons, I have watched enough videos and weapon documentaries to know that even weekend plinkers tend to have better shot grouping than what passes for hardened Tier 1 operatives in this game. The tracer rounds used in this video pretty much demonstrate why Warfighter's exaggerated recoil simulation is a total farce. Unlike what happens in real life, even the first shot tends to land way further from where the crosshair is supposed to be.
Shooting from the hip is even more ridiculous as you'll easily chew through a clip or two before you land a hit on a target situated just a couple of yards away. Fortunately, all this inaccuracy in the name of misplaced realism is bearable only because enemies aren't bullet sponges unlike most modern shooters. This lack of speed and accuracy brings some interesting results in the multiplayer mode though, which adopts the same squad-based gameplay that is par for the course when it comes to modern military shooters. Battles become pitched as you have to dig in and use cover to make up for the lack of mobility.
Warfighter's multiplayer component orients itself firmly between the lone ranger action of Call of Duty and team-based gameplay of Battlefield games. It employs a fireteam setup, wherein you pair up with a mate who also serves as a mobile respawn point. The idea is to stick together and the gameplay essentially forces you to rely on your buddy to succeed. The game gives you a choice between six classes ranging from assaulter, point man, heavy gunner, demolitions, spec ops and sniper. Each class has its own abilities and perks, but the gameplay impact isn't as profound because the class distinction and upgrades are restricted mainly to the weapons.
The visuals are downright gorgeous
The Final Nail in the Coffin
Multiplayer modes include the usual suspects such as Home Run (Capture The Flag), Sector Control (Domination), Team Deathmatch and Combat Mission, which is similar to Counter-Strike's bomb planting and defusing affair. The Home Run and Combat Mission modes are the most fun, especially if you have a competent co-player. The multiplayer component may not be innovative, but it has some fairly interesting modes. However, unpredictable hit detection, sluggish movement, and abysmal gun handling take the bite away from what could have been a fun online experience. To put it bluntly, Warfighter's multiplayer mode may not be the killer feature worth shelling out your hard earned money for, but it at least isn't as disappointing as the half-baked and overly bathetic single player campaign.
The single player campaign is unimaginative for the most part and largely incompetent as a whole. It neither delivers a gripping storyline, nor does it make up for it with well-rounded gameplay. On the bright side, the graphics are comparable to Battlefield 3, and that's saying a lot. The game truly looks beautiful and has unequivocally the best sound design I have experienced in an FPS game. Despite all this, Medal of Honor: Warfighter's general sloppiness is too overwhelming to be redeemed by a middling multiplayer component. At the end of the day, even if you are a sucker for war shooters, you'll be better served by saving your money for the upcoming Call of Duty instalment instead.
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