Like the seasonal flu, every fall blatant copies of popular titles are shoved down the consumer’s throats right in time for the hopeful holiday rush. What’s popular enough now to be the topic of conversation between the kiddies at the playground? Military first-person shooters have been this go-to cash grab for years now and usually titles lacking Call of Duty in the title fall on a suicidal land mine. This year we have Medal of Honor: Warfighter, a first-person shooter touting “realism” (remember, THIS IS INSPIRED BY ACTUAL EVENTS) set in a modern military world. 2010’s Medal of Honor was terrible in its own right and Warfighter does little to better the name. It’s about as forgettable and poorly constructed as most of its competitors.
Modern war stories have this certain thing about them. You know, being completely boring, hard to follow, and terribly cliché. Enter Warfighter with nothing fresh to set on the dinner table of plot. Various brown men must be killed, followed, or interrogated and you must do so before something terrible happens. Or at least we’re told that. With all the bearded white American men, it is extremely hard to follow which man is which, leading to confusion and ultimately disinterest. It’s as hamfisted, boring, and repetitive as ever here in Warfighter.
Besides the military “hoo-hah” jargon that runs rampant in every other title, this one tries to scale that back a bit in favor of a more personal story. Preacher, one of the main characters, has a wife and child, something you are held down by the back of your neck and downright forced to care about. It desperately scrapes and tries to make some sort of emotional resonance with the player showing that soldiers are actual people with actual families that go through a lot of hardships. There’s just a huge problem: they aren’t characterized enough to care about.
The first words out of her mouth are bitchy nags, almost to the point where I thought her and the main character were divorced. The daughter and wife are given such little attention that it is literally impossible to care about them specifically, especially with the cheesy dialogue further giving you a reason to continue your apathy towards them. Yes, I have a heart for anyone who actually has to go through that, but this horrifically deformed digital family did not emulate that empathy in the slightest. Warfighter didn’t show me what they were like before all of this to contextualize how they functioned nor did they have much time in the light to flesh them out as people. Hell, given their goonish character models, I’m not even sure they were people.
The game couldn’t trust that the player could stay interested for longer than five minutes so OH MY GOD MORE EXPLOSIONS PLEASE STAY INTERESTED YES FAMILY BOO HOO NOW MORE KABOOMS. Had they actually taken the time and treated the player with respect, they might have had something going there. Might. At the end of the game, there’s a beautiful piece of literature presumably written by an actual widow but the game didn’t earn that heartfelt reaction it wanted that essay to naturally elicit. It wanted the constant action movie adrenaline rush of Call of Duty and the emotional impact of Spec Ops: The Line, failing on both accounts. Instead of taking the paint and crafting a wonderful picture, it felt the need for action and put the paint into paintballs, shot them on a canvas, and created a mess instead.
As for the Call of Duty-inspired action, it ranges from mildly engaging to downright bad. The actual shooting is competent, but there are many oddities surrounding it that just don’t work in the game’s favor. Not only does reloading take about half of Saturn’s orbit around the sun, but the game limits your weapons like a controlling dictator. You can’t get rid of the two weapons you start with. If you pick up another weapon, you do just that: pick it up. If you “switch” it out, you just toss it, sometimes with inability to pick it back up, and, frustratingly enough, you can’t grab a new firearm if you in the middle of a reload. The two-weapon system almost always draws ire from me, but this is ridiculously stupid, limiting, and shows the unfinished areas of design.
Although that unfinished feeling extends far beyond the gunplay because the whole game feels incomplete. After a hefty day-one patch, the failure on EA to provide the press with advanced copies, and general amount of bugs in the game, it’s a little disgusting that the title was even released. Like its predecessor, scripting bugs happen with some regularity, halting progress and forcing a restart. Friendly AI will just stand there and not react properly, giving you the hint that they are clueless of what to do next. Not like it matters that much, since they are some of the most braindead, useless AI I’ve seen in a while. They don’t feel quite comfortable unless they are sitting about fifty yards back or standing right in front of your scope. If I wanted to point my iron sights between your ass cheeks, I would have done it myself.
Besides scripting, regular bugs occur somewhat frequently too. Horrendous clipping can sometimes occur, guns will just float in mid-air as if suspended by a genie, bodies will spontaneously disappear, and other goofy, random stuff pops up just to surprise you. A fellow soldier was supposed to guide me to the next area (you know, the old “I can’t open the door shtick”) but he had a better idea in mind. This seemingly normal soldier jumped about seven feet in the air, busted into a full sprint, then disappeared into the wall, maybe making his journey back to Hogwarts. There wasn’t a moment where I felt that this game spent a lot of time in the oven. It felt like a raw turkey being pulled out of the grease vat in order to be on the table before the other well-cooked turkeys.
When it isn’t being outright bad, it’s just taking that time and being just sort of flat all around, completely failing to do anything new or something resembling excitement. Everything you’ve done here is something you’ve done much better in many other titles, especially the Call of Duty games. Specific moments are almost designed to conjure memories of other games to the point where it just feels like a shoddy extension of said games. We’ve done sniping missions, car chases, boat chases, on-rails action, and more, so seeing it here is like the darkest dimension of déjà vu. It will be a short episode of déjà vu since the game is fairly short (even for this genre), but extending it would probably result in aping even more set pieces or mechanics from other titles.
Don’t even get my started on how many times you are tasked with slo-mo door breaches. Danger Close even felt the need to throw in different animations for breaching, downright revealing that they knew how worn kicking in doors was going to be.
DICE isn’t around to craft the multiplayer this time around, but Danger Close has done fairly well for this title’s rendition. While the menus, options, and HUD are obfuscated, getting down to the action of shooting a person in the face is fairly up to snuff. The multiplayer is an amalgamation of modes and mechanics from other games, but the fact that it isn’t completely broken is oddly something worth praising. The online isn’t as solid or engaging as your favorite online shooter, but it’s better than other lower tier shooters.
Changing engines can prove to be hell of a difference. Ditching the Unreal Engine that riddled 2010’s Medal of Honor with boring visuals and texture pop-in was a smart decision, because DICE’s Frostbite 2 Engine makes Warfigther‘s visuals look heaps and bound better. It’s actually a pretty good looking game, with environmental detail putting the last one to shame with more color and effects happening at most times. All of the different visual effects, like light the great lighting, coalesce to form a game that goes beyond regular browns and grays.
In a lot of ways, Medal of Honor: Warfighter is probably exactly what you expected. It’s nice to have a surprise a la Spec Ops: The Line, and I’ll always have an open mind coming into any game, but given the track record of the subject matter and numerous retreads of the it, Warfigther had more of an uphill battle than an easy downhill jog. Warfighter looks as though it showed up far too late to the costume party in his shoddy Bane get-up, half-buzzed and covered in mud. No one invited you Warfighter, so why did you show up?
+A visually striking game
+Multiplayer is competent
-Bugs and bonehead design decisions make this game feel rushed
-Combat oddities limit fun with the shooting
-Does almost nothing new, exciting, or innovative
-Awful, generic, anemic story
Final Score: 5/10