Medal Of Honor Warfighter PS3 review – shooting for America like its 2007

Medal Of Honor Warfighter PS3 review

[You can find the Medal Of Honor Warfighter live review here, where I wrote up my thoughts as I played it.]

Warfighter is at best competent. A slightly damning indictment meaning that at its highest shooty peaks this is basically average. And a five-year-old average at that, with dialogue and gameplay that crib so hard from the Modern Warfare/Generation Kill school of American foreign policy that it touches down somewhere between parody and homage. Apparently this season’s way to talk in armyland is to call everyone “brother”. Roger? Over. Review actual. Hard copy, out.

Medal Of Honor Warfighter PS3 review

The shooting is rewarding but ultimately unremarkable. There’s a nice lean and peak cover system that works beautifully in a first person perspective, and the combat is savage enough to force you to think about what you’re doing and test your survival skills – a run and gun approach is suicide but there’s enough give to let you take a few risks as you return fire and dart from pillar to post. It walks a line somewhere between the arcade rush of COD and the dryness of Battlefield.

Battles can become tricky engagements as you fight to clear areas and root out enemies. Although it’s mostly due to factors like the bad guys being hard to pick out from the environment, staying firmly in cover or occasionally rushing forward like crazy people on sale day. It’s a challenge but you do get the feeling you’re fighting targets with pre-programmed routines rather than engaging actual AI brains.

This gameplay is acceptable enough but it’s spartan in execution – clear area, move, breach door (Oh Christ, so much bloody breaching) – but it’s not without highlights. Often these are when Warfighter embraces the lineage of the games it apes – semi-stealthy night time raids in the rain; green screened, night vision raids on enemies fumbling in the dark, or a great chase/shoot out mash up as you pursue a target through a desert compound. Classic set ups that almost make this feel like a compilation of great old FPS ideas – Now That’s What I Call A War Shooter, Vol 12 anyone?

But other moments lack sparkle. They’re alright; functional enough but oh so familiar. I’d struggle to remember any of the guns beyond an excellent silenced pistol I got to use for all of five minutes and the one with the sniper sight I couldn’t swap out. I only remember that because it exposed either an odd design choice or a bug – because the sniper sight gun was set up to shoot at distance it was unwieldy to use for mid-range encounters. My only other choice was to use the tiny pistol I had in reserve or pick up an enemy gun, which revealed the weird thing – you can’t keep any guns other than the ones you’re given. You can pick them up but as soon as you swap, they’re discarded. So every time I wanted to switch back to the sniper rifle for a long shot I had to throw away the other, more useful, gun.

Where it gets really weird are the dashes of bizarre creativity that are a great example of how, just because you’ve had an idea, it doesn’t mean its a good one. The endless breaching, for example, uses headshots as currency to unlock different ways of opening doors - a tomahawk  a crowbar, a Masterkey shotgun or explosive charges. Thing is, none of them are as efficient or as fast as the basic ‘kick the door in’ technique. All you get are slightly longer, more faffy ways of opening things. It’s embarrassing to watch your teammate hack away at a handle with a cracker-sized hatchet while the people inside shout in Arabic (possibly, “What is the American fool doing out there?”)

Then there’s the driving. It’s almost, almost genius. There are moments where you skid through traffic in a foreign city, smashing through markets and sparking off the sides of other cars where it nearly recreates the feeling of a great movie chase scene. However these moments are mostly by accident because the cars handle like wet soap being tilted around a tray. For every moment you career around a corner like Bond in an eruption of laundry and newspapers there’s another where you’ll be three-point turning like Austin Powers.

Then there’s the parking. I almost want to meet the man behind that for the shear demented brilliance of making parking part of the war on terror. It happens after another car chase that also throws in flaccid Burnout-style Takedowns as you ram enemy cars off the road with little slow-mo kill cams. Forced into a residential area you’re told you can’t escape so you have to drive between and stop in designated spots where patrols can’t see you. These roaming guard vehicles even have little vision cones on the map to help you avoid them. Fittingly this section crescendos with the heady rush of driving around a multistory car park trying to find the exit. It’s quite possibly one of my gaming highlights of the year but probably for none of the reasons Danger Close are hoping.

PARKING!

While it’s sufficiently fun enough in places to not make it drag there’s plenty that doesn’t work. An early sniper mission just doesn’t explain the rules clearly enough leaving you firing bullets in increasingly wilder trajectories as you try to find out what it wants from you. The characters are also poorly defined in-game. I can hear them shouting over the gunfire but none of them stand out. It’s just ‘that guy over there’, ‘slightly different beard man’ and ‘the other one’.

Then there’s the plot. At no stage did I have any idea what was going on. At one point my notes simply read “WHY IS ANY OF THIS HAPPENING?”. There’s a man who’s trying to save his marriage over the phone but also talking to his army friends. There’s an explosion on a train. He’s in hospital. We’re rescuing hostages in the Philippines. We’re terrorist at a training camp. There’s a sniper mission that lasts 1 minute after five of cutscenes and dialogue. It’s not so much a fractured narrative, it’s more like a script that’s been shredded, mixed with a few newspaper clippings and stuck back together blindfold.

Lets also not forget the patch. I reviewed the patched version because I have the internet, but not everyone does. Those without online are doomed to play a game with 46 issues not fixed in a day one patch. Some of the notes are incredible, mentioning “progression stoppers”, “unresponsive controls” and more. Everyone makes mistakes but when almost every aspect of the game appears to have a known issue you have to wonder why the game was shipped in such a state.

Assuming you can patch it and it works, what you’ve got here is a basic shooter that, when it remembers what it is, can be fun, and when it forgets, goes mad. Most of the good ideas it uses are familiar enough to provide an acceptable amount of enjoyment, and while I applaud the attempts to try new things, not all of it works (or in some cases even make sense). But even at it’s best it’s unlikely to excite you enough to ever tell anyone else about it. Unless that conversation starts with “Parking! Actual Parking!”.

Our Score

Score: 6