Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Danger Close, DICE
Medal of Honor is a military shooter about the war in Afghanistan that dares to lead the player towards asking the words ‘why am I here’. Sadly this isn’t some act of subversion; this isn’t a game that talks about the moral quandries of American Imperialism or whether it was necessary for the Western powers to plunge themselves headfirst into the protracted middle eastern wars of the early 21st Century. Instead the reason that Medal of Honor makes its players question why they are here is simply because the player is given such a small, insignificant role in proceedings that it often feels like the game could complete itself quite happily without any interaction from the player.
In the style of the Call of Duty games which made the Military First Person Shooter one of the biggest money-spinning genres in modern gaming, Medal of Honor takes the player through a series of military setpieces, giving them control of a number of different individuals of different military branches and ranks. Unlike its much more successful counterpart however, Medal of Honor prides itself on its accuracy, foregoing Bond-like theatrics and big stakes heroism for a simple but realistic two-day operation taking out a large force of Taliban fighters from a small mountainous region on the Afghan-Pakistani border. EA performed extensive research into the game, including getting as much input as possible from real Tier 1 US operatives working in Afghanistan. This probably explains why the Tier 1 soldiers are shown as nigh-invulnerable ninjas with silly call signs sporting the manliest possible facial hair.
As you play you move between controlling characters including members of two Tier 1 teams, a specialist in the US Army Rangers and an aviation gunner in the Airborne division. Each mission (except for the Aviation one, which is essentially a rail-shooter) pits you as one member of a team of four soldiers executing a set mission plan. During these segments you are charged with killing hundreds of swarthy-looking bearded people in curiously clean white headdresses through a variety of different types of rock and/or dirt. Occasionally there are buildings to work through, or vehicles to ride on, or places to sneak around, but for the most part the game is about shooting middle-eastern men in their heads, bombing their curiously civilian-free villages to smithereens and quite frankly very little else.
But like that annoying friend that just can’t stand sitting there whilst you play their games, Medal of Honor just can’t stand you playing it the way you want to, instead wrestling control from you at regular points. Partway through the first mission, it goes into a cutscene simply to show you it’s rad axe-to-head animation in better detail, repeatedly it refuses to let you fire your weapons in case you somehow interrupt the flow of characters standing around discussing their course of action, and at one particularly egregious moment the game made an enemy both completely oblivious to me and had my bullets pass right through him simply so that they could be killed by my AI companion without any interruption to the script. In other locations the game erected invisible walls to stop me from approaching situations or characters from directions other than those specifically required for the game to run in the way it demands.
And when it’s not actively stopping you from playing the game in a way it doesn’t specifically desire, it’s actively demanding you take a very specific course of action. During the game’s early Tier 1 Stealth segments, you spend the entire time following incredibly specific instructions including those which tell you exactly where to go, when to move so as to not be seen by the guards, and whether or not you should fight your way out instead of trying the stealth route. There is literally no challenge involved and no intelligence necessary; the entire experience is following orders given to you at face value (which is heavily ironic as the game’s only vestige of plot involves the consequences of being forced to follow orders blindly), making the whole experience about as interactive as one of those pre-recorded laserdisc lightgun games from the early nineties, but with about half of the plot.
Medal of Honor’s single player is, quite frankly, an embarrassment. The fact that something that took so many people, so many resources, so much research and so much money to produce resulted in this is astonishing. Rather than being the Call of Duty-killer that EA positioned it to be, Medal of Honor a boring mess notable only for what a miserable failure it was. The game’s multiplayer still exists however, and whilst unlike the vast majority of games I play it appears to be populated. I did consider popping my head in for a quick attempt but felt intimidated by the sheer number of options and features available which, I am assuming, would all be quite familiar to a Call of Duty regular (otherwise known as the people who don’t need to buy this game as they already have Call of Duty), so if that’s your sort of thing… actually no, even then it’s not worth it. Medal of Honor 2010 is pathetic.
How long did I play? - 3.5 hours
Did I finish it? - No
Would I finish it? - No