Medal of Honour: Warfighter Review

Key Features

  • Developer: Danger Close
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • Platforms: PlayStation 3 (tested), Xbox 360, Windows, Wii U
  • Release date: 23 October
  • Price: £39.99

Medal of Honor: Warfighter

It's a miserable cynic who can look at AAA games and think that all they're good for is making money. Only this year we've had superlative console hits like Max Payne 3, possibly THE best third person shooter of all time, and Spec Ops: The Line which, for all its confusion between gameplay and writing, still had a crack at being clever.

But Medal of Honor: Warfighter, the latest entry in Danger Close's modernised franchise reboot, has absolutely no purpose at all, other than to the squeeze the final pennies out of "realistic" war shooters before Black Ops II drags the whole genre into the future. There is nothing about Warfighter that hasn't been tried, tested and profited from in a dozen other games before: If this were any other industry, Danger Close would be done for plagiarism.

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Right from the off, this is an FPS-by-numbers. Sneaking through some generic harbour location, you're accompanied by an avuncular Captain Price/MacMillan/Reznov superior, who prompts you to silently headshot a few lousy sentries that are between you and your objective. Once that's done, the game cuts to the standard tutorial level, thinly contextualised as a terrorist training camp.

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It's here where Warfighter really shows itself up. Predictable, reheated tutorial section notwithstanding, Danger Close completely misses a chance (not for the last time) to do something interesting with the war shooter.

Playing as the terrorists, it would have been interesting to see the standard target practice setup subverted; an ideal sequence would end with you, having shot the red, "hostile" targets, being told by your Al Qaeda instructor to do it again and kill the blue, unarmed ones as well. After all, they're Westerners, and if the rest of the game's black and white politics are to be believed, everybody in that part of the world is a target.

But Warfighter has no time for that sort of creativity, preferring instead to blithely jog behind Modern Warfare, and the other first-person shooters that have turned "realistic" combat into the game industry's biggest money spinner. It almost seems like Danger Close wants Warfighter to be derivative, even going so far as to lift the game's core engine, Frostbite 2, from the Battlefield series.

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The game's only claim to originality is its narrative, which ostensibly serves to highlight the troubled personal lives of military commandos. It centres mainly on "Preacher", a recently discharged "Tier 1" operator trying to reconcile with his wife and daughter.

Flicking between battle scenes on the front lines and Preacher's life back home, Warfighter's story rapidly descends into false, patriotic melodrama, drawing insultingly clear lines between the morally impervious US military, and the dastardly, just plain evil foreigners.

Research is Warfighter's USP; the through line between the game's marketing, setup and mechanics is that Danger Close has worked alongside real Special Forces troops to make Warfighter an honest portrait of military life. But that's clearly bumph. The gravelly, saccharine soldier characters have more in common with network television than House to House; the clear lines between good and bad are unbelievably reductive.

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For the most part, Medal of Honor: Warfighter isn't even bothered, gleefully recycling tested shooter tropes into a by-the-book derivation. On the rare occasions it does try to break ground, Warfighter's fiction falls completely flat, ringing painfully false despite months of supposed research.

As an attempt to play safe by sticking to what people know, Warfighter is a failure, it's overly similar gameplay rendering it wholly redundant. And on the other hand, as an experiment in complex storytelling, Warfighter stumbles again, boiling its source material down to 1D stereotypes and insulting jingoism.

Despite some barely visible good intentions on the writing side of things, Warfighter is further fuel to the fire for those suggesting the first-person war shooter is an artless genre, threatening the good faith earned by the original Modern Warfare and Battlefield 3.

Technical

This is usually the point in the review where technical specs, graphics, animations and so on are cited as shiny and flawless, despite the game's failings elsewhere. But in Warfighter's case, even those things, that other war shooters seem to get right by default, are done badly.

The environments are grey, brown and half-rendered; the characters move robotically, somehow defying the excellent ANT technology that's built into Frostbite 2.

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As such, there's hardly anything good to be said for Medal of Honor: Warfighter. It's derivative, bland and utterly insipid, and even when it's trying not to be those things, the results are uniformly poor. From a technical and mechanical perspective, Medal of Honor: Warfighter is damp, familiar squib; in terms of its fiction, it's plain stupid.

The game is dedicated to Special Forces operators around the world, but as a complete mess of tired, borrowed ideas, and half-baked, bad, new ones, Medal of Honor: Warfighter seems like an insult to the people it depicts. A Camden market knock-off to Call of Duty's genuine Rolex, Warfighter is a waste of money. 

Scores

  • Gameplay - 5/10: Completely functional but unashamedly derivative
  • Sound - 5/10: Some solid voice acting, let down by awful writing. Music and weapons plain and unremarkable
  • Graphics - 7/10: Ragged textures and blocky animations spoil an otherwise standard visual design
  • Replay value - 3/10: It's unlikely you'll want to play Warfighter once, let alone two times
  • Overall - 4/10: Zero new ideas and hammy, jingoistic writing. The war shooter ends here.