I didn't like the Medal of Hono(u)r beta - but that's okay, according to DICE, as it was intended to be an actual beta. Not these fancy 'betas as marketing gimmicks' that are commonplace nowadays (although it was used as a marketing gimmick) but an actual, honest-to-goodness beta with warts and all, such as serious problems that needed fixing – like the way it kept crashing my PS3, for instance – and really dodgy balancing.
So, it's been a few months and the game's due out in a couple of weeks. What's changed? Loads of stuff, actually. Some of the most noticeable changes include the overhauled HUD, the recoil of the weapons and the killstreaks, which are now far harder to obtain. That might not sound like much in an industry obsessed with making up 'revolutionary' new features to plonk on the back of boxes, but take the game for a spin online and it's clear that these tweaks have had a massive impact.
That being said, my only opportunity to test out the multiplayer component of the game – this is the bit being made by DICE with the Frostbite engine, as opposed to Danger Close's single-player campaign – was over the course of an afternoon a few weeks ago. The set-up was two random teams of European journalists, who all worked together about as well as two random teams of European journalists ever can: badly. One major problem was that the sides were wildly imbalanced, and while steamrolling the other team over and over again was undeniably entertaining, it didn't show off too much of the game's subtle intricacies. Still, can't complain.
Changes from the beta are immediately apparent as soon as you spawn. The re-jigged recoil adds a lot more to the fire-and-forget style of the beta, and while the animations still lack the fluidity of other competing shooters there's an excellent selection of chunky, enjoyable weapons. It is incredibly easy to perish, which makes bullets feel deadly and life precious.
The first mode we played was Team Assault – the game's standard Team Deathmatch variant. It's tried and tested, and will probably be the most popular mode. You band off into two squads (yes, one team is the Taliban – just like the papers said) and try to shoot each other while not dying in the process. On that note, when will developers stop trying to make up their own names for Team Deathmatch? Nobody is being fooled into thinking this is anything new.
Then you get a bit of Sector Control, which you'll probably recognise more by its other name: Domination. Here you try and lock down three points on the map and then hold them to accrue points. More points, more prizes. You'll end up shooting people along the way, too. Again, it's a staple gametype of modern shooters.
More interesting, perhaps, are Objective Raid and Combat Mission. These have drawn their inspiration from DICE's spiritual sibling Battlefield. Objective Raid turns Bad Company's Rush into an intense skirmish where an attacking team needs to blow up two points on a teeny tiny map within five minutes. Areas are so small in Objective Raid that you're shooting people a couple of seconds after you spawn.
Combat Mission is an altogether more expansive territory-grabbing mode that sees an attacking team attempting to move across five consecutive objectives. These have a bit more dressing to them than simple points A and B; on the Shahikhot Mountains map, for example, you start by securing a crashed helicopter, and then move to blow up an ammo depot, clear out a stronghold, knock over a mortar station and, finally, take out an anti-air gun.