Is it possible to take Medal of Honor: Warfighter as seriously as it takes itself?
Danger Close's wonky but likeable enough 2010 reboot of Medal of Hono(u)r struggled to find a place in the hearts of many, including me; I secretly only bought a copy for access to the Battlefield 3 beta, which I didn't even use in the end. It was a two-tier game, made complicated by some fancy marketing guff about scalpels and sledgehammers, when it just felt like a weak lemon drink version of Call of Duty. Worse still was a confusing and off-putting mix of multiple engines and developers, as EA drafted in the DICE backbenchers to make a drab multiplayer component people played for all of about four days.
It's particularly delightful, then, to see that Danger Close has already managed to address a lot of those conceptual errors with Medal of Honor: Warfighter (Warfighter? what's next? Gunshooter? Enemykiller?). So you can say so long DICE, au revoir to the confusing marketing guff and farval to Afghanistan.
Instead you can say guten tag to the Frostbite 2 engine, which powers the whole game. Danger Close, now sole developer, is also focusing the game entirely around its returning cast of Tier 1 operatives - who've all trimmed their beards, by the way - while offering up a global view of the special forces in both the campaign and the multiplayer. So you've got the likes of the British SAS, the German KSK and the Polish GROM all kicking around, and 12 countries will be represented in the game.
It's all designed to rouse a bit of nationalistic sentiment. Executive producer Greg Goodrich says the studio is "taking a page out of the FIFA playbook" and is trying to get a bit of patriotism in its multiplayer mode, which has been redesigned to be a "blue-on-blue" arena of good guys fighting good guys. Whether that means the SAS will be running around in multiplayer getting sweet headshots on the GROM is currently unclear, but I think Goodrich might actually be on to something because I always used to pick the SAS skin in my Counter-Strike days.
Over in the campaign, we get to see a mission where Tier 1 operatives attempt to rescue aid workers being held hostage by Abu Sayyaf extremists in the Philippines. Danger Close is aiming to fashion its campaign around a global fight, based around multiple events dotted around history and linked by an enemy with many different faces, but there's no time to think about that as your squad kicks down the door to the Capitol Building during a heavy typhoon.
Seconds earlier, the words "inspired by actual events" flashed across the screen.
Actual events? The mission ends with you manning a turret and blasting buildings into pieces while you escape a flooded city on speedboats, all while the bodycount sails into triple digits. It's exactly the kind of stuff you'd expect from a big-budget marquee shooter, basically, but it's almost impossible not to be warmed by Danger Close's loftier goals and ambitious intention. Yet I'm still not sure whether when you kick down a door and start a slow-motion breach sequence, you'll actually feel anything more profound than when you did it all the other military shooters.
A few new mechanics can be seen in the demo, however. Before breaching the player is given a few options, such as whether to kick the door down or throw in a flashbang - hopefully this will lead to a bevy of tactical options in the finished game, where the player is given more agency (and responsibility) when it comes to playing a Tier 1 operative. The scope on the player's rifle can also be toggled on and off, too, allowing for precise medium-range combat as well as a wide field of view when it comes to close and personal skirmishes.
Goodrich ended his demonstration by inviting real-life military men to the stage and quizzing them about their involvement in the game. This is an expectedly po-faced shot of a game that longs to be taken seriously, and it certainly looks fantastic - watching the game run on PC is magnificent, and Danger Close's attention to military details certainly doesn't go unnoticed. The aesthetic and its implementation seem miles ahead of the studio's last outing, and it's highly likely Danger Close might actually be able to exceed DICE at the big-budget set-pieces with their own engine.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter will be released on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on October 23.