If that bearded hobo bloke - the Tier 1 Operator EA is using in its marketing for upcoming Afghanistan shoot fest Medal of Honor - represents the scalpel, the US Army Ranger represents the sledgehammer. They are the ground pounders, the overwhelming force - what you would expect to see from big military. It is the Army Rangers that executive producer Greg Goodrich is here at EA's spring showcase to demo.
The demo is taken from a Ranger level set in March 2002. It begins with a cinematic - the Leave a Message trailer EA put out last week to debut the "tough as nails" US military force. Go on. Have a gander. It's pretty good.
The Rangers engage the enemy in the Shah-i-Kot Valley, but get pinned down by an enemy DShK heavy machine gun. A fire team of six Rangers then volunteers to head into a village to find the machine gun and destroy it. You are one of these rangers, and this is where we pick up the action.
The first thing you notice is how authentic the environment looks. The Shah-i-Kot Valley is a vast place. Dusty mountain passes lead the Rangers along a meandering path through the rugged, harsh terrain. The Rangers bark echoing orders at each other. During quieter moments you can hear the wind whistling through the valley. A bright, almost blinding light reflects off of the pass, but you get the feeling that the place is very, very cold.
When combat comes, it comes from higher ground, behind hut walls and holes dug into the rock. Greg fights back, sliding into cover, zooming down the line of the gun and spraying fire at enemies in an almost desperate fashion. There is much shouting - from both sides - "contact!", "clear!", and destructible cover blown into bits. The level looks like a heart pounding, relentless push towards the heavy machine gun position, punctuated by quieter moments during which the Rangers plan their assault and creep towards tiny settlements.
There are bits when you see your squad mates storm into a hut, counting down "3… 2… 1", kicking in the door and rushing in spraying bullets at the bemused enemy. Eventually, when the squad come up on the DShK heavy machine gun, the player is charged with laying down suppressing fire as the team inches its way closer and closer until an AI-controlled Ranger pops smoke. Then, the airstrike - bombs slam into the HMG position, rubble sprays everywhere and a dust cloud chokes the team. That was dangerously close, one Ranger remarks. "That was sick!" says another.
This Ranger level has all the wide open feel of a classic Halo level, but where that game was very much one incredibly powerful character against the world, in Medal of Honor you are part of a squad of individuals, and so are not always doing the most spectacular, heroic thing. This is a conscious choice - watching your squad bust open a hut door, laying down suppressing fire as the other Rangers pop smoke - there is no I in team, as the saying goes.