Danger Close has a real knack for nailing their environments, however. The hills, mountains and tunnels of Afghanistan are well realised and consistently entertaining to trek over. There are also some exemplary weather effects, ensuring these environments are dangerous and hostile in spite of your fancy night vision goggles and scoped weaponry. It also helps that the sound design is uniformly stellar, from the uncanny radio chatter to the noise of the weapons and, yes, those mandatory big-budget explosions.
The atmosphere is furthered by the reliance on distant confrontations. Combat is rarely handled up close, with firefights routinely spanning the lengths of Afghanistan's rocky valleys and mountainous expanses. This makes your scope invaluable, and turns enemies into little more than faraway muzzle flashes hidden in plumes of mist, snow and dust. This is an altogether more realistic take on warfare, perhaps, but it's also a game element that starts to become a little wearisome and homogeneous after the umpteenth time.
The narrative is perhaps more successful than the experience of playing through it. I can often see what Danger Close is trying to achieve; there's a repeated suggestion that life is valuable and the loss of a fellow soldier is a big deal. That's something I can get on board with, but the message becomes a little twisted when you realise you're shooting your way through what feels like the entire population of Afghanistan as if they were little more than ambiguous meat puppets. No amount of fancy opening and closing quotes is going to do much to alleviate that.
The obvious argument in the game's defence is that war is, you know, like that. But the need to inflate the enemy numbers beyond realistic proportions - literally into the hundreds in some of the game's bigger moments - inadvertently creates an experience that feels a bit confused and disjointed regarding the sanctity of life.
Some of its other story decisions have the potential to offend, too. Military generals are painted as bumbling, disconnected idiots, while every soldier on the ground is unquestionably a valiant hero. EA opens itself to these criticisms because its design pitch revolves around the concept that Medal of Honor, unlike its contemporaries, is an altogether more realistic and genuine take on war. While these claims feel accurate at times, at others you're left scratching your head and wondering who decided such a bold statement was ever a good idea.
At least the inclusion of the bearded Tier 1 operatives feels genuine. You do feel like you're part of an elite group of commandos barrelling over the country in ATVs and performing dangerous operations - and you should, too, seeing as how Tier 1 squads Neptune and Wolfpack take centre stage in seven of the game's ten levels. The characters speak with suitably cold precision, dishing out reams of dense military lingo as if it was their native language, and they feel just as detached as the player who, from years of gratuitous shooters, now feels nothing anymore when popping off a target's head with a Barrett .50 cal.
Occasional discrepancies in tone don't affect the overall experience, however. Danger Close should be commended for its bold intentions, but sadly the campaign doesn't quite live up to its potential. The magnitude of its controversies could be seen as mere attention-grabbing antics - something to help the game stand up to the might of Call of Duty - but in reality Medal of Honor tries to tell a story without resorting to the silly and incongruous tricks of its contemporary market. It's just a shame it doesn't tell it a little better.
Bridging the gap between single and multiplayer is Tier 1 mode, which completely disregards any attempts at creating narrative and authenticity to make way for speed runs and online leaderboards for each campaign level. It's absurdly difficult, but that's part of the charm; I've found myself unable to resist chipping away at one particular scenario (to no avail, sadly) for the last few days.