For a game that's done its utmost to claim the word 'authentic' as part of its hype campaign, Medal of Hono(u)r: Warfighter doesn't feel anything at all like a genuine portrayal of war. Admittedly I've never been a soldier, but it's going to take more than the term 'inspired by actual events' at the start of the level to convince me that a team of US operatives once snuck into the Philippines and killed about three hundred people before escaping a flooded city on a whizzy speedboat while an attack chopper reduced everything to rubble.
But, hey, maybe I'm just wrong. Maybe this kind of stuff happens all the time, and I'm just too busy eating biscuits and reading X-Factor news to notice. Maybe Medal of Honor: Warfighter is actually a harrowing and authentic portrayal of armed conflict, one complete with just the right amount of regenerating health and about a zillion breach-and-clear sequences. Here's a fun fact: Warfighter turns its breaching bits into a kind of weird mini-game where you have to score headshots during the slow-mo bit to unlock additional entrance options, such as opening the door with a crowbar, opening the door with a tomahawk or, if you're feeling particularly spicy, opening the door with an explosive charge.
Viewed from the lens that it wants to be seen, the nonsense becomes overpowering. Inspired by actual events, says the game over and over again, as your special forces colleagues dish out infinite caches of ammunition from their magical bottomless pockets whenever you need a resupply. Wide-eyed terrorists run about aimlessly while their AI subroutines make them take turns to stand in the exact same place behind the exact same crate, never blinking as their models shrug off three or four bullets to the chest. Occasional spectacle isn't nearly spectacular enough to cover up that this brief 13-level campaign is a tawdry pop-up theatre of the worst kind.
This is Warfighter: You enter a room. A nasty man jumps up from the right - surprise! - then a nasty man pops up from the left - gotcha! After you kill them both a nastier man storms in, and after he's been offed a fourth (the nastiest, presumably) runs in behind him. After a few seconds pause another kicks in the door to your left, which is then the route you must take. Repeat.
But arguing about Warfighter's supposed authenticity feels like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, because you could equip the lads from Team Force Mako (which, as far as I can tell, is not a Final Fantasy VII reference) with a gun that fires sharks which breathe fire and it wouldn't do much to save this brief and clearly rushed video game. Your chase of elusive terrorist leader The Cleric takes you across a disjointed, incoherent adventure that has you shooting people in Yemen, Pakistan, Sarajevo and Dubai across a flickering period of time. Between the limp shooting you get intermittent CGI cutscenes (which feature, coincidentally, the most hideous CGI child a computer has ever produced) of your characters' honest American families worrying about the safety of their partners on these dangerous away missions.
The game's mix of clumsy bugs, dire AI and frustrating scripting errors (even after the day one patch) grates even more as Danger Close basks in its explosive reverence of these fighters of war. We are not experiencing the emotional range of a soldier, because these soldiers are nameless puppets with no human dialogue that skitter around and often run into walls. How, outside of cheesy soap-opera cutscenes, are we supposed to actually care for Stump, Voodoo, Mother and Preacher? Danger Close has no idea what it's saying or, crucially, what it even wants to say, and its attempt at reverence comes from pinching off with tried-and-tested Call of Duty driving mechanics and adding a couple of driving levels.
So, yes, for all the baulk and posturing of authenticity my impression of Warfighter is that it's little more than another bungled attempt to emulate Call of Duty with an additional layer of jingoistic bravado layered on top for good measure.
Multiplayer offers Medal of Honor: Warfighter little redemption. Framed around familiar objective and deathmatch modes, Warfighter attempts to craft its own identity by bringing a sense of global patriotism to online battlefields. Your choice of nation reflects your starting class, with additional classes (and nations) unlocked over time. The end result is an awkward meshing of Battlefield's class system with a desire to have you playing for your country. The result is that I'm often playing as Germany simply because I like being a heavy gunner, rather than any deep-seated love for Angela Merkel.
The other back-of-the-box selling point is an emphasis on teamwork, the game matching players up with a buddy they can see on the map at all times, alongside the ability to resupply your chum and use them a mobile spawn point. But, really, the end result is just splitting Battlefield's four man squads in half.
The mechanical implementation of the multiplayer is also sorely lacking, complete with a horrible menu that makes levelling up feel like a chore rather than a celebration. The progression system is also far too conservative, locking away all the best toys behind a level most players will never be prepared to reach. Simply decorating your virtual soldier feels like a laborious task.
But the real killer is that Warfighter's maps are just too boring to take you away from other, better shooters. Each small, cookie-cutter environment feels like it's been lifted wholesale from a beginner's book of multiplayer map design, and these staid environments completely robs the occasionally tense gunplay of its potential. There's no craft here, no passion, and Warfighter's wonky online modes will likely become a ghost town long before Call of Duty: Black Ops II is even released.
I'd like to see Danger Close take a real, genuine crack at the thoughtful war shooter they clearly want to make, because its repeated attempts at a weak Call of Duty knock-off isn't going to win over hearts and minds. Medal of Honor: Warfighter never stood a chance, and its deep schism between intended tone and actual design feels even more comically tragic now than it did with the original reboot two years ago. This is a bland, buggy and often boring title, one that belies the intentions of its developers and leaves the much-maligned modern shooter looking worse as a result.
Version Tested: PlayStation 3