Medal of Honor Review (Single Player)

Yeah, you get to fight beside this guy... He rocks.

     So, I finished the Medal of Honor campaign. It was surprisingly, even cruelly short. I blew through it on Medium difficulty in about 4 hours. I played the Xbox 360 version on a 22 inch Samsung HDTV at 720p resolution. I used my XIM360 mouse/keyboard adapter to give me the most PC-like experience possible. I plan to give the Hard difficulty a try, as well as taking the MoH multiplayer out for a test drive, but here are some initial thoughts on the single player game:

    Graphics and Sound: The graphics are incredibly detailed for what is essentially a 5 year old technology. I didn't notice any frame drops during my playthrough. The detail of the weapons is, well, sexy, to look at. The aim-down-the-sights is absolutely first-rate. The grit of combat is there in every frame.
    I was pleased to note that the game didn't noticeably use recycled textures and structures, as Battlefield: Bad Company 2 did. Likewise, the NPC faces were more varied, not having the eerie sameness as those from BC2 did.
    Likewise, the sound effects are well done. I played the game through using my old, trusty Everglide gaming headphones, and the weapon sounds are crisp and punchy. The voice acting is very good; no over-the-top stuff. A lot of low-key, dry humor - exactly the way grunts talk to each other, except with far less profanity.
    I turned the music off (or so I thought) by turning the music volume all the way down. The music played during the game, anyway. I found the movie-style music inoffensive, tho I prefer my games without a musical score. The music was suitably moving for the game's conclusion, which I found, not coincidentally, suitably poignant.

    AI: The friendly AI is pretty good. They only occasionally stood up and blocked my line of fire. Enemy AI is decent, too. The OpFor in Medal of Honor don't stand stock still waiting for you to shoot them. They advance using fire-and-maneuver tactics, throw grenades cunningly, and use snipers to pick you off from covered positions behind their skirmishers.

    Gameplay: The meat of the campaign in Medal of Honor isn't story; it's the convincing (for those of us who haven't been in it) experience of combat. For my money, Medal of Honor conveys the insane chaos of combat better than any game I've ever played. Whether or not it's authentic in an 'Been there, done that' sense, it convincingly translates that feeling in a well crafted, tho brief, shooter.
    The game is short on storyline, and the focus shifts from perspective to perspective, like the Call of Duty series does, to share different viewpoints of the Afghan War. There's not much to distinguish one player character from another. But, so what? If there were no story, it would make absolutely no difference to me. Where the game really shines is in the ground combat sequences. When I play a shooter, a story is nice, but what I look for is an immersive experience that makes me forget I'm playing a game. I want to feel like it's me, doing this or that. (And maybe that's why I've gravitated towards 'realistic' games. I can't relate to game heroes with super-powers because my own super-powers are limited in both scope and range.) And Medal of Honor sucked me into the game combat experience like no other game has, even my beloved Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
    The combat is intense, but not in the Call of Duty 'zillion bullets in your ass from unseen enemies' way. The scenarios always make sense; there weren't sections where enemies abruptly spawn from a previously cleared area. Most of the time, you get ample clues from friendly AI dialogue on how to handle the current mission. There were some minor scripting issues, tho nothing game-breaking. Occasionally, on some missions, even though every enemy was dead, the 'Objective Completed' flag failed unless you advanced to a specific trigger point on the level.
    The game falls short in a couple of other ways, also. A few of the the missions are too stereotypical: There's a 'paint the targets with your target designating laser' mission. You have to simultaneously concentrate on stopping enemy armor and RPG attackers by using a designator to direct strafing runs of close air support. Also featured is an obligatory vehicle segment. You're forced to drive an ATV at one point, tho as other reviews have pointed out, ATVs are an odd choice for a stealth mission. I managed to crash my way through, leaving no tree or boulder undented as I made my unskilled way through the level. Also, like Battlefield: Bad Company 2, in the 'Gunfighters' mission, Medal of Honor forces you into the gunner's seat of an attack helicopter, and here's one of my major gripes about the game: On one target requiring Hellfire missiles to destroy, obvious dead-on hits on the target were ineffective, totally ineffective, unless you used the target lock first. An on-screen reminder to use the target lock would have been invaluable here, since it would have saved me about 45 minutes of cursing at the shitty game design. (This appears to be an aberration, since on-screen reminders prior to this actually worked well. A Google search found that other folks were having the same problem with the 'Gunfighters' mission; it wasn't just my usual gaming cluelessness.) So, while acting as the heli gunner, whenever you have the target rectangle on the screen, always use the target lock because hitting your target without it is no guarantee of a hit, as far as the game software is concerned.
    Another bitch I had was a rare instance of the game cheating on me, also on the 'Gunfighters' mission. At one point, after I had used the helicopter cannons to suppress RPG gunners, the game always magically spawned an RPG rocket into my balls just as the helicopter banked away. It didn't matter that the RPG came from the exact point where milliseconds before I was raining depleted uranium tipped death. The game was scripted here to screw you over, and it does. If you've taken a lot of damage on your heli prior to this point, your mission fails, you're starting over from the last checkpoint. I hate scripted shit like that in a game.
   And speaking of scripted shit, the game also makes fairly heavy use of cut scenes to tell the story. Some of this makes perfect sense. If you're wounded, concussed, maybe it feels like the 'happening to someone else' of a cut scene. (After a fall in the Army when I nuked my ankle, my vision grayed out, I got real cold, and everyone's voice around me seemed about a million miles away from me - the cut scenes of being wounded reminded me of that experience.) Most of the cut scenes worked for me within the context of the game and the sketchy storyline. I scarcely paid attention to the backstory-related scenes, which involve dumbass orders from the Pentagon and the dedicated commander angst which results. Meh. And, regardless, MoH offends with the cut scenes far less than Battlefield: Bad Company 2 did, which had multiple fade-outs even within missions.
   So, bottom line: Did I like the Medal of Honor single player? Hell, yeah! I rarely felt ripped off by impossible situations like in every Call of Duty game I've ever played. Most of the time, I got thru the level by actually doing what needed doing rather than by just luckily getting through without getting killed by an impossible number of enemies. And, really, that's how CoD has built all its single player campaigns. (Maybe Black Ops will be different; we'll see. And I'll report it here after I play it.)
    If Medal of Honor had been nothing but combat missions with no supporting storyline, I would have been 100% OK with that because the combat segments are so outstanding. It's criminal that the campaign is so short, considering how satisfying the action was for me. The game does offer what it calls 'Tier 1' missions, which are high difficulty versions of the campaign missions played for points and time, similar to the 'Arcade Mode' of CoD4. It's accessible after completing the single player campaign at any difficulty.
    Is Medal of Honor worth the $60? Yes for me, since I paid $60 for Halo 3: ODST without squawking, and that had a campaign just as short and far less satisfying for me.

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