E3 2012: Medal of Honor: Warfighter MP hands-on

Barring the past six or so months, I’ve been what could be considered a “Call of Duty guy”. It’s been my multiplayer drug of choice for years, from the release of Modern Warfare, right up until MW3 that managed to entertain me for a good 50 hours or so until I eventually decided that enough was enough. I’ve had a good run with the series, but, like many other gamers, I’ve reached the end of my tether with this series. We’ve long been promised a “COD killer” – a concept so utterly short-sighted that it’s a wonder it even exists, but it does, because people want it. Battlefield isn’t a suitable replacement (for those looking for such a thing) because it offers a very different overall experience despite its apparent similarities. F2P titles like Tribes: Ascend seem to fit the requirements for quick bouts of action, but might not be quite what you’re looking for. If you, like me, are desperately searching for a new modern combat, infantry-based, close-quarters action multiplayer FPS with just the right combination of tactical and twitch-based combat, then Medal of Honor: Warfighter might be what the doctor ordered.

During E3 2012, I had a chance to sit down and play a single, small multiplayer game. Obviously, this isn’t indicative of the entire scope of the game, but what I played left me with such a positive feeling that I get the impression that everything EA and Danger Close are doing with Warfighter is headed in the right direction.

The map we played on was a small semi-urban affair that prompted fast-paced combat and quick thinking. Both sides vied for control over three control points in the map; holding them gained you points; the team with the most points at the end of the round wins – simple stuff. We were given a choice of six prebuilt classes (players will unlock more as they earn XP and gain ranks) – each based on a special ops team from around the world. Being the sneaky type, I elected to play as the US OGA, which came equipped with an MP7 and an activated ability that allowed me to temporarily see enemy positions nearby. Each class will have an ability that can be activated; this seems to be the central focus for the classes (called operatives here), catering to individual play-styles and, in effect, taking the now well-known concept of “perks” (or whatever they’re called in your game of choice), limiting them to prebuilt classes and making them active. Some operatives will have the ability to temporarily soak up more damage, while others have a single magazine of high-damage rounds that they can load when they think it’s necessary. It’s an interesting shift from the passive options we’re so used to by now and demands careful consideration and timing.

Another shake-up of the formula is the concept of buddies. Combat is focused on pairs of players engaging their enemies and holding defensive points. It’s not required, as such – players are free to go in alone or bunch up in squads – but playing alongside a buddy gains you certain benefits. The most important boon is the ability to quickly restock ammo supplies simply by holding down the E key when your buddy is near. Buddies can also avenge their fallen friends by killing their killers; this instantly respawns their buddy right behind them, saving the downed player from waiting out the respawn timer. The combination of these two abilities means that an effective buddy pair could obliterate an entire enemy line, alternating deaths between them and having practically unlimited ammo. Of course, your enemies have buddies too, so it’s balanced both ways, and epic battles ensue when both teams’ leading buddy pair face off against one another. The buddy system certainly adds an arcade element to the game which might not suit those looking for a more “realistic” experience, but, frankly, it’s nice to have just a bit of change to the formula.

During our play-through, the combat was intense and fast paced, but tactical. Reloading feels like it takes longer than other games, so knowing when to fire that last round is important, as is knowing when to back off or switch to your side arm. Players can take a decent beating before they hit the ground, which allows for interesting fire-fights that can last for more than a few seconds, but headshots are still pretty lethal. Single-hit melee takedowns are possible, as is powering your way through an entire squad of enemies if you’re wily or just plain crazy enough to try. Lucky grenades are handy, too. Everything feels very much like what a seasoned modern combat-themed FPS player would expect, but new, much prettier, slicker. It feels familiar enough to be comfortable without feeling derivative. Warfighter has a lot of opposition in the multiplayer arena (discounting single player for now; I’m sure it’s going to be fun, but that’s not really my thing), but it feels like it’s on the right track. I eagerly await more future opportunities to see how this game develops over the coming months.