My taste for modern military first-person shooter campaigns reached saturation point a while back, somewhere between Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Battlefield 3. It’s not necessarily that I think they are all bad, but they’re all doing a lot of the same thing, and for me, they are making a lot of the same mistakes. So I didn’t go into Medal of Honor: Warfighter with the highest of expectations. Having said that, Danger Close actually managed to release a single-player campaign that I found extremely difficult to keep playing, even though I approached the experience with the mindset of “let’s try and be open minded, get through this, and then hopefully enjoy the multiplayer.”
So what’s wrong with it? Well, the narrative is crass and oversimplifies the idea of modern conflict, ignoring all of the pressing themes that actually surround it, and instead portrays it as something that you might approach with the same attitude of an American football player going into a big game. That may be a forgivable oversight for many gamers, but what makes it worse is the game design, which plummets to new depths, pushing the trend of “dumbed down” player interaction to an all new low.
You don’t have to play very far to see what I mean. In fact, one of the very first gameplay sequences illustrates this perfectly. After opening with an engine-driven cut-scene, you find yourself making a stealthy landing on a moonlit beach. I’m pretty sure I’ve played this exact sequence a few times (Bad Company 2, various Call of Duty games), but that’s not even the real problem. When the camera finally fixates and you are given control of your soldier, you quickly realize that you don’t really have control of him at all. Your aiming reticule is glued to the back of an enemy guard’s head, and an on-screen prompt appears telling you to left click. I’m not even kidding – you literally can’t move it off of his head until you have killed him, let alone move your soldier. Things don’t get much better from here, and throughout the campaign the game continues to do everything that I dislike about modern military shooter campaigns, but to a degree worse than I have ever had to endure before.
You will kill hundreds upon hundreds of faceless enemies, and you will absorb even more bullets into your own soldier as you proceed. The game will take control away from you regularly, and little things like opening doors have been deemed a little too “open-world” for players to handle themselves. Your sidearm has unlimited ammunition, and if you’re being fired at, simply engage in a melee attack because it renders you immune to bullets. Even if you expect nothing more from Warfighter than an arcade rail-shooter, it disappoints. The gameplay consists of little more than moving forward with your squad, taking cover, popping your head up to shoot your enemies, and moving forward again. The guns are the usual fare – which in fairness, have become boring due to the oversaturation of this genre more than anything inherently wrong with Warfighter. Then there are the various settings, which range from Pakistan to Bosnia, but all lack personality and character. Many of these shortcomings can be attributed to a gross lack of creativity, and a sad eagerness to follow overused game design paths.
It doesn’t get much better as you approach set pieces. These play an important role in modern shooters, because they break things up and allow developers an opportunity to alter the gameplay rhythm and give the player something a little different to do for a few minutes. Warfighter tries, but fails dismally on almost every occasion. Again, you won’t do anything in Warfighter that you have not already done in a Call of Duty or Battlefield game, and those games do it better, every time.
As a result, the single-player campaign is a monotonous slog that I can’t imagine anyone really enjoying until the end. To make it worse, its depiction of war is asinine and often insulting.
But enough about the single player – I never expected to get much out of it, but I was hoping the multiplayer component would be something worth playing. To be fair – this portion of the game is a lot better than single player. The gameplay modes on offer here are not revolutionary, but they are at least enjoyable, and I thought that some of the maps delivered more atmosphere and character than anything I saw in the single-player campaign. The idea of “fire teams” is pretty cool, and could best be described as a scaled down version of Battlefield’s squad system. You will constantly be paired with one random “buddy” who you are encouraged to work with. This feature was one of the game’s redeeming attributes for me, and actually delivered a fairly unique brand of enjoyment.
Apart from that, the multiplayer component is held together by genre tropes that have been established, and worn out by countless games that are riding the wave of modern military shooters. You will unlock new weapons and items as you progress, earn medals, and do other stuff that you have done before, but you probably won’t enjoy it nearly as much as you did three years ago because it’s not done as well as it has in the past. I could spend all day bitching about why the multiplayer is at best “OK”, but its biggest shortcoming right now, is that nobody is really playing it. While there are countless local servers online, the number of players out there is worryingly low. Of course, with the recent release of Black Ops II, we can only expect this to get worse. Forget about questioning the long-term longevity and community support for Warfighter’s multiplayer: barely anyone is playing it in its release month.
Warfighter’s one redeeming quality doesn’t even really belong to it: it is beautiful, thanks to DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine. Apart from that, I really don’t have anything nice to say about it, so I’m going to stop writing now.