Wednesday, February 6, 2013

[Xbox 360 Review] Medal of Honor: Warfighter - One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Medal of Honor: Warfighter is a complete disappointment.

Not a very flattering way to start a review, huh?  I just wanted to state the truth that I wish I had been told leading up to this game’s October 23, 2012 release.  Instead of flashy Photoshopped trailers of shaky-cam multiplayer footage, I wish EA would have shown me videos of sloppily designed maps and numerous game-breaking bugs.  Instead of highlighting how many different special operatives I could unlock, I wish EA would have highlighted Warfighter’s terribly unintuitive menu system.  Instead of touting how realistic and heartfelt the campaign’s narrative would be, I wish EA would have provided a flowchart of the game’s many confusing timeline jumps. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  The point is, Danger Close and EA were given the perfect opportunity to improve upon the franchise’s 2010 reboot, and they dropped the ball: the few genuinely exciting new features Warfighter introduces are completely overshadowed by the same technical problems and lack of polish that irked me two years ago combined with a slew of new bugs that take the experience from bad to worse.  It’s a shame: instead of standing out as a competent competitor to Call of Duty, Medal of Honor: Warfighter joins the long list of failed shooter franchises that were smothered by their own design mistakes.

Warfighter’s solo campaign brings back the core squad from MoH 2010 to stop a global terrorist network (led by a thinly veiled caricature of Osama bin Laden) from supplying pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, to various terrorist groups around the globe.  Players switch off between Preacher, a former US Navy SEAL struggling to save his rocky marriage from his frequent clandestine absences, and Stump, the shlubby guy who isn’t Preacher.  Seriously, that’s as far as Stump’s character development goes: that one guy you switch off to because this is a military shooter released after Modern Warfare and Danger Close needed to switch to someone.   Although the core plot is fairly straightforward, its execution is clumsy thanks to frequent timeline changes and loads of dense military jargon.  There are even a few missions that serve no purpose whatsoever: one mission comprises of waiting on a boat and taking a single sniper shot, lasting all of two minutes and having exactly zero impact on the PETN plot.  The pre-mission info text assures me that these missions are “based on true events”, and while I appreciate this attempt at realism it just results in a jumbled, forgettable mess that doesn’t do justice to either Preacher’s personal struggles or the gravity of global terrorism.

Thankfully the actual gameplay segments of the campaign are much more competent than its plot, breaking up the standard “neutralize enemy wave and move forward” shooter segments with vehicle chases, drone escorts and stealth sections.  I particularly liked the “Finding Faraz” mission which has Preacher sprinting to catch the titular fugitive amidst a constant stream of enemies. There is a neat peek-and-lean feature that allows the use of cover in the game’s various firefights and the Battlefield 3 inspired control scheme works well despite being slightly floaty/imprecise.  DICE’s Frosbite 2 engine is used to full effect in the game’s multiple setpiece explosions, showering the battlefield with dust and debris.  The one sore point in the campaign’s gameplay is wonky support AI.  Your squad will fire at random walls or refuse to shoot at all, leaving you to deal with enemy waves alone; it’s annoying but tolerable.  Overall the campaign is rough-yet-enjoyable and is the high point of Warfighter, but given the ample supply of amazing campaigns in other modern shooters, it probably isn’t worth your time.

The multiplayer side of Warfighter shows the most improvement over MoH 2010 but still lacks many of the basic features of other modern shooters.  Players can choose one of twelve different operators in six different classes for a total of 72 different operator choices, each with his own separate weapon unlocks.  This sounds impressive on paper, but most of these unlocks are entirely cosmetic and add nothing to the gameplay.  That’s right: even the weapon unlocks mostly just change how your gun looks instead of how it performs.  Nothing is more frustrating than finally unlocking that fancy ammo clip only to find out that it’s exactly the same as the one you have now with a strip of decorative tape slapped on the side (a crime given that there’s a magazine capacity rating for weapons).  Furthermore, although the six classes feature unique abilities and equipment, you can’t customize any of them.  If you want your Spec Ops soldier to have a trip mine instead of a frag grenade or your Sniper to use the Sensor Scan ability, tough shit: you’re stuck with the default abilities and equipment for that class.  This is inexcusable given that every single modern shooter, from Homefront to Black Ops II to Halo 4 to Warfighter’s brother-in-arms Battlefield 3, let you customize these options.  It takes away the ability to create new class strategies and reduces one-on-one skirmishes to a gritty version of rock-paper-scissors.

Despite the lame unlocks, each class plays relatively well and offers a tactical advantage when uses in the right situation.  The controls handle exactly like the main campaign, giving the game a slower but more tactical pace than other shooters.  Point streaks will award deployable bonus actions such as targeted missile strikes and helicopter drops, and allows you to pick between an offensive and defensive option.  This lets players use these actions much more effectively and precisely than the blanket killstreaks in Call of Duty.  All of the standard FPS game modes are featured, including team deathmatch, capture the flag, domination, king of the hill, and objective; they all play exactly as you’d expect them to and do nothing to stand out from the crowd (except for Combat Mission’s objective randomization for the attackers, which is pretty sweet).  The one unique game mode that Warfighter offers is also its best: Home Run mode.  This hybrid game mode features best-out-of-10 rounds of an attacking team trying to capture one of the defending team’s two flags and return it to a home area for two points, while either team can score a point for wiping out the other.  There is a twist though: there are no respawns, which means players have to wait until the next round to play if they get killed. This forces a more tactical style of play that I haven’t experienced since SOCOM II on the PlayStation 2 and is a total blast when played with a skilled group of players.  Still, one game mode does not make a complete package, and when saddled with the terrible unlock system it can’t save Warfighter’s multiplayer offering from a level far below the bar set by other modern shooters.

The social aspect of Warfighter’s multiplayer is by far its most innovative feature, offering full Battlelog support ala Battlefield 3 and the excellent Fireteam party system.  A Fireteam is a party of two players that can group up for multiple matches and work together for a tactical advantage.  Players can choose to spawn on their Fireteam buddy in a safe area, can give each other ammo, and can get bonus experience for performing various actions together.  It’s a vast improvement over the party system of any other console shooter and sets the standard for playing online with a friend; the only problem is finding a friend who will put up with Warfighter’s horrible glitchiness.

This is by far Warfighter’s biggest sin: a complete lack of polish and attention to detail.  In no particular order, I encountered the following bugs in the three days of playing this game before I wrote this review:

  • Upon loading my campaign save, my Xbox 360 would completely lock up; I had to go through the menus and restart the current mission for it to load

  • ·        Enemies stuck through a wooden door, firing into the wall behind it

    ·        Weapons magically floating through the air after the enemy holding it was killed

    ·        Clipping completely through bystanders in the car chase segment because they weren’t programmed with collision detection

    ·        In a forced stealth segment the enemy magically became alerted to my presence and started shooting at me; I was without a weapon and unable to melee, forcing a checkpoint restart

    ·        Picking up a pistol and witnessing Preacher fire off 6 rounds in a cutscene and then transitions to my control with the gun fully loaded with infinite ammo; enemy guns you pick up in the game are missing the rounds the enemy fired with it

    ·        Unskippable cutscenes, even if I had viewed them before

    ·        Upon selecting a weapon in the multiplayer My Gun menu, I was booted back to the main menu

    ·        Weapon skins I selected in My Gun would only load sporadically

    ·        A match that supposedly had 49 ping was a complete slideshow, and upon quitting my Xbox 360 completely locked up

    ·        No sound in a multiplayer match other than the end-of-round fanfare

    ·        An enemy that was stuck in place and invincible, forcing my team to time the round out since he was the last enemy in a round of Home Run

    ·        Any explosives I deployed that explode after I died had no effect on the enemy, even if it would have killed them

    ·        Quitting a match booted me all the way back to the title screen, forcing me to re-login with Origin and reload the main menu

    ·        Selecting a point streak item and then dying before I could use it removed the item upon respawn

    ·        After selecting the option to view the server browser the cursor is placed at the options below the displayed matches, forcing me to scroll up through all of them to get to the populated servers at the top.

    ·        Promotional DLC won’t show up on my hard drive or in game, despite multiple redownloads

…and those are just the ones I can remember.  Keep in mind this is after a public beta, two massive patches, a DLC map pack and four months of being on the market.  It’s pretty obvious that Danger Close just didn’t have either the talent or the time to iron these issues out and were forced to put Warfighter on the market anyway for deadline reasons.  Unfortunately EA recently put the entire franchise on ice, so it looks like they never will.

The huge amount of fatal glitches coupled with some pretty basic design mistakes drowned out any of the enjoyment I gleaned from Warfighter’s high points.  You may play it and you may even enjoy parts of it like I did, but at the end of the day Medal of Honor: Warfighter is a step backwards for the series and pales in comparison to its peers.


No comments:

Post a Comment