Review: Medal of Honor - Warfighter (SP)

Medal of Honor: Warfighter isn't the kind of game that's going to blow anyone away, but it's a solid military shooter at a great price that is well produced.  It has its problems: mostly in a somewhat disjointed switching of game modes and a few interface issues, but beyond that, what it offers is pretty good all-around, if a bit dated even for the time in terms of graphics.  At the 5 or 10 dollars it currently goes for though, definitely worth it if it's a genre you're into.
Review: Medal of Honor - Warfighter (SP)
Date published: Apr 13, 2015
2 / 3 stars

Medal of Honor: Warfighter is the latest installment in the Medal of Honor series of first-person modern military shooters, developed by Danger Close Games and published by Electronic Arts.  My thoughts on modern military shooters are well-known - I enjoy a good shooter but I don't usually get on with modern military shooters usually - but I think if anything, the recent example of Battlefield 4 has shown me what a truly bad one is.  Some perspective, I suppose, as I feel myself not being so harsh on them since then.  And I have to say, the single-player aspect of Medal of Honor: Warfighter, actually seems rather solid.  It's not amazing - this is no classic - and it certainly has its problems, but Warfighter seems like a game that knows exactly what it wants to be, and it isn't afraid to be that.  And you know what?  I can respect that in a game.

The cinematography is pretty decent and inevitably the first thing you'll notice

The in-engine cutscenes look rather off, despite good
shots and cinematography - It really comes down to the fact that they’re pre-rendered cutscenes, because chances are while they’re better than in-engine for console no doubt, they aren’t on PC, for the most part.  They look decent enough, but dated even for their year of release (2012), a year after we saw the likes of Crysis 2.

While most modern military shooters have some pretensions to being like modern action cinema, they often suffer from some fairly poor direction, over-reliance on stereotype and contrivance, and the ilk, but Medal of Honor: Warfighter mostly avoids those pitfalls.  Which the movies are done in a bit of a dated and odd CGI, they are shot well, the story is well-structured and well-written, and it's presented in a decent pace with a story that keeps the action moving from one location to another, and through a few different game modes as well (more on that a little later).

The thing I probably enjoyed the most here in contrast to say, Battlefield 4 which I previously mentioned, is that the cutscenes advance the gameplay, not the other way around, and they never take you out of the action for too long.  They bookend the plot elements well with context and falling action, and otherwise allow the game to get on with it, never taking an undue amount of time, and there's no "pointless tour through set pieces" as Battlefield had a penchant for.

There was a bit of advice I remember from art class way back when I was still in that school thing, in the photography element of the course, and that was the teacher saying to me that there's as much communicated by what is excluded from a shot than what you include.  Some of the filming and story-writing both have a very firm grasp of that in Medal of Honor: Warfighter, with a certain subtlety and holding back of facts for reveals that does the game a lot of credit, especially since the game is centered around an espionage sort of black ops story-line.

Unfortunately, those cutscenes get let down a little by the fact that they are rendered in-engine, and just in general with some janky modelling in places.  A few of the characters faces just look kind of bad, and this especially stands out with some of the "extras" that didn't get quite the attention of the main characters.  It looks okay - it isn't utterly terrible or anything (see boxout for ex) but there's much better that could have been done with this engine, and indeed has been.

That fairly interesting black ops story puts you in a few different shoes

The game switches between two different black ops operators: "Prophet" and "Stump", both assigned to the "Mako" squad and dealing with a string of covert operations, attempting to trail the source of illegal high explosives trade.  It's equal parts military action and covert espionage, but make no mistake, this is an action game, not a stealth game, and it communicates in the language of "whoosh! bang! kapow!"  The action starts in media res and builds up characterisation along the way with flashbacks to talk at home with family, scenes with their commander and their talks, and the so forth.

As I touched on before, the use of foreshadowing and lamp-shading is something of a unique thing in modern military shooters, and the (apparently "based on real life") events in the story are well-structured and fairly well-told.  It's a decent Hollywood action movie material, and while I take that claim of "based on real life" with the largest grain of salt one can find, the game certainly seems to benefit from it, seeming much more actually realistic than it's peers in the field, which has always been the somewhat false claim of modern military shooters.  The plot is definitely "sexed up" a bit with car chase scenes and the like, but the story as a whole benefits from keeping up a good clip in terms of pace.  The problem becomes on the gameplay side.

Switching between different modes keeps the game varied,
but Warfighter does so with jarring transitions sometimes, and doesn't explain them well

In principle, I rather like the design here: the game is mixing up driving, shooting, chase, and sniper set-pieces and missions and the like to keep a varied tempo, not just the breakneck go-go-go of some shooters or the plodding exposition of others.  However, it's in the execution where Warfighter flounders, albeit only mildly.  There's two essential problems here to break down:  first, the game doesn't explain the different game modes very well, and secondly, the switches between them can be jarring in some transitions.

The first problem is one that could have been solved rather easily.  You get dumped in a game mode, here's the keys (well, most of them, not all of them), given a fond slap on the bum, and told to skeddadle.  Warfighter obviously expects its crowd to be well-versed, but I suspect while you might get away with it with the shooting sections and possibly the sniping ones - though the way the bullet drops works would have been a nice thing to explain since it doesn't function very realistically.  Nonetheless, that aside, you could get past those.  I suspect there isn't as big an overlap with racing game fans and shooters as Danger Close Games may think though, and it isn't the easiest (though also not the most difficult) driving section it dumps you into in your first chase.  It also doesn't really explain handbrake turns, and that's assuredly a skill you need to get through the harder sections.  You can pick it up after a few failed attempts, doubtless, but it would have saved the frustration to get at least a quick run-down.

That second problem would probably be much more difficult to solve and simultaneously isn't as severe, admittedly, in the transitions' jankiness.  There's only a few places where that's really the case but it does somewhat stand out how stilted they are.  I suppose its the curse of better writing really, in that it makes the uneven nature a little more apparent: some of the transitions including one where the two protagonists cross paths are handled quite well, but a few others, not so much.  Not the hugest problem, but enough of one that I felt it pertinent to mention.

Nonetheless, the shooting mechanics are pretty tight and offer some good additions

Break & clear mechanics are pretty neat, but under-
utilised in implementation - The game offers several situations where you have to breach and clear rooms and actually properly gives you a choice how to, with a variety of quick and dirty or slower but more precise ways to do so, which is great, but it doesn't do too much with it beyond that, such as giving different situations.  Still solid, but under-used.

I've said it before, but the one thing these kind of games have to do right is the shooting mechanics, and to its credit, Medal of Honor: Warfighter is pretty tight in this regard: pretty much everything works as should be expected, there's a variety of firearms presented, with different scopes and attachments, though to actually get something different you'll want to snag an enemy's weapon (which you can freely do, incidentally), lob grenades, peek around cover, and the like.

The cover system is where Medal of Honor: Warfighter really comes into its own in that regard, the thing that kind of stands out somewhat.  Battlefield had destructible terrain in parts, but never really made use of it as an actual mechanic, it was more aesthetic, whereas in Warfighter that cover is pretty much fully destructible, more or less, and you can shoot through cover to get enemies if you're skillful, or blow away their cover to flush them out, and the like, and more importantly to that contrast, this happens fairly often in Medal of Honor, and it definitely helps keep the combat mobile as well since neither you nor the hostiles can rely on staying in one spot too long.  What cover is and isn't easily destructible is also fairly naturally telegraphed, with wood and such cover penetrated with your firearms while things like thick metal and concrete are much hardier.  There's some attention to detail here as well, such as being able to shoot through the windows of cars and the like.

If you cast your mind back earlier in the review you may recall I wasn't all roses about the shooting in Warfighter, and indeed you'd be right.  The first sniping section was a particular hedgehog in my prostate because the bullet drop didn't work as I expected and it was a good little while of piddling about before I really got through it, which probably did little for the headache I was nursing through the day.  Once you got your head about it, its not all that bad, but it functions somewhat differently to Battlefield or Call of Duty and isn't realistic either so it's not likely to function as you expect, though some more versed in the Medal of Honor series than I may perhaps expect some particular brand of sniping from it; since I've only ever played this and the very original in the series, I couldn't say.  All the same, it was rather frustrating, and given it ate a good half-hour of playtime, I'll be damned if I don't mention it and consequentially spend your time talking about it as well.

The squad mechanics, such as the breach & clear, are somewhat more unique to Warfighter as well.  You're not entirely the invincible protagonist of many other modern military shooters (except in ridiculous immersion-breaking fashion in some scripted sequences) and you're encouraged to move with and rely upon your squad to stay alive and keep ahead.  For it's part, the squad AI is pretty decent at finding cover, moving in a unit, and covering one another, though oftentimes if you want to be more rash heading up they'll stay behind in safer spots.  It also encourages you to stick with them more naturally: they're more guns, and if you're running low on ammunition you can request it of squadmates, and things like that.  It's hardly an original Rainbow Six type of complexity, but it adds a very thematic element to the game at hand without fundamentally changing the play-style, which I quite appreciated.

On the whole in this review, I probably sound a lot more unhappy with Medal of Honor: Warfighter than I really am.  It's not a bad game, on the contrary, it's rather a good one, in single-player at least (I have yet to play multiplayer), just not a brilliant one that's going to be a classic, or anything like that.  It's a solid game with a few flaws, some of which are subjective nitpicks on my part, and I recongise those for what they are.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter isn't the kind of game that's going to blow anyone away, but it's a solid military shooter at a great price that is well produced.  It has its problems: mostly in a somewhat disjointed switching of game modes and a few interface issues, but beyond that, what it offers is pretty good all-around, if a bit dated even for the time in terms of graphics.  At the 5 or 10 dollars it currently goes for though, definitely worth it if it's a genre you're into.