I have no doubt that life as one of the world’s soldiering elite is not easy. The prestigious Tier 1 operatives who guard our nations and our liberties deserve the utmost respect for all that they do in the name of keeping freedom free. This is not a lesson I learned from Medal of Honor: Warfighter, EA’s latest in an increasingly extensive parade of military shooters that drop onto consoles every year.
If I were to glean all of my knowledge and impressions on the activities and ethos of a special forces soldier from Warfighter, I’d be left with a rather sad and disappointing image of who is protecting me and my fellow countrymen while I sleep. Your average warfighter, it seems, is a clichéd bundle of codenames, macho one liners, and a veritable brustling of incredible beards. It’s all very grizzly. There is the additional consideration of the families these men leave behind in order to do what they must but they’re still largely glossed over.
The follow up to 2010’s series reboot, MoH: Warfighter sets out to show the lengths to which soldiers must go to in order to get the job done. As with many other examples of the genre, there’s a lot of globe-trotting in the name of shooting the bad guys and tracking down some near-unspeakable evil that threatens to put the world in jeopardy. All fairly standard and something that I can’t hold against EA for wanting to produce in their blockbuster title for this year.
Unfortunately, EA and the folks at Danger Close don’t seem to have put much effort into producing a clear or even coherent story to follow through the short-lived (you’re looking at between 4 & 5 hours, including a few chapter restarts when the game bugs out on you) single-player campaign. Jumping between a crew of one-dimensional codenames who were, by and large, entirely interchangable right down to their face-fuzz, you visit Pakistan, the Phillipines and Somalia. I think. Nearly every main story beat focuses on tracking down, evading or killing one of the many acronyms thrown around with nary a care to spell them out for the uninformed first time around. It gets to a point where you know that the creators are trying to get a message across to you but it’s impossible to care. In the end, you’re there to shoot stuff.
And shoot stuff you do. Like many before it and, one can only assume, more still to follow, Warfighter is a boilerplate example of snap-to-target scripted action sequences, strung together with a few on-rails missions and a lot of explosions that, to their credit, sounded fantastic. In fact the entire soundtrack, barring the tired exchanges between characters, is excellent, window-rattling fare. The one thing that this installment does that we’ve never seen before is introduce a series of interactive driving sequences, putting you behind the wheel of a couple of cars and, briefly, one speedboat. The controls are simplified right down to “go forward” and “turn”, which lets the developers focus on establishing some surprisingly tense moments. Or at least until you fail and have to restart. As with many other moments that seem cool the first time and boring every time after that, the amount of scripting in the action betrays just how linear the whole experience is. I’d actually recommend bumping the campaign down to easy to prevent the creeping sensation that you’re starting to learn tricky sections by rote in order to get through. Not even the eyebrow-raising stealth driving level is enough to help ignore the boredom that sets in when the difficulty spikes arrive.
As with the main campaign, the multiplayer is as standard as it gets. A competent collection of gametypes and classes (but all that can be upgraded for each is the weaponry available) with unlocks granted by XP gains and streaks awarded for performance on the battlefield, it does little to excite but executes every aspect well enough to not raise ire.
If Warfighter was simply an uninspired game, it would scrape by and probably do well enough to warrant another crack at it two years from now. However, the team behind the game weren’t just sloppy when it came to new ideas. Frequent bugs dogged my progress through many levels as doors refused to open, pertinent enemies failed to spawn and my AI teammates thoughtlessly pushed me out of cover and into oncoming fire. At several points, most noticeably when breaching doors (something you do at least twice every mission – I recall recent Call of Duty titles using it to great effect but stopping after once or twice throughout the entire game), the sound fails to sync up with the on-screen action, leaving you waiting for a cue to move that never comes.
After a long run of AAA shooters, all vying to be the biggest, best, and most badass, Medal of Honor: Warfighter may be the last hurrah of a genre where, it’s clear, some of the biggest names are simply running out of ideas and are content to churn out a few more moneyspinners before the next big thing arrives. Warfighter does a few things well but it just isn’t enough to satisfy audiences any more.