Medal of Honor was once an illustrious war franchise on the previous generations of consoles. The games were very well received and were genuine competitors with the Call of Duty franchise. Fast forward into this generation of consoles, and the Call of Duty franchise rules the war genre with a totalitarian iron fist. Nary a single quality title has challenged the throne of the Call of Duty franchise since the dawn of this generation. Just when it appeared a chink could be in the armor with Call of Duty 3, Activision released the now classic title, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The title brought the war genre out of the 40's and into the present day in a big way. The title set the bar for any future titles in the genre and has yet to be matched, except arguably by its incredibly cinematic sequel, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
Now, just when it appeared that nobody would be able to match the sheer strength and popularity of the Call of Duty series, the Medal of Honor franchise suddenly threw its hat into the ring once more. The initial title showed a modern war setting with a promise of a cinematic experience that looked to match that of Modern Warfare 2's film-like storytelling.
The game's engine is very much based off of DICE's other Call of Duty-competitor, Battlefield: Bad Company 2. In fact, if you didn't know any better, you might think you were playing a DLC pack for Bad Company 2. This is good because we absolutely loved Bad Company 2, but it also makes it difficult to justify the purchase of this title at full price if you already own that title.
This was definitely felt during the beta testing phase where fans complained that the multiplayer was essentially taken from Bad Company 2. Luckily, DICE and Danger Close tweaked the title to provide a different multiplayer experience. The multiplayer is squad based and forces players to take on the roles of Snipers, Riflemen, and Spec Ops. The great thing about these classes is that they force the players to craft their strategies completely around what class they take on. In a move that is taken straight from the Call of Duty multiplayer modes, players can earn killstreaks, which allows players to call in airstrikes or mortars in order to inflict more damage to the opposition. Players also level up and earn more weapons, much like in other games. While the multiplayer mode isn't quite as padded as the one found in Modern Warfare 2, the community seemed much more mature and goal-oriented, which leads to an inevitably better experience.
Now, to be clear and completely fair, though the gameplay is similar, the flow and story of this game is completely separate from the Bad Company franchise. Bad Company is much more about a tongue-in-cheek story about a group of knock around guys fighting in a war, while Medal of Honor is a very serious and realistic take on the current war in Afghanistan, starting directly after the events of September 11th, 2001. In fact, this title might be the most realistic title ever released on the subject matter of war.
That realism is definitely a plus, but at times it can hurt the title in terms of what it was trying to accomplish in competing with Modern Warfare 2's cinematic feel. Sometimes the realism actually prevents the title from achieving a level of epic-ness due to the "movie moments" being lesser. It has yet to be seen if players want a realistic account of a day-in-the-life of a soldier in Afghanistan, or they want a cinematic adventure of jumping through the ice-covered mountains, but as far as sales are looking right now, it's looking like fans prefer Modern Warfare 2's style of storytelling.
Bad Company 2 looked absolutely gorgeous, and Medal of Honor carries on that tradition. The character models look fantastic and the environments have a very gritty feel to them. Now, this game definitely falls victim to the typical war video game issue, where, due to the setting, the colors in single player tend to focus on brown and gray hues, which can be tiresome and boring to play through. Luckily the game is fast-paced enough to not let the player get bored at looking at the scenery and the multiplayer maps take place in a variety of locales, so you can break it up a bit that way.
As far as other aspects of the presentation, you can't get much better than Medal of Honor. The sound is phenomenal. As you make your way through the various missions, you'll hear conversations, you'll hear music of the culture and you'll hear battles off in the distance. The environment definitely feels as though its alive, which is a major key to why it succeeds in its presentation. One of the coolest moments comes as you realize that the gunshots echo based on where you are, which is somewhat surreal the first time you notice it. It's just little things like that which make Medal of Honor great as far as sound and graphics go.
Medal of Honor is, by all accounts, a good game. It suffers from the oversaturation of the market and the fact that it is trying to be realistic and cinematic at the same time. The overall experience is a blast. The battles are as intense as we've seen in war games and the firefights are strategic and realistic. The only issue is that there might not be a place for this game in the Modern Warfare dominated market. We hope this isn't true, because without competition, there is no drive for progress. Medal of Honor comes off as slightly bland and unnecessary, but the game is great on its own terms. If you are a fan of Bad Company 2 and are itching for more like that, look no further than Medal of Honor. If you are a fan of Modern Warfare 2 and are looking for something thats more like a film than a documentary, maybe check out games like Mass Effect 2.