Many shooter fans might be asking themselves, why pick up Medal of Honor: Warfighter this October 23rd among the handful of other AAA shooters arriving this fall? Competition is stiff when you’ve got games like Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Halo 4 and the continued support of Battlefield 3 with its numerous expansion packs.
After having the fortunate pleasure of getting some intimate hands-on time with Warfighter during a recent Medal of Honor community event at this year’s PAX Prime in Seattle, I know why I’ll be picking up this truly authentic, military FPS this fall, and here’s why you should too.
First, let’s outline exactly what was playable during this event. The roughly 20 of us or so were set up on some high-end PCs (the Xbox 360 version was playable on the floor at PAX Prime) to get a taste of a more recent build of Medal of Honor: Warfighter’s multiplayer, Global Warfighters, including three different game modes and two maps detailed below.
Sector control plays a lot like Battlefield’s Conquest Domination or Call of Duty’s Domination. Three flags are set up on a map as two teams battle for control. The map we explored, set in Somalia, played very well and provided some intense CQC fire fights. This proved to be a very traditional, familiar yet fun experience.
Hot spot has players planting a bomb at a specific location on the map while the opposite team must defend, much like Battlefield 3′s Rush or Call of Duty’s Demolition. What kept things really interesting here is that though there are five different objective locations, only one is highlighted at a time. Once it is destroyed or the attacking team fails to plant in time, another location is selected at random. To keep things balanced, the defending team is always notified of the new location a few seconds in advance.
Homerun is what Danger Close calls Warfighter’s “Sport” mode. It is very competitive and keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times. Two teams of six are tasked with with either capturing one of two flags and bringing it back to home base, or defending. The kicker here is that you only have one life. There are ten rounds with a half-time period where players switch sides. This mode definitely had us cheering and smack-talking the most. We played both Hot Spot and Homerun on the Sarajevo Stadium map set in Bosnia during nightfall.
Interestingly, each mode is played on a completely different section of a map, meaning one map could have three or so different playable locations among the different game modes. During this play session, classes were locked to one per six different Tier 1 Operator units and persistence was turned off, meaning we didn’t get a feel for the unlock progression or weapon/equipment customization.
The first noticeable, major improvements over Medal of Honor 2010′s multiplayer was the map design and Scorechain system. No longer will you need to fear narrow choke-points – walking straight into the sights of a high-powered sniper rifle-wielding dude camping at the back of their base. The maps seemed balanced in their layout and lent to a number of different play styles. It was also a huge relief to be able to focus on on the gunplay without having to be bothered by a relentless number of cruise missiles or strafing runs. While these Scorechains, both offensive and defensive, are still in the game, they are much more reasonable this time around. Players are briefly notified of incoming fire to avoid those pesky insta-deaths, though you will still be heavily suppressed should you be within the area of effect. Scorechains are also specific to each class, meaning only some will have access to a UAV while others can call in mortars etc.
Speaking of classes, don’t expect too much of an importance placed on ‘role’ as Battlefield 3 emphasizes, for example. While you will have your own set of weapons, Scorechains and abilities, crucial abilities like replenishing ammo and health are allocated to the fire team mechanics (more on that below). This could be a turn off for players looking for that role-based teamplay, but there are far more important things to worry about. Take, for example, your Fire Team buddy.
This is truly the “meat” of Warfighter’s gameplay experience and what I think will separate it from other shooters on the market. Consider it co-op in competitive multiplayer. You and a buddy are assigned to a Fire Team; you must watch each other’s back, keep each other supplied with ammo and keep each other healthy at all times in order to be successful. What I loved and appreciated the most about this mechanic was that the on-screen information automatically fed to me was the very same type of information you would normally have to convey via call-outs over the microphone/chat. This means that, for one, Warfighter makes it extremely easy and an absolute blast to play with a good friend online and, second, should still prove a pleasant experience must you be partnered with a mic-less random online. Here’s what I liked:
- I always knew where my Fire Team buddy was via his green glow.
- I was always notified of his actions (kills, deaths, assists, etc.).
- I was always automatically made aware of his killer if he died via a short red glow.
- I was able to gather health and ammunition from him, rather than waiting for him to supply it.
- I would always safely spawn behind my Fire Team buddy, instead of in direct fire, if the option was available.
The sense of camaraderie that this unique mechanic delivered was truly astonishing and gave Warfighter’s multiplayer an extremely authentic feel. Just remember, while always being able to see your partner or your partner’s killer through walls (for a very short period of time) could be considered unrealistic, this is simply one way that a video game can convey the same senses a combatant would experience on the field. I feel Danger Close really did their homework here and accomplished something great in this regard.
So, how does Warfighter play and feel? As primarily a Battlefield 3 player, I felt very at home thanks to the use of the Frostbite 2 engine. While Warfighter didn’t scream Battlefield 3 at my face, It was very nice to see the character animations carried over like vaulting, diving to prone, crawling as well as weapon and takedown animations. Peak and lean is also an available movement in Warfighter’s multiplayer. Like Battlefield 3, knifing (or axing in this case) takes two strikes from the front to kill (though it is much quicker), or one takedown technique from the rear. Weapons handled somewhere in between Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 with a decent amount of recoil, forcing me to burst-fire in many situations. ADS times also varied depending on the weapon/optic. Class abilities were helpful but didn’t seem unbalanced. My only hopes for a future build of Warfighter is more support for controller customization and, of course, to get a better feel for the progression and weapon/equipment unlock system.
While the look and feel of Warfighter might carry that Battlefield 3 flavor, the gameplay should certainly appeal to the Call of Duty audience as well with its smaller map designe, faster-paced gameplay and scorechains rewards. The new “sport” mode might even turn the heads of a few Counter-Strike vets.
As previously mentioned, Warfighter will incorporate dedicated servers across all platforms as well as the Battlelog, including many of the same features found in Battlefield 3 like Matches and stat-tracking. Though Danger Close has clearly stated their intent to further accomodate the e-sports audience, they were unable to confirm the inclusion of a spectator mode. However, they did tell us that they’ve definitely heard the community on this subject and are working towards it.
In all, I can safely say that any multiplayer worries about Warfighter conjured up by Medal of Honor 2010 can be gathered into a body bag and thrown out of a 20-story building into a dumpster. Danger Close has listened to the community and delivered on all fronts with what I had the fortunate chance to get my hands on thus far.
I’m truly looking forward to Medal of Honor: Warfighter this October 23rd and recommend that any military FPS fan looking for a fun but authentic experience does as well. Please, feel free to leave your questions and concerns in the comments below.