Making plenty of headlines before it was released for all the wrong reasons (or in marketing terms, the right reasons), EA's Medal of Honor is finally released this week in the US and UK.
EA has been vocal that it's not the game to take down Activision's Call of Duty - not this year, at least - but the comparisons are unavoidable in the reviews that are hitting the web now that the embargo has been lifted. GamesIndustry.biz takes a look at a number of critiques from respected sites, and pulls together some choice quotes on one of the biggest games to be released this month.
Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell gets straight to the point in his 8/10 review, stating that the potentially controversial game isn't likely to offend people when it has very little to say in the first place.
"Whereas films like The Hurt Locker evade accusations of insensitivity through their dispassionate and meticulous observations of the conflicts they portray, Medal of Honor ostensibly dodges the issue by not really being about anything except what's happening on-screen," he says.
"There are no politics there's arguably a subtext about the dehumanisation of US military personnel, but the B-movie story dialogue and CG cut-scenes borrowed from 1998 do little to convince you it was deliberate and beyond a stylish Modern Warfare-inspired introductory sequence there's relatively little to explain the context of the actions you're taking as a Navy SEAL, a US Army Ranger, a Tier 1 Operator or an Apache gunner."
Pointing out that the game is short and filled with enemies that don't offer much in the way of a challenge, the game does "successfully convey the delicate balance of tension and self-control Special Forces must master to survive and prosper" and builds tension by pressuring the player with the illusion of limited resources. Even an on-rails section immerses the player, with Bramwell noting "thanks to the sense of co-ordination and abstract dialogue you lose yourself in the drama of incomprehensibly deft technical warfare."
IGN UK's Arthur Gies is more blunt about the game, with multiple issues hampering his experience and tarring it with a 6/10 score.
"With serious stability and performance issues on console, level design that tends more toward turkey shoot than firefight, and a story and characters that stumble in their attempts at relevance and pathos, Medal of Honor walks into a quagmire it never really escapes from," he writes.
Gies also struggles with the tone of the game and its combination of accuracy and action movie clichés. "Medal of Honor is so heavily dependent on canned war moments and set-pieces that it starts to feel like the Theme Park tour of the war in Afghanistan, rather than a respectful trip through a day in the life of a soldier."
It's not just the context of the game that bothers Gies, but a number of significant technical problems with the final game. "Textures and graphical effects popped in and out like a strobe light, sound that cut out completely at times, and entire pieces of scenery in the near-distance appearing and disappearing seemingly at random," he claims. "...but the most damning visual problem is a frame rate that dips into or just above the single digits when there are too many explosions and gunshots going off."
While the single player portion of the game was made at EA's Danger Close studio with the Unreal Engine 3, DICE has been working on the multiplayer sections with its own Frostbite 2.0 engine.
Jeff Gertsmann at Giant Bomb theorises that Medal of Honor is a multiplayer game with a single player campaign tacked on, "After all, the back of the box touts 'multiplayer developed by the creators of Battlefield' at the very top, making it the first thing you see when you flip the box over"
But even if it's was built as more of an online multiplayer game, it feels very familiar to EA's own competition, says Gertsmann. "The multiplayer side of Medal of Honor feels like DICE took the action of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, streamlined bits of it to focus more on shooting and less on support roles, sped the whole thing up a bit, and placed most of the action on smaller maps."
Summing up his 3/5 review, Gertsmann writes: "In the absolutely ruthless world of online shooters, there's little room for weakness. Medal of Honor alternates between its derivative style and its annoying technical glitches way too frequently to rise above the crowd."
Although DICE has put the work in for the multiplayer features, according to Game Informer's 7/10 review, Medal of Honor isn't able to match the online play of the company's own Battlefield series, with Jeff Cork disappointed at balancing issues.
"The Shahikhot Mountains map unfortunately highlights a larger problem with the game's balance. Defenders are holed up in a small camp tucked into a snowy mountaintop. With only a few paths into that camp most of which are easily monitored by snipers attacking quickly becomes futile. After a few waves of spawns are neatly killed, defenders rack up the kill streaks and can then use the bonuses to ensure that the momentum doesn't shift. Once a team has gained the upper hand, it's quite difficult to stage a comeback when the enemy team can blast chokepoints with rocket barrages. Teams could work the score chain system to their advantage on offence as well, unleashing a coordinated hoard of rockets and mortars"
"All the parts for a great multiplayer experience are here class unlocks, a variety of familiar modes, lots of guns but they don't come together in a way that makes Medal of Honor a must-play shooter. Military buffs may enjoy the game on some level, but in such a densely packed genre, EA must try harder to stand out," wrote Cork.