Impressions: Medal of Honor

It's impossible to avoid comparisons between EA's upcoming Medal of Honor reboot and Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare series ... so, I'll just get it out of the way: Medal of Honor unapologetically follows in the footsteps of Call of Duty. In fact, I'm willing to raise the possibility that Medal of Honor could be the "true" sequel to the Call of Duty 4 campaign many of us are still waiting for after suffering through Modern Warfare 2's increasingly preposterous storyline.

Recently, I got a peek at a new Medal of Honor trailer which lays it out like this: There are two sides to every war: the sledgehammer and the scalpel. What Call of Duty 4 did so well was to portray exactly how these two components work in tandem, as it featured scenarios in which large assaults aided small elite forces, and vice versa. Medal of Honor promises to recreate similar battlefield situations, with the "scalpel" represented by the Tier 1 Operators, an elite branch of SOCOM.
The "sledgehammer" portion of Medal of Honor was not shown during my recent "hands-off" demo, but what I did see of the "scalpel" showed incredible promise. Military buffs will appreciate the game's incredible attention to detail, particularly to tactical formations. The one level I saw in action encouraged methodical movement through mountainous terrain. If you listen to the advice of your squad, you'll be in position to ambush your enemies; you always have the tactical advantage in a firefight.

Even without a deep interest in the military, Medal of Honor's attention to detail will still be appreciated by any gamer. Fans of Modern Warfare's "aha" moments, when a well placed soldier performs a stealth takedown on an unsuspecting enemy, will be pleased to see similar actions return in Medal of Honor. In fact, most of the animations featured in the game are impressive. Your squad moves through environments in a completely believable way, checking their corners, and assisting each other through the vertical territory of Afghanistan. Enemy animations are even more impressive, with the AI reacting realistically to the action at hand.

In one segment, I saw two unsuspecting enemy soldiers engaged in conversation with each other. When one was shot by a Tier 1 squad member, the other responded with the appropriate amount of surprise, cowering in fear, then scrambling for cover.

Medal of Honor
looked remarkably polished, even though the build I saw was only 60-percent complete, according to its producer. In its current state, it's playable from beginning to end; and the rest of the development time (the game's due this summer) will be devoted to play-testing and further polish.

The producer confirmed that development is being led on the PS3, and he reiterated Sony's previous claims that a game that starts out on Sony's hardware will be better suited for multiplatform production;

It could be the "true" sequel to the Call of Duty 4 campaign.

benefiting both PS3 and Xbox 360. The PS3 demo I saw ran at a very solid framerate, although it appeared to be displaying in a sub-HD resolution. Regardless, I was still impressed by the current build's more-than-solid performance.

Medal of Honor's fundamental gameplay should be familiar territory for Call of Duty veterans, as it features similar quick-look and lock-shooting mechanics. Gadgetry is also handled in much the same way, with players able to call in air strikes by confirming marked targets through night vision. In short, Medal of Honor unabashedly apes Modern Warfare, and it seems its developer, EA Los Angeles, has taken the "if it ain't broke" philosophy to heart.

From what little of the game I saw, it doesn't appear Medal of Honor's single-player campaign will revolutionize the FPS genre; however, EA is still taking a rather bold step in attempting to recreate a real, modern conflict, while approaching it respectfully and with finesse. I can only hope that the "sledgehammer" portion of the campaign will maintain the same tone, without having to resort to way over-the-top escapades.

Of course, in order for Medal of Honor to successfully compete with the Call of Duty brand, EA will need to offer much more than a compelling single-player campaign. Unfortunately, the DICE-developed multiplayer mode was not being shown yet. More intriguing, though, I spotted the addition of a third mode, "Project Mercury," in the build's main menu. It wasn't something I was supposed to see (and no EA representative would comment) -- so I can only postulate that the mode could be similar to the Spec Ops co-op missions featured in Modern Warfare 2.

Clearly, there's a lot more of Medal of Honor we've yet to see. And what this first look at the game's single-player campaign lacked in innovation it made up for in potential. I'm definitely eager to see and play more.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.