It may surprise you, but you've actually already played Medal of Honor before. No, we're not talking about the Nazi shooting gallery that was the 1999 original. If imitation is a form of flattery, then Modern Warfare 2 must be blushing up a storm right now.
There's no way the comparisons can be avoided. From the setting, to the twitchy lone-wolf gameplay, right down to the class progression, Medal of Honor is incredibly reminiscent of Modern Warfare 2. We knew EA wanted to dethrone Infinity Ward's shooter, but we had no idea EA would go as far as to try and create Modern Warfare 2.5.
That's not entirely a bad thing for gamers, though. If you enjoy Modern Warfare 2, you're going to find a lot of value in Medal of Honor. Though Medal of Honor isn't entirely the same game as Modern Warfare 2 -- where Infinity Ward went right, on occasion DICE and EA LA have seen fit to go in the opposite direction, sometimes to the detriment of the experience.
The demo itself has two playable modes, each with their own corresponding map: Team Assault, your usual team-based deathmatch variant, and Combat Mission, another team-oriented mode that revolves around defending or attacking a certain objective -- something like a roadblock or a strategic position on the map.
Team Assault is pretty cut and dry. You spawn, you run around, you kill dudes, then you die. However, EA has done away with respawn timers in this mode, at least in the beta -- so once your dome finally gets capped, you can hop right back into the action. That makes death less frustrating; however, there's no rhyme or reason to respawning. You're simply dumped somewhere random, whether it's with a bunch of your pals, out in a corner of the map all by your lonesome or, what seemed to be the majority of my experience, in front of the enemy. Like right in front of them. It can be a bit of a pain, especially when the dilapidated city you're fighting in (the Kabul City Ruins map) is so gray, making it difficult to see anything.
Combat Mission was more to my liking. Being a big fan of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, having an objective, and a team to accomplish it, felt right to me. The map here is Helmand Valley, a desert with sporadic trees and hovels littering the landscape. Even though I appreciated Combat Mission more than Team Assault, it's still the same game -- having an objective doesn't change the overall experience from being a twitchy shooter.
There are several different ways you can approach gameplay, thanks to the beta's three playable classes: Rifleman, Special Ops and Sniper. The Rifleman comes equipped with an assault rifle, a pistol sidearm, a grenade and what has affectionately become known as the "noob tube," a grenade launcher attachment. Special Ops is more of a "demo man," equipped with a weaker machine gun, a pistol, grenade and an RPG launcher. Finally, the Sniper comes equipped with the requisite sniper rifle, a pistol, grenade and an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). For all intents and purposes, it's pretty much just some C4.
Killing enemies and assisting your teammates awards you points, which then allow you to unlock things in the particular class you're playing as or, should you gather the requisite amount of points in one life, initiate the game's version of Killstreak maneuvers. These allow you to perform additional actions such as mortar strikes or gather intel on the enemy. Nothing new here, but where Modern Warfare 2 promotes an almost nigh-unreachable ceiling for character development and a bevy of customization options, Medal of Honor has taken a way more simplistic route.
For one, the beta only shows character development going so far as level 14. Second, you can't customize any of the classes, mixing and matching abilities. Third, all of the unlocks for each class tend to be the same, as in the first unlock for each is an extra magazine, the second is a new scope, the third is a new gun, and so on and so forth. And finally, I saw no unlockable throwing knife ability. I thought you wanted me to buy your game, EA?
With only three months left until the game's release, Medal of Honor has several items that need to be addressed. The target audience may be fine with a game that's all about running around and killing dudes en masse, but if EA hopes to best Activision in the virtual arms race, it's going to need to provide greater incentive for players to keep coming back. That means more robust development, more class differentiation and more customization all around. Let gamers own and create a unique online identity, not simply choose from a set of the same tired class types we've seen in countless games.