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Medal of Honor multiplayer preview: A DICE-y compromise


If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Medal of Honor wants to have Modern Warfare 2's babies. It's evident in the entire makeup of the multiplayer package -- from the progression system to the Killstreak-like Support Actions right down to the run-and-gun, lone wolf style of play. But, it has that patented DICE touch, which gives it just enough character to stand on its own two feet.

Gallery: Medal of Honor (multiplayer) | 2 Photos

I had a bad time with the beta and it seems I wasn't the only one. Multiplayer developer DICE received a lot of feedback, which helped it improve the hit detection, make the Support Action unlocks tougher to achieve and really add a chaotic polish to the presentation. DICE's patented environmental destruction is far more prominent in the final build -- bullets tear apart planks of wood like paper and concrete pillars crumble and explode, diminishing the amount of cover available to players. It all has that Bad Company 2 visual feel, save for that you can't completely level buildings.

Even more evidence of DICE's stamp comes from the multiplayer match types that weren't available in the beta: You've got Sector Control, which is pretty much the same as Bad Company's Conquest mode -- two teams fight over three capture points. As the fight progresses, the spawn points and controlled sectors evolve. It's all very frantic and chaotic and if you don't have a unified team, you're toast.

If one player is doing so well, why should they be given a bonus allowing them to do even better?
Then there's Objective Raid, which is a smaller form of Bad Company 2's Rush mode. Here, one team defends two points of interest while another attacks. Once both points are captured, the match is over, even if it takes 42 seconds (believe me, that happened a few times). But DICE also added a bigger version of this game type called Combat Mission, which places the focuse on one interest point -- once it's captured, another interest point opens up further into the level. So on and so forth. And then there's the requisite team deathmatch mode, dubbed Team Assault.

DICE knows how multiplayer works and these modes are testaments to just how timeless they are -- they've worked before and they work again here. But what's missing is the scope of the dev's previous multiplayer offerings. The levels are a lot smaller than DICE fans are used to and a team's performance is really determined by the competency of every individual player. If you've got a team of players who aren't the best twitch-based murderers, you probably won't win.

And there's a big balance issue with that -- specifically, Support Actions. As you perform assists and kills or capture objectives, you gain points. Once you reach certain benchmarks, you can call on offensive or defensive actions. These range from artillery barrages to UAV deployment and ammo surges for your teammates. It's a fundamental balance issue with The Modern Warfare Formula™ -- if one player is doing so well, why should they be given a bonus allowing them to do even better? While it's a lot tougher now to earn these Support Actions, it's still a problem for the players who aren't so great at the game and barely a vehicle to help them get better.

Despite that, the game has seen a lot of minor improvements that make it a much more enjoyable experience than the beta may have led you to believe. Spawning is isolated to your teammates or base zones, so you don't have to worry about spawning in front of enemies. You can also now pick up dead players' weapons, which is a lot better than running out of ammo and being stuck with your knife. DICE also balanced the progression trees and weapons -- after a few hours of play, I had two classes at the fifth level and had unlocked new weapons, attachments and ammo types specifically tied to each.

It's best to think of Medal of Honor's multiplayer component as the child of Modern Warfare 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. It has Bad Company 2's flare and spectacle wrapped in the diehard Modern Warfare 2 gameplay. But even with all of the positive changes coming out of the beta, I can't help but feel like Medal of Honor is playing catch-up to Call of Duty: Black Ops.

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