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Medal of Honour 360 is packed with thought provoking and exciting moments. The multiplayer adds hours of game play, but the time spent in the campaign is far more effecting.
Games are supposed to provide a rewarding experience. This sense of reward is encapsulated in words such as addictive, memorable and even scary or disturbing. For me this is most often about the role I play in my games.
Making great military shooters this late into a console's lifecycle is not an easy task - most of the mechanics have been done before. This leads Modern Warfare 2 to stretch the bounds of reality with its trips to space and nuclear conflict, which although entertaining often left me bewildered.
Medal of Honour on the other hand returns to the unglamorous and gritty reality of modern warfare in an ongoing conflict, in the hope that there is still an interesting story to be told.
The constant radio chatter provides both a commentary and a guide that immersed me into my role.
You follow units of the Rangers, the SEALs and the mysterious Tier 1 operatives. Play jumps between soldiers from these various units with their actions being linked through the overall operation. Set during the early days of the war in Afghanistan, I gained insight into the beauty of the terrain and the way it can isolate you with danger close at hand.
Medal of Honour lets its action do the talking as it revolves around small skirmishes with the Taliban and mercenary fighters. The constant radio chatter provides both a commentary and a guide that immersed me into my role. Whether your earpiece would really be buzzing that much is only something real soldiers could answer, but it worked much better than printed onscreen text to maintain my focus on objectives.
Although Medal of Honour did a lot right, there were problems. Games can add dramatic tension by guiding you down a path that ensures you see all the good bits. Halo manages this while still giving you the impression of the choice with its large open arenas. Medal of Honour instead forces you down a very narrow corridor of action. While I found this exciting, I was constantly reminded of its presence by the jarring wait for comrades to catch up - where vaults over the fallen trees that are impossible until "unlocked" as soon as they arrive.
There are also some sloppy bugs. No matter how long I shone the laser on the target it wouldn't trigger an air strike, but the same action after a reload worked perfectly. This isn't acceptable from a major release and one trying to compete in such a competitive space.
The unglamorous presentation of Medal of Honour gave me moments where I could place myself within the conflict. Not in the sense that I could ever really appreciate the horror of real warfare, but I could at least get a hint of the how those units operate and the extreme danger that they must regularly expose themselves to. Moments such as when my squad was outnumbered and running out of ammo as our hut was shot to smithereens were shockingly alarming.
This is just as much a part of modern warfare as sneaking about in caves and fighting for your life, but it feels like a very suspect way of gaining enjoyment.
More dubious moments included the long range sniper rifle, which I am ashamed to say I got a real kick out of firing. Due to the extreme range, the bullets exploded bodies long after I squeezed the trigger in a way that made me feel hugely powerful. Even though I'm playing a game where I've killed thousands of virtual combatants, the relative proximity of this conflict tells me that this feeling is very wrong.
This was repeated when I controlled the weapons in an Apache helicopter, which on the medium difficulty made me feel godlike. Obviously, this is just as much a part of modern warfare as sneaking about in caves, but bringing that home to me through a video game is a very powerful way of putting the real suffering at the forefront of my mind.
Medal of Honour is more Platoon than John Wayne's The Green Berets in its presentation and this evokes a more powerful reaction in me than other recent military shooters I've played. It's a quality I value Medal of Honour for and a success on the part of the developers.
Whilst the singleplayer is powerful and short, the multiplayer is an arcade experience - and created by a different developer. If their brief was to create a version of Call of Duty in their own engine, then they have done a very good job. The early tiers provide a very limited weapon load out and the speed of the action gave me the same spawn-die-spawn experience I always have in COD. Whilst serviceable and fun, it's just too difficult for me and I can't see anyone playing this once Call of Duty is released.
Whilst Medal of Honour does have problems they have built a solid base here, should the sales numbers warrant follow-ups. I like the fact that using extremely destructive ordnance made me uncomfortable, reinforcing the sense that play acting in video games can be more than just unlocking achievements. Where they can take the series though isn't clear, but I would certainly enjoy playing the role of these guys again.
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