Medal of Honor: Warfighter – A very Special Forces event
Medal of Honor: Warfighter – A very Special Forces event
Games journalists aren’t typically fit. This statement may be obvious to many, but as one that is trying to break the stereotype—exercising four-to-five times per week—it was still obvious that I’m far from fit. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
A group of 10 of us were at a Medal of Honor: Warfighter event; an event whose invite had insisted in bold and underlined text that it was not boot camp. Considering that Warfighter deals with behind-enemy-lines operatives, we should have suspected that something was amiss. But we didn’t.
The first clue that we’d be made to suffer should have been the temporary pedestrian bridge we had to lug over, situated between the Sydney Opera House and the Man o’ War steps: the latter being our first stop. That bridge never used to be there…
Next up was a ride on a military boarding boat; the Kiwi drivers of which were told to take it easy on us. Why did they have to go easy on us if we weren’t going to boot camp? Curious and curiouser.
The boat ride was a great start. We were informed that we were to take part in a beach landing, but with so many potential beaches between our starting point and unannounced destination, it was hard to know when to yell, “30 seconds!” I did it anyway.
The 80km/h speed we’d maintained for the bulk of the trip there was curtailed by a slow ride into the eventual beach destination. Keen eyes spotted a road-parked APC, but the rest of us simply noticed a beach that was strangely crowded for midday on a Thursday. Didn’t these civilians have jobs? A drop into knee-deep water was a drop in the ocean compared to what was to follow. At least one of our numbers got the fully drenched treatment because of a misstep. We laughed. But not for long.
A kitted up and masked Special Forces ex-sniper by the name of Dog, true to his name, started barking at us. We weren’t there for fun. We weren’t to call him Dog; we were to call him sir. We were to form a single line, shoulder to shoulder.
Like exposition in a B-grade military film, Dog offered a foreboding explanation for what was to follow, and that we wouldn’t enjoy it. For a moment I thought, “Oh, yay! EA has hired a hard-arse drill sergeant-type character for the day.” I smiled. Dog didn’t like that. He certainly wasn’t shy in dropping the motivating f-bombs and ordering us to pile into the back of the APC, chastising us along the way.
The APC was cramped and our bums were wet. With Dog riding in the jeep in front, we were free to joke for a time. We wondered out loud about the drivers and pedestrians that must have all done double-takes at the sight of a street-bound APC. One of our numbers asked about lunch. Thank **** they didn’t feed us that before what was about to follow.
We piled out of the APC, and I banged my head on the door just as the man at the door warned me to watch my head. Cool timing, bro. Dog barked at us again. We formed a line, had a horror-film-like ‘before’ photo shoot, and then promptly marched our arses onto a dirt-covered parade ground.
This is where we met Rofo: the comparative good cop of the special-forces duo. That’s not to say he was nice; he was just nicer. Just. On the dirty parade ground were 10 obvious positions to stand, marked by a similar kit for each participating attendee.
After a brief intro to Rofo that included a speech about endurance—seriously, why did they keep going on like we were going to quit? It’s not boot camp, right?—it was time to kit up, piece by piece. First was a tactical vest. Everyone seemed to have a practical, Aussie option with easy access to (your mum) front pockets for keeping handy items such as dual water bottles and a ‘help me, I’m hurt!’ compressed-air horn. I was stuck with the South African side-rig alternative that most definitely didn’t have easy front access to anything. Bloody Saffers.
We were then instructed to load our backpacks with odds and ends, including an ultimately unused sledgehammer, gas mask, rope already connected to the backpack (what the?) and water. It was only after the next two rounds of back-to-back jogging that we all discovered the water was warm. Unfit as we were, we slurped it down anyway.
In between jogging, we were outfitted with a variety of guns. Even though they were replicas, they still were relatively weighty (albeit, not full weight) and added to the overall cumbersome nature of what was to follow. If you were, like me, all thumbs in the long-sleeve gloves we were made to wear, adjusting the strap of my M16 was nigh impossible. After a few attempts, I resigned to the fact that I’d have to deal with the strap half choking me as the gun sat high on my chest.
Next up were combat manoeuvres. The first challenge was the leopard crawl. Relieved to be done with jogging, I gladly dropped to my stomach with the rest of the panting line of unfit journos. Surely a 30-metre crawl would be easier than the bullshit jogging we’d just had to endure?
Surely not. Within 10 metres the crawling line had stragglers. Within 20 metres we were down to nine people. By 30 metres I was dry retching while another journo was behind the crawling line taking a breather. Each time people straggled, the bulk of the line was ordered to stop in an upright push-up position. If the crawl continued for another 10 metres, I would have been out for the count. Thankfully, it did not.
A sweaty line of journos awkwardly took to their feet for the next manoeuvre. Rofo informed us that there was a sniper in the bushland ahead of us. Dog, who I swear had been barking at us mere moments before, had seemingly vanished to do what he does best. Rofo informed us the best way to advance was in a slightly crouched position, our chests facing the likely enemy position, so that any incoming fire could be, quite literally, copped in the chest (armour). Not that we were wearing any such armour. That wasn’t disconcerting at all.
As we advanced, our ragged line scanned the tree line for any presence of a sniper. My eyes played tricks on me several times: a ghillie suit in the bushes? A sharpshooter in the trees? Ultimately, I’d soon realise that I had no idea how to scan for snipers; or just how far back Dog was positioned.
We ditched our guns and backpacks, and trekked into the bushland for Sniper 101 training. Dog laid down the law of what it’s like to be a sniper. How to pick the right spot. How to break up the distinctive shape of the human body. The importance of staying low and being still. He’d built his sniper nest in about 10 minutes—snapped off branches jutting out of the ground to match the foliage directly in front of and behind him.
Next up would be our turn to hunt the Special Forces sniper in an event called ‘the stalk’. After applying face paint to mask our appearances—all without mirrors, so there was a bit of inappropriate and inadvertent ‘black facing’ going on—it was time to test our mettle. Dog disappeared into the bushland after informing us that we should be privileged to take part in an activity that army folk apparently would kill to do. Rofo briefed us, and the rules were relatively straightforward.
We were to make our way through the bushland, locate Dog and find an ‘unseen’ vantage point from which to line up Dog. Once we believed we’d found the perfect spot, we had to use our compressed-air horn to alert Rofo, to see if we could pass one of two tests. The first test was whether Dog could spot our position, with Rofo announcing when he was within five metres of us. If Dog couldn’t see us, the second test was for him to hold a number over his face that we had to call out to confirm that we could actually see him. Sounds simple?
It wasn’t. It also wasn’t helped by Dog pointing out that only one person in the previous group had successfully completed the stalk. No pressure.
Despite the fact we were told that sound didn’t matter during the stalk, everyone initially cringed at every cracking branch, and tried to stay as quiet as possible. As an ultimately individual event, the pack quickly broke off into individual stalkers, working our way through the bushland in different postures: some moved quickly, others crouched, while others crawled.
A renowned camper who would describe himself as a sniper, was first to sound his horn. At this stage I hadn’t even spotted Dog, as I listened in to the back and forth between sniper, Rofo and Dog (via walkie-talkie) as they put the former through the two tests. He passed with flying colours and was sent on to the next activity.
Inspired, I removed my backpack and used the attached rope to secure the pack to my foot—a trick Dog had pointed out before disappearing—to further reduce my already prone figure. As a bigger guy, I needed every bit of help I could get. Convinced Dog was deeper in the bushland, I pressed on. Where the hell was he? Around me, my fellow stalkers were being spotted by Dog and sent back to the start of the test. The reasons were varied: moving too fast, backpack spotted, some part of the human form that didn’t look right in the bushland.
I advanced a metre and scanned. I advanced another metre and scanned again. This process went on for a time before I spotted him… right out in the open, sitting on a stump, binoculars to his eyes as he scanned the bushland for the remaining first-round stalkers. The problem was that I was side profile, and wearing silver joggers didn’t help to improve my chance of remaining undetected; nor did the fact I wasn’t in reasonably concealed bushland.
Sure enough, Dog spotted my shoes, and I was sent back to the beginning. As a highly competitive chap, I wasn’t about to call it a day; and I’d be damned if I was going to let some camper be the only one waving the victory flag that day. I downed some water and rushed back into the bushland.
As Dog wasn’t relocating this, technically, made my job easier. The problem is I was taking a slightly different path in to avoid the faux pas of round one. This particular approach to Dog was obscured by many a tree trunk, so I hit the dirt early, dragged my foot-attached backpack, and shuffled left and right as I advanced on his position.
Three stalkers sounded their horns before I got into position, but as Rofo was putting the third horn-blower through the motions, I found what I believed to be the perfect spot. My horn temporarily misplaced, I did the only thing a rational person would do: I yelled, ‘HORN!’ It was enough to get Rofo’s attention, and he moved over to put me through the tests.
As Dog scanned Rofo’s position to find signs of me, I became incredibly insecure. Was I supposed to have Dog lined up with my iron sights? Should I be grinning like an idiot when my white teeth will stand out from my paint-covered face? If my teeth are visible, what about my eyes? Stuff it. If I was going to pass this test, I was doing it on my terms: with an unwavering replica M16 sight pointed right at Dog’s face, my head hard up against the butt of the gun and my right eye wide open.
Dog didn’t spot me. Test one completed. Rofo called for Dog to put a number over his face. In the sunlight, I couldn’t tell what number was on the piece of white paper. All I could see was white. Frustration crept into my voice as I relayed this information to Rofo. Dog started lowering the paper… and I caught a glimpse of a number. “Seven!” I screamed.
“Well done, mate,” said Rofo. Mission accomplished. I strutted back to the rest of the people waiting for the next activity. After a forgettable memory test, it was time for fun. EA had set up a mock hostage extraction mission inside a building filled with terrorists. We separated into two teams with Dog in charge of one four-person squad, and Rofo in charge of the other five.
We replaced our replica weapons with automatic Nerf guns, which Dog and Rofo insisted we treated like real weapons. No-one laughed as we obliged them. After firing a test round down range, we pulled on our gas masks and marched towards the building.
It was a game, sure; but our group of mock counter-terrorists followed Rofo and Dog’s lead, taking it seriously. Our squad was first into the building, and we started clearing rooms; Rofo orchestrating our movements and rotating who was on point. The stairwell was an obvious ambush position, as the two squads moved upwards and took down three waiting terrorists.
We cleared more rooms before tackling the next flight of stairs; our group confidence growing as we watched each other’s backs and instinctively alternated the corners we checked. A door breach on the top floor led to a prone terrorist with a light machinegun. We made short work of him before heading back inside and taking on the main room.
Smoke and flashing lights worked in harmony with the yells of the main terrorist group. Eager to steal some glory, I ran to the front of the pack, and burst through the smoke into a group of three terrorists all pointing Nerf guns at me. ****.
I half-dove sideways, Nerf gun outstretched, as the closest terrorist and I exchanged Nerf rounds like a scene pulled from a bad action film. All his shots missed, but some of mine hit the mark. The second terrorist lined me up as a heroic figure slid past my peripheral vision on his knees and fired from the hip. The second terrorist went down, while the rest of the squad made short work of the third foe.
With this room cleared and hostage in tow, we escorted the VIP back to the safe room and welcomed the end of an engaging experience. By putting us through the motions, EA had shown us its attention to detail and close work with various Special Forces consultants around the world for shaping Medal of Honor: Warfighter.
It didn’t matter that all of this was followed up by a sub-10-minute demo from the single-player campaign, because our entire group was giddy from what had come before. It didn’t matter that the short demo may as well have been ripped from a Call of Duty game—mowing down waves of foes and a seemingly obligatory chopper-gunner ending—because that wasn’t the point. We’d experienced firsthand the type of feel and emphasis on authenticity that EA is aiming for with Warfighter. And it felt good.
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Mon 17 Sep 12, 4:47pmFallingout
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Mon 17 Sep 12, 5:02pmFallingout
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