Genre: First Person Shooter Developer: Publisher: EA Classification: MA15+ Consumer Advice: Game deals with issues or contains depictions which require a mature perspective
Release Date: 25th Oct 2012 Platforms:
Average of 8 Ratings
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Picking up right where the last Medal of Honor left off, Warfighter sees teams of Navy SEALs visiting global hotspots to stop stereotypical bad guys who all make that phlegmy throaty sound when they talk. After you and your band of bearded buddies detonate a load of cargo that turns out to be a little more explosive than expected, the search begins for where the ultra-unstable material came from, and stirs the hornets nest into a worldwide series of attacks on public transport systems. As if Citirail needed more excuses to be late.
There’s a bit more effort given to the soldiers’ non-combat stories in Warfighter - a running theme being how the lifestyle of a soldier affects those back home, the responsibilities and sacrifices of those he or she loves, and the fear of seeing your partner have to go away every time the phone rings. That said, it didn’t get its story points across well enough to have the desired emotional impact. A bit more of an explanation of what was happening would’ve made the difference between blankly watching a woman crying, and empathising with her.
These scenarios are played out in a handful of very impressive cutscenes throughout the game however, and even though there’s not much of it, it’s telling that Danger Close saved their incredibly high rendered graphical magic for the emotional content, rather than explosions.
That’s not to say their fancy Frostbite 2 engine can’t make with the boom-boom. Explosions and fire effects look quite nice, and even those in my house uninitiated in the ways of gaming would compliment them as they walked past. Perhaps realising this strength, Danger Close have decorated a third of the rooms in the game with exploding barrels, and every time I felt like alt+tabbing to write a note about overused gaming tropes, I stopped myself - these were too pretty.
As is just about everything (all running without a stutter on my machine) except perhaps the thick-trunked trees in one level which looked like they were comically coded as grass, swaying back and forth around 90 degrees. Aurally, things are equally enjoyable. Each gun has a distinctive sound that stands out in firefights, and sounds different according to its range. Certain weapons give either a beefy, Rambo feel or a slick, silent one purely because of the sounds they command.
While the Medal of Honor franchise has prioritised realism in its sound, it’s really how that works together with the stylised visuals that makes some of its firefights more enjoyable.
The semi-destructible cover chips apart with many different bullet ping sounds. The screen will freeze for a split second when you’re sniped so you can see where the added tracer fire points to. Bullet drop is widely accepted as a “thing” now for snipers, but there’ll be a trail of smoke letting you know exactly where your bullet went.
It’s a stylised realism that has come to be the bar for modern FPS ever since that first Modern Warfare - taking an element of war, recreating it realistically and then applying the varnish. Picking which bits to glorify, and which bits to emphasise emotion.
Other lessons from the book of CoD include sequences of enemies facing the other way for you to silently melee, groups of guards idling for your squad to take out in silent synchronisation, and door after door that needs breaching, followed by a few seconds of headshot-heavy slow-mo. No triple-A studio is immune to borrowing these techniques. Even Infinity Ward themselves clone their own 2007 creation every two years with a “if it ain’t broke” philosophy that only emphasises the need for this year’s fantastic run of innovative indie shooters. Of course, if CoD first copied CoD, then that means MoH is also copying the copying, in a sick meta-copying game. Yo dawg.
But these and other tiny tangents of gameplay, while not very impressive by themselves, break up the monotony of “terrorist whack-a-mole” that the last Medal of Honor was criticised for. Now, enemy AI will more likely hide, or run around to try and flank you. Often they’ll force an emergency melee from you while you reload. Clear the room, move up 20 metres, and brace for the next wave. And something usually happens before you get tired of a firefight. From a small event like trucks with guns coming around the corner, to a heavily crafted sequence that quiets everything down, lulling you into a false sense of security before a big bang, such as an IED.
The result is a few levels in the game, all of which are attacking terrorist compounds, that feel very complete. Assaults depicted from start to finish - the airstrikes and artillery beforehand, the infantry invasion, the traps and catastrophes throughout, and inflicting pain on whatever freedom-hating sadsack lives inside. F*** yeah.
Whereas some other levels feel a bit average, such as a few basic driving levels which clearly aren’t their strength, and some of the “Hoo-rah!” dialogue might make me roll my eyes, these assault levels (and there are only a few of them) made the game for me. By switching between support choppers, satellites, and men on the ground, you’re shown multiple perspectives of the battle as it unfolds. It gives it a comprehensive feeling, even if you’re aware in the back of your head that those IEDs probably wouldn’t have warning spraypaint in real life.
While most may not think of Warfighter when they’re choosing a FPS for multiplayer, we had good fun in our time with it. Amongst the two sides to every conflict, players are organised into two-man fire teams - either you and a friend, or just a friendly random. There aren’t many practical benefits to the fire team situation other than being able to spawn on your friend, but most of the players we came across seemed pretty serious about their FPS and objective-minded. Those who care about score should fall in line anyway; you’ll rise or fall on the scoreboards based on your fire team’s performance, not your own.
Warfighter’s multiplayer maps are interesting, but feature the same bland colour palettes as the last game in the name of realism (brown houses made of rocks built on brown rocky hillsides). As a result, camouflage works a little too well, and to combat the feeling of bullets coming out of nowhere, enemies will glow red while firing on you. It’s usually too late anyway. I appreciated the effort to bring new ideas in though, such as the familiar yet enjoyable Hotspot mode, in which one of five bombsites are activated randomly around the map, with one team aiming to detonate it and one trying to defend. Not too far a departure from Counter-Strike, or CoD’s Headquarters, but certainly new enough to be interesting.
While I had a better time than expected taking Warfighter online, its singleplayer remains a well-crafted imitator in a year of new ideas. In those few levels that Warfighter turns down the music and all you have around you is the delicious audio of bullets pinging and whizzing, from breach to breakout, Warfighter delivers the most honest and unique part of its experience. it’s as if it forgets what it’s trying to be, and discovers what it is.
But would I recommend it? If you’re bent on triple-A, Warfighter might be a good alternative to Black Ops 2. With its multiplayer offering more fresh ideas, and its campaign likely being very similar albeit with different strengths and weaknesses. But this is the year of the indie shooter, and we can get games like (but not limited to) Tribes Ascend, Natural Selection 2, Super Monday Night Combat, Shootmania, or Blacklight Retribution. Each with radical gameplay ideas, and the majority of those are free. I certainly had some good moments with Warfighter, and can’t fault it for imitating the industry leader, but we’ve played that before. My recommendation goes with the new experiences.