The reboot of the Medal of Honor series has been touted by EA as the cornerstone of its efforts to dethrone Modern Warfare 2 on top of the shooter genre. EA feels strongly enough about this goal that they've assigned two development teams to tackle the project, the newly formed Danger Close studio on singleplayer and acclaimed Battlefield developer DICE on multiplayer.
After spending some time with DICE's online offering, the project's inspirations are immediately clear. Medal of Honor's multiplayer looks exactly like what you'd expect from a cross between Modern Warfare 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. It takes the close quarters feel, perks and leveling system from Modern Warfare, and blends itself with some of Bad Company's vehicular combat and destructibility. To some extent, Medal of Honor suffers from its position in the middle - not quite as smooth controls as Modern Warfare and nowhere near the level of destructibility from Battlefield. However, DICE have still managed to create an enjoyable experience, one that (even at this early stage in development) has its own appeal.
The little things that differed from Modern Warfare really stood out. For one, the feel of DICE's weapons really drew me in. It's hard to say the controls were as smooth as Modern Warfare, although perhaps that's a good thing. They still felt incredibly responsive, but with a more realistic, gritty feel to them. In addition, the emphasis on the core gunplay, compared to Modern Warfare, was a welcome change. Explosions, whether it be from grenades, RPGs, or mortar rounds, were significantly less powerful, which made each person's skill with their weapon the deciding factor in a fire fight - the way a good shooter should be. Overall, the perks were less frequently used and decisive, but that could simply be a result of the beta's limited functionality. Hopefully these initial impressions are indicative of the final product.
The closed beta featured two maps, each with one specific mode. Helmand Valley felt more akin to Bad Company 2 due to the broader scope of the battlefield, varying objectives and limited vehicle combat. The coalition forces were tasked with storming up a hill filled with various insurgent strongholds - it's a shifting battle of attack and defend. Once a location had been held by the coalition for a sufficient period of time, the insurgents fell back to next choke-point.
Unfortunately, Helmand Valley lends weight to the argument that Medal of Honor is a poor man's Modern Warfare/Bad Company. In this case it's Bad Company, as the seemingly open battlefields and vehicles mask the truly narrow design of the map. It's a deceptively linear map with only one way to approach the objective - move straight ahead. This also creates issues with the overcrowded choke-points, which frequently caused players to abandon all tactics and simply thrust themselves into certain death. Helmand Valley's designers need to go back to the drawing board.
On the other hand, Kabul City Ruins is a well designed team deathmatch that singlehandedly carried the Medal of Honor beta. As the title suggests, the map is set in a war-torn, urban area - a concept by no means new to shooters, but one that is executed very well nonetheless. No matter where you go, there's always multiple access points and routes to make use of, limiting campers and enhancing the strategic element, which is the highest praise a multiplayer map can hope to achieve. It's here where players can really appreciate the subtleties of combat.
Overall, the Medal of honor beta left a good impression. While there are certainly things to be improved, it's safe to say this game has the potential to be more than a poor man's Modern Warfare or Battlefield: Bad Company.