I’ve finally nailed the difference between Call of Duty games and the Medal of Honor reboot, which I much prefer. Medal of Honor is a three dimensional cover based shooter, where the odds are stacked against you, and without careful use of cover, you’re doomed to die very quickly, and very painfully. Call of Duty is a march into sure fire victory, where the enemies face you cover-less and head on, and you point and shoot until you make it to the exit. Whilst both styles of game-play have their merits, the more authentic (as authentic as an arcade shooter can be) Medal of Honor nails that satisfactory skill factor; with superior sound, recoil and gun mechanics, nothing makes you feel like a skilled badass quite the same.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter is no exception.

Although a sequel to Danger Close‘s 2010 Medal of Honor reboot, the story, at least to my recollection, isn’t really an expansion of the prior game, although I recognized the major characters. Second to that, the game-play has moderately changed, with a whole lot of graphical fidelity layered on top. If you’ll remember, the campaign in Medal of Honor (2010) was not DirectX11, only the multiplayer component by DICE was, but Warfighter features some of the greatest visuals in any FPS, or any game, that I’ve seen to date. To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t a game that uses DirectX better, which is saying a lot considering the comparatively pretty Battlefield 3, not so long ago.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter states its goal right from the first mission: fit more explosions into the opening sequence than in the entirety of a Call of Duty game. Whilst it does this well, it sets a doubtful albeit deliberate tone for the rest of the game… a feeling of “we want to out-do Call of Duty”. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering Medal of Honor‘s undeniably superior shooting mechanics. I mean, if you’re not aiming down the sights you might as well be firing at the moon. You die fast if you’re not in cover, and enemy AI relies on it about as much as you do. In short, the shooting mechanics are there, so what’s wrong with a bit of pomp and explosiony goodness?

Medal of Honor (2010) was an intimate and humble tale about a series of special forces soldiers. It seethed legitimacy, skill, and authority, and it came about as close as an arcade shooter could come to authentic. Whilst Warfighter retains the same sense of character with fantastic voice acting and particularly nice character animation, the dynamic is thrown by the number of people you kill, and the number of on rail action sequences. Although at least as impressive as its main market competitor, it comes to the detriment of the game. It feels as though, instead of pushing more of what made fans of the original love it so, Danger Close and EA seem to have tried to figure out why whoever-is-left, didn’t.

On the other hand, Warfighter’s story, in places, is like that awesome episode of Homeland that’ll never happen. Spanning across Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and the Philippines among others, we’ve still got the battle hardened relationship between Preacher and the other Tier 1 operators, and some CGI cut-scenes that are, quite possibly, the best I’ve ever seen in a game, featuring some lovely texture work and really good voice acting, again.

The production values in Medal of Honor: Warfighter are extremely high this time around, and it runs incredibly well on most systems, although it’s only DX10 or DX11, so those of you with low-end cards might find yourself a little out of pocket when you’re forced to upgrade. In 2012, though, that’s nothing new.

Due to the consistency of high-octane, expensive action sequences, the action is only broken up during the CGI cut-scene loading screens. This means they’ve done away entirely with the sneaking or less-action packed parts the original 2010 reboot had. Because of this, your mind might shut-off after a few hours, requiring a bit of a break. If you use a 5.1 headset like me, you’ll need to get back into reality and reset your head. This is something that’s really important in first person shooters, and you’ll not always want to stop playing, but you’re forced to because you just zone out if they don’t mix it up. Whilst 2010’s Medal of Honor followed a sort of action, slow, action, slow formula, Warfighter follows the more Call of Duty or Battlefield 3’s action, action, action, followed by super-expensive action-sequence. This is all very pretty, but it doesn’t make for a more enjoyable game.

They seem to have done away with the head-popping skull debris from head-shots that featured in the first game. A huge fan of that, it’s a bitter disappointment to go back to the decal-less headshots of other games. What were they thinking? I purposefully completed the original 2010 remake with, as much as I could, just a pistol, simply because popping headshots was so much fun. In the case of Warfighter, you’ll be forced to use fully automatic due to the sheer amount of enemies.

Speaking of the cover system, Medal of Honor: Warfighter uses a wholly necessary albeit totally half-assed cover mechanic whereby holding the left alt key will allow you to lean up, left, or right. This is 100% necessary because, although you’re with a team for practically the entire game, every enemy will be shooting at you – with 100% pin point accuracy. They throw grenades and flush you out more times than you’ll reload your mag, so you need to duck, dip and dive all over the place, retaining as much cover and showing the least amount of flesh possibly. In short, Warfighter is a difficult first person shooter, playing more like Battlefield 3 than the 2010 reboot. Strange, considering EA’s convincing statement that they’re aware Medal of Honor and Battlefield 3 demographics are a split group.

Still, the campaign is lengthy and enjoyable, taking about 7 hours to complete which is above average for a modern military FPS.

There is one major innovation in Warfighter that players will either love, or hate. Lengthy, difficult driving missions. Sure, 2010 had the quad-bikes, but Warfighter takes this to a whole new level. You’ll find yourself free-driving around Pakistan and Dubai for a long time, dodging cars and people through beautifully rendered, life-like cities. Although totally on-rails, these sequences are competent and deliver the illusion of a real, open city faultlessly. You’re tied to a linear path only because you’ve to chase down, or escape from, a target. These driving sequences could have turned out terrible, but the competency of the team to deliver decent driving mechanics in a game not made for it really worked as a credit to the dynamic. It’s as high-octane as the shooting action, so doesn’t serve as a great break from all that noise, but in and of themselves they’re a great addition to the game. As well as the driving sequences, you’ve the opportunity to drive a boat.

There’s one, massive problem, though. Each mission seems to reload the game, similar to the way Battlelog works for Battlefield 3, and in the case of the driving missions, it loads the mission in what seems to be a forced 720p resolution for reasons I cannot work out. I don’t know if it’s a bug, or if it’s necessary for it to run smooth, but by god is it noticeable. I only realised when my Fraps screenshots were coming out at 1280×720 instead of the usual 1920×1080 I usually play at, but this is certainly going to annoy a lot of you. It doesn’t look terrible, but I’ve no idea why Danger Close took this angle, there’s certainly no explanation in the game to the best of my knowledge.

When it comes to loving or loathing the driving, there’s one mission in particular where many game-pads and keyboards are going to be smashed.

Later on in the game, you’ve to escape from a gated neighborhood in your jeep. To do this, you have to avoid the targets body-guards in their vehicles. On the minimap, you can see their field of view and where they are, and where you can drive to, allowing them to pass by so you remain unnoticed. Their path is arbitrary and if you drive too fast you get seen and chased, and the mission invariably fails. This took ages and seemed totally out of place. Although a neat idea, and a relatively short event, it seemed to silly to just drive 5 yards, hide under a tree, do it again, hide again, until we could make our break for it. I get that they tried something new, but they took it too far with this little gimmick, and if you lose your never or patience you’ll never get past it. Love it or hate it – I hated it, but managed it… reluctantly.

In all, the campaign is good enough. It’s a beautiful, cinematic experience that still retains the same authenticity as the 2010 reboot, but the dynamic veers away from what made its predecessor so good, in light of more sales for those who want a more Call of Duty experience. It’s such a shame, though, because I loved Medal of Honor because it wasn’t Call of Duty. With the same gun-play as the 2010 reboot, to a fair extent, though, it’s still a very competent first person shooter, and is certainly better than both Battlefield 3‘s campaign, and Modern Warfare 3’s. Not as good, for reasons stated, as Medal of Honor (2010). A real shame, because they had the chance to cement the franchises new soul; instead, they changed directions.

The multiplayer doesn’t have the same controversy from 2010’s reboot, with the swift changing of the team-names, veering away from the literally named Taliban. This time, players choose from 12 different unit types from 10 different countries. Each country/unit type will have special perks available only to them, and some countries favor certain classes. Another notable change in the addition of support gadgets, such as helicopters and drones, with equipment, too.

Instead of 12v12, this time in Warfighter it’s a more streamlined 10v10 experience, spanning five game modes: Sector Control, Team Deathmatch, Real Ops, Hotspot and Combat Mission. The ominously named Real Ops is, however, basically a ‘hardcore mode’. Hotspot is a new addition, focusing around bomb diffusion – not one, but up to 5 bombs can be planted across the map, and teams must plant/diffuse at least 3 to win the round.

The most interesting multiplayer mechanic by far is ‘Fire Team’, where players are paired up and must work as a team of two to overcome the enemy. Health and ammunition are replenishable with your fire-team member. Your team-mates avatar will always be visible, so you’ll always know where he is, and playing well rewards you both with increased XP and lesser re-spawn delays. The mode feels sort of like a cooperative PVP experience which is truly unique to any online shooter.

There are of course the usual paths of unlockables and customization in the game, including different barrels, muzzles, magazines, paint jobs, skins, stock and aim sights, with XP the main upgrade currency.

Again, Medal of Honor justified itself as a viable online option by, as with the 2010 remake, being a sort of “Call of Duty done right for PC” experience. It is a totally non-pretentious twitch-shooter in tight, well made, topical maps, with guns that feel proper and fire properly. Sound is great, server stability is good, and you can even run it through Battlelog. For those of you tired of Battlefield 3’s questionable unlockables such as the IR scope, and vehicles getting in the way of your rifle skills, Warfighter should be your go-to game for multiplayer action. It should be noted that this time Danger Close developed the multiplayer component, and not DICE, so the similarities are slimmer, and it doesn’t feel like a watered down version of Battlefield 3, or a mere extension of Call of Duty. 

There’s no ‘real world enemy’ this time, which might come as some surprise, with international teams pitting it out against eachother regardless of nationality. Although this might seem a little ‘gamey’, it actually comes across as very deliberate, and helps add to the over-all well-balanced feeling of the competitive modes, in a sort of ‘this reminds me of Counter Strike‘ way that feels authoritative.

In all, Medal of Honor: Warfighter out-does its predecessor in almost every respect other than game-play, which is an inevitable albeit crying shame. I understand that EA needed to appeal to the mass market more, but I still feel as though they should have nourished their little 2010 offspring, and just accepted it for what it is. Instead, they’ve made a sort of amalgamation of the two market competitors which makes sense on paper, but doesn’t make for a better game. It’s still a solid shooter, though, and easily the best modern military first person shooter, in terms of campaign by a margin, but certainly multiplayer if you want a fair fire-fight, of recent years – aside from the original 2010 reboot.

Multiplayer is fantastic, and for those of you too embarrassed to play Call of Duty, but too put off by the intensity of Battlefield 3, you’ll find ample opportunity here to show off your digital rifleman skills with this one.

Edit: Please note that this review was written before publication of this article, and before any prior knowledge of Medal of Honor Warfighter scores from other meida outlets. It was not written as a rebuke in retaliation for poor reception. Also, we are aware that a score of 4/5 would make it 80/100 on Metacritic. This isn’t our fault – it’s the fault of Metacritic. If you want a score out of 10 for this game: 7/10. See our reviewing guide for details.