War games. We revel in their bloody battles. Forget the whole videogame violence debacle, but what does war say about us as people? The classic war quotes shown in Modern Warfare tell us how pointless and extravagant war is,  but that’s usually as far as the deep thought goes. I can’t help but feel simulations might be disrespectful to those in real turmoil.  I don’t believe that war is the answer to solving the world’s problems, but there is something unexplainable about shooting virtual baddies into the dust. Though how many more times can we repeatedly do this, is yet another question.

Medal of Honor is back and for the first time the series is set to tackle the modern battlefield in Afghanistan. With the reboot it’s back to basics with the title but it’s still missing a goddamn u! EA have got Battlefield pro’s DICE on board, especially for the multiplayer component. Can they juggle Medal of Honor as well as Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and possibly Bad Company 3?

The closed beta requires one to pre-order the game, or win a free code, such as the one graciously provided for this preview. It’s a little stinky that before you can actually try the game you need to place an order, but I guess this preview might help inform you somewhat. You could also place a pre-order and cancel it later on (I’m not advocating anything here!).

I’ve only dabbled in the Battlefield’s, but I have played both Modern Warfare’s so I’m going to be comparing it to my experience with those titles. I don’t have an itchy trigger finger, I’m just an average joe when it comes to shooters, well… most games actually. My default reaction is to scream when a terrorist points his AK-47 my way.

Medal of Honor gives you three classes to choose from; The Rifleman with M16/AK-47 & grenade launcher, Special Ops with M4/AKS-74U & rocket launcher, and Sniper with M21/SVD & remote bomb. I stuck with Special Ops. There’s a levelling system for each class, so instead of switching between the three, which I started off by doing, I realised I needed to make a firm choice if I wanted to reap the benefits of earning experience points. 

Starting at level 1, you work your way up to 14 for each class. The customisation is quite limited at this stage, especially with most things locked to begin with. You get one weapon enhancement for each level. The levelling up progress is mostly hidden behind the scenes. Making it more prominent would add that much needed hook, Modern Warfare provides. Each match scores your k/d (kills and deaths). They’re alongside each other to make you feel really good about yourself. Sure you got 7 kills, but you died 28 times man!

The beta contains two maps; Kabul City Ruins and Helmand Valley, and two modes; Team Assault and Mission. Each map is suited for those modes respectively (selecting between them is confusing as the graphic with green fields actually takes you to the run-down city, go figure).

In Kabul City Ruins, you can enter every building and go on every rooftop. Compared to Modern Warfare’s often closed off levels, it’s a good feeling. It feels like a proper warzone. But there’s no destruction to the terrain, either a gameplay move or DICE wanting to keep its key asset close to its chest. Team Assault is really just team deathmatch.

In Helmand Valley, it has a more Battlefieldy vibe going for it with wide open spaces. Mission tasks your team with capturing or defending checkpoints. At respawn you can choose to deploy out front or hang back. One time I actually respawned inside a moving tank! Yeah tanks make their way from Battlefield, still a bitch to control.

The multiplayer is filled with AI speech, or auto-voice as I like to call it, full of military commands and swears. It sounds like something you’d hear in the single player. Maybe it’s just a replacement for headsets, which don’t seem to be supported in the beta? I guess it makes the game more immersive, it’s just a little weird that’s all.

The guns feel quite hefty and the sprint isn’t over the top, which I really appreciate. It helps me feel more grounded and able to pace myself better. The grenades, rockets and other explosives just aren’t powerful enough. While I’m not suggesting nuclear blasts for every frag grenade, a little more force would be appreciated. Also, I’m not sure if it’s just my shooter prowess, but I seem to die rather easily, several shots to the torso and I’m down for the count. A few more dollops of health would do wonders me thinks.

At first it took me a while to get used to the controls on the PS3. I’ve just come from playing Halo and Modern Warfare on the Xbox 360. Needless to say I got obliterated the first several matches. The controls aren’t customisable either. It’s not a bad setup by any means but I do keep hitting the knife (R3 – right stick click) while aiming. And it’s too late to do anything by then, I’ve been spotted and my ass is toast.

There’s no lobby system as far as I’m aware. With public matches it just connects you to a game straight away. And when a round finishes, it immediately starts a new one. Well that’s one way to keep people playing your game! So eventually I quit, feeling rather guilty, but there’s no punishment for leaving a match early.

So bugs. As expected in a beta there’s an awful lot of ‘em. You can read entire lists over on the Medal of Honor forums, but the key things I noticed were the quick freeze as soon as you die, just before your death animation. After that, the name of the person who killed you flashes on screen for only a second. It would be nice to have time to read it so you can plot your revenge. And the beta completely froze my PS3, three times while playing. So hopefully most of these problems will be fixed up before retail hits. And where are those beards? I was certain we were promised beards, but the three American classes don’t have a chin hair in sight. If we really wanted our beard fix, we could get our thrills by playing as the insurgents. But terrorist beards are way uncool.

Medal of Honor. It’s another war game. Frankly, not something I’m getting too excited about. But shooter fanatics might just appreciate it, provided a few changes are implemented. There’s nothing especially unique about Medal of Honor’s multiplayer, but we are talking about shooters here. In terms of betas this year, I think Bungie has won with Halo: Reach. But that’s an altogether different kind of war game.

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