The Medal of Honor franchise has had a hell of a ride since is inception so many years ago- it started as the Playstation’s ‘Goldeneye killer’ (yes, we had those back in the day when Halo was still a distant twinkle in the console FPS gamer’s eye), and then went on to become one of the biggest and most profitable franchises in the PS2 era, with the simultaneous two pack big release of Medal of Honor: Frontline and Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. Eventually, it found competition from the then unassuming Call of Duty games, which would then go on to kill Medal of Honor- a fact which is drenched in irony since the developers of the Call of Duty franchise were the people who were responsible for Medal of Honor becoming as big as it eventually did.
It’s not just Activision’s superb handling of the Call of Duty franchise that killed of Medal of Honor, though- the games themselves had been declining in quality over the years, with releases such as Medal of Honor Vanguard lying at the bottom of the heap, and others, such as Medal of Honor Heroes 2, being well made but simply unremarkable. With the release of Medal of Honor Airborne, though, the franchise was dealt one final blow, and it now lies dead. With EA turning to the people behind the superb Battlefield games to help the original WWII shooter to rise from the ashes, exactly what can we expect from this new game? Do we expect a Call of Duty clone? Do we look out for a generic shooter? Are we looking at another Airborne type disaster? Or are we looking at a game that might just arm EA with ammunition to truly take on Activision and Call of Duty?
As should be evident from the trailers, Medal of Honor isn’t set in WWII- in what is a departure from the norm, and a first for the franchise, Medal of Honor is instead set in modern day Taliban, concentrating on the conflict of the US army with the Taliban. Now whereas this setup doesn’t look like it has much scope for epic set pieces- remember the scripted sequences in the PS2 Medal of Honor games?- it looks nonetheless like EA Los Angeles have done a good job of crafting a story that seems to be genuinely thrilling and intriguing from what we see in the trailers. Of course, the trailers may not be indicative of the final product, and they may just be showing all the best parts of the game- you might have noticed that quite a few scenes in the second one were repeats of ones in the first- but the setup seems to be leaving room for a story that is genuinely moving, a narrative that might actually and accurately depict the realities and horrors of war, particularly this new age guerrilla conflict with insurgents and terrorists that seems to be characterizing military clashes in the twenty first century.
So Medal of Honor isn’t a World War II shooter. That’s a good thing. The WWII shooter genre was becoming crowded, with Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, Wolfenstein, and many, many more, all of which used the same basic fundamental plot points and the same gameplay conventions, leading to the entire genre feeling very tired indeed. Therefore, taking a cue from Modern Warfare, which incidentally is single handedly responsible for Call of Duty’s monstrous success, EA have made the wise choice to make the game more relevant and meaningful as well as more attractive to the casual player.
What Medal of Honor is, however, is something that’s debatable- from the beta, we know that it seems to be some sort of hybrid amalgamation of Battlefield and Call of Duty, which may not necessarily be a good thing. Beta players have remarked that it feels as if the game took all the worst parts and conventions from both these series, leading to a game that appeared to be a mess indeed. However, from all the builds of the game that we have seen so far, the truth may in fact be different: Medal of Honor appears to be an excellently paced, lightening fast stealth based shooter, which feels like a breath of fresh air because of its focus on unconventional methods of warfare, all of which lend themselves to excellent gameplay styles, which might make Medal of Honor the standout game that is becoming increasingly saturated.