By Steve Wright
With a 5.30 am start, I tried to clear the cobwebs in my brain by trying to fit my uncoordinated self into a pair of compression pants and a top. I managed to get dressed, but I wasn’t any more awake when I walked up to the Man O’ War dock at the Sydney Opera House with several other members of Australia’s gaming community.
We were all waiting in the cold, dark Sydney morning for a once-in-a-lifetime Medal of Honor: Warfighter experience, courtesy of EA Australia.
While I took EA’s advice of “it’s not a boot camp” to mean that I was going to take part in a boot camp, the rest of the community was far more trusting. Clad in camouflage, my fellow cadets looked the part as two ornery army types met us on the dock and ordered us to climb aboard a jet boat. Whipping us around in the Sydney Harbour, Manly-bound, they pulled up short of the beach and commanded us to jump out and swim for shore.
We thought they were kidding.
We reluctantly jumped out of the boat, waded to shore, and shivered for a couple minutes in the sand until curiosity (and boredom -- after all , we were all gamers, there) got the better of us, and we went out in search of what was next to come. A wrong turn took us from the beach, past a creepy running path that smelled of too much cat pee… but a second attempt had us running through the bush and square into the path of a tank.
A big tank.
A tank that we damp gamers piled into, quickly turning the war machine into a dank, musty half-sauna. Luckily, the trip was a short one, and we arrived at the army base we’d be calling home for the next few hours.
Our handlers, the same Rofo and Dog of Warfighter’s EA Australia Insider video fame, informed us we’d be taking part in Special Forces training… and started treating us as cadets in kind. In short, they were mean, but if we listened carefully to orders and followed through, we all got along just fine.
Actually, scratch that. They were still mean even when we did our best. That being said, Jarrad from Somewhat Awesome Films has been through proper army training, and he said we were being treated like VIPs even though I felt like crying most of the time.
After a jog around the barracks in full gear (plus a sledgehammer in our packs to weigh us down), we began learning how to do various crawls, keeping our replica weapons held high in case of enemy forces.
After half an hour of sore knees (and arms – while we waited for the slowest in our group to catch up, we had to maintain push-up position!), we were taken into the bush, where Dog showed us how to set up a proper sniper’s nest.
Then, using all the skills we’d just picked up, we spent the next hour crawling through the mud in an attempt to remain unseen by Dog, who’d set up a sniper’s position. If we could get to a sniping position of our own without being seen, we won.
Not many of us walked away with a win... but we did our best.
We rounded out our training with Nerf guns in hand, breaking into two separate teams in an attempt to extract a hostage from within a house full of terrorists. With Rofo and Dog leading us, our two teams managed to eliminate all enemy forces, save the hostage… and walk away with zero causalities on our teams. In short, it was a realistic exercise except for the fact that there will also be a hefty percentage of acceptable losses on teams such as the ones we were apart of.
Apart from not having to die when carrying around our Nerf guns, EA Australia's intention of having our motley band of journos and community members experience war as it really was worked. Hard. By the end of the day, I was weary, sore, and in a very bleak demeanour. It was a good thing we had some Medal of Honor: Warfighter single-player campaign hands-on to take our minds off our real battle wounds.
We'll save our Warfighter impressions for another post, but I will say this: as realistic as Warfighter claims to be, it's also a good thing it's not 1:1. After one short day of training that wouldn't even compare to a normal day encountered by Dog and Rofo, I respect our armed forces that much more.
Thanks (again!) to Rob and Jarrad at Somewhat Awesome Films, here's a short recap of what we experienced:
Thanks to Rofo, Dog and EA Australia for such a fantastic day!
(...and thanks (one last time!) to Rob and Jarrad at Somewhat Awesome Films for the stills of the event, which I've taken from SWAF's awesome video.)