By Steve Wright
Medal of Honor: Warfighter is no stranger to controversy, with most of it stemming from its self-proclaimed realistic portrayal of current-day warfare.
Debates aside, Warfighter sets itself up for failure in the opening minutes of its single-player campaign. By placing a single remote detonation charge on a truck, you manage to blow up EVERY SINGLE THING in the docks around you. You go from stealth mission one second, to a scenario where cargo containers are exploding and raining down upon you the next. Oh, and then you blow up a helicopter immediately afterward.
Realistic? Hardly. But, we're used to that… only, the likes of Battlefield and Call of Duty don't try to sell themselves to us using fake claims. Hell, Call of Duty actually goes in the opposite direction of, "hey, I'm a blockbuster movie!" and then stays true to the claim.
At its root, Warfighter is a competent war shooter that ticks all of the boxes. It's using the Frostbite 2.0 engine, which means it's damn pretty and responds (controls and all) much like Battlefield 3. It's got a range of weapons, some with multiple scope toggles so you can switch between long-range and close-range combat. It's got a great multiplayer mode with a different take on the standard team deathmatch mentality. It's even got a Call of Duty-esque tutorial mode where you can run and re-run a set course until you feel comfortable with how the game's mechanics work, netting an achievement when you finally excel.
Beyond that, the game is hollow.
It's not enough to look pretty when you're being pushed out of cover by your fellow AI soldiers simply because you're in their way. A very cool lean mechanic -- where you can control the direction that you peek out of cover to fire back at opponents -- is mapped to an awkward button on your controller, making it hard to use whilst trying to aim and shoot. The text on the screen is small and hard to read… but that's not a big deal, because I found that I barely had any HUD elements telling me where to go or what to do next anyway.
On top of a narrative that is ham-fisted and cliched, Warfighter's single-player gameplay is broken up with driving sequences crafted by Black Box, who used to be responsible for Need for Speed. The driving sections are fun, but they're very out of place. Again, if we're going for realism, I don't think a James Bond-esque driving bit really pushes an accurate portrayal of war.
I think my favourite achievement sums up Warfighter nicely. Called "Extreme Realism," its description reads, "Recovered from near-death 5 times without dying." I honestly can't tell if Danger Close is being ironic here or not. If you get pumped full of bullets and hide behind cover for a bit, you'll heal. Do this five times, and you're receive "Extreme Realism." Enough said?
Warfighter's best moments are found in multiplayer, thanks to its Fireteam mechanic. Tied to another player, you're a team of two (sometimes, in a team of many). You really need to work with your partner to survive, heal, and attempt to dominate the closed-in maps around you. Multiplayer is so enjoyable that Warfighter's die-hard fans are saying that the game should receive two scores… but, unfortunately, we look at an entire package here. Multiplayer might be great, but single-player lets this title down.
Fans of the genre will get something from Medal of Honor: Warfighter – especially multiplayer -- but those on the fence would do much better off with any of the other well-polished FPS titles out there. Of which there are many.