Medal Of Honor (2010): Beta impressions

You’d have to be mad to be a developer and think that you can take on the combined might of the Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare and Battlefield Bad Company franchises with a brand new FPS. But, since there’s a vast moat of gamer cash that surrounds these icons of videogame gun fighting, that madness can be offset with the dream of winning big. So it’s no surprise that EA are using a once beloved FPS of another console generation to have a stab at moat redirection, giving Medal Of Honor a modern makeover and waving a particular carrot in front of the FPS hordes.

The carrot in question is part tactical, part run and gun. Not that EA have been touting this latest Medal Of Honor as a cross between Modern Warfare 2 and Bad Company 2 as such, but it’s almost impossible not to come to that conclusion once you’ve played the game.

That idea of a cross between the two sounds like heaven – the intensity of MW2 squeezed up tight next to the tactical, team based combat of BFBC2 reads like a match made in heaven, but on the evidence of this small beta heaven is a long way off.

In the beta we have two maps, one allowing only Team Deathmatch, the other following in Bad Company’s Rush Mode footsteps. Deathmatch takes place in Kabul City Ruins, a bombed out Afghan desert town – sound familiar? If truth be told, Kabul City Ruins plays like a larger MW2 map and we’re stumped to see how this could have any tactical angle. Sure, a player could gather a team around him and go from building to building, flushing out enemies, but you could just as easily play MW2 like this as there’s nothing here that suggests a difference. Sadly, we can’t tell what the tactical implications are in the beta because when we played there was no voice chat. It may have been because the voice options are tucked away in the menu screen. It’s so well hidden that we only went looking for it through sheer frustration of a lack in communications, so we wonder if the chat does work and the real problem is that players have no idea how to switch it on. Either way, we didn’t play one single game where teamwork took place. All we saw was a lot of camping and a mass of running and gunning.

On to the second map, Helmand Valley, a map that’s crying out for some tactics. A thin strip of dusty land, with insurgent fortifications dotted along the valley floor, makes the battlefield tighter than a noob’s buttcheeks in a lobby full of prestiged masters. You would not believe the levels of frustration met by a game in which there is no voice chat at all. We really wanted to see if this map had what we and many other FPS fans were expecting from MOH, a tactical shooter which doesn’t punish you for having a moment and going all gung ho. Unfortunately, all we could do was hope that our team-mates weren’t a bunch of Rambos as each game kicked off and we attempted to cross the valley floor and take the first outpost. Looking purely at the map, Helmand Valley must be a tactical one, though not on a par with BFBC2. For one thing, there are no opportunities to flank opponents; the moment you get into a position where you can circle round the enemy you met with a dead end path or faced with a short, sharp death.

In fact, it is only Helmand Valley that is of any real interest. There is no way you can attack or defend in this map by storming the enemy, finger glued to the trigger. Attacks require some teamwork – with covering fire laid down while team-mates push up and find cover to lay down their own blanket of ammo. Defence requires your whole squad staying in communication, letting each other know where the enemy are, where the main attack will come from. We like this; the complete lack of flanking opportunities means you really will need to talk to your team to get the best out of this game, else you’re going to find MOH 2010 a real let down.

Of course, there are other parts to MOH 2010 that suggest they’ve looked long and hard at MW2 and BFBC2 – the rewards doled out for kill strings smack of MW air drops. The tanks share so much in common with Battlefield’s vehicles it’s easy to think you’re playing a new BFBC2 map at times. If we were to choose one over the other, we’d say this is much more like Bad Company than Modern Warfare.

Basically, the question we all want answered is – is this game going to rival those two stalwarts of the FPS world? Tough one. It’s very unlikely that this will have MW2 quaking in its boots, but it might well give BFBC2 a run for its money. Don’t, however, be surprised if MOH 2010 turns out to be a bit of a gooseberry. After all, two’s company, three’s a crowd.

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Written by Neil

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