2010’s Medal of Honor had one heck of a divisive multiplayer. Although it was designed by the distinguished Swedish geniuses at DICE, a lot of people went in expecting Call of Duty… and got something a little different. There were certainly similarities, but DICE’s Medal of Honor was all about the terrain; sniper rifles fired like automatic machine guns, so running around like a headless lunatic was way off the menu. For something that looked as if it was going to be the most derivative thing in history, the fact that it had genuine personality came as a very welcome surprise. With DICE now preoccupied with all things Battlefield, Warfighter’s multiplayer is being developed by Danger Close; formerly EA Los Angeles, the team are responsible for the single-player campaign in both the original Medal of Honor, and this new sequel.

And judging by the few hours we’ve spent with the open beta on Xbox 360, once again fans should be prepared for something rather unexpected. Warfighter still owes more than a passing debt to Call of Duty but manages to stand out despite it, and this is primarily because the game’s new Fireteam system works so well. A Fireteam is basically a two-man unit, and each team is made up of four of these. Your Fireteam buddy acts not only as a mobile spawn beacon, but he’s also able to replenish both your health and your ammunition at the touch of a single button. Your buddy appears on your mini-map as a green dot – your other teammates are blue – and when you’re close to him he’ll be rendered as a ghostly green silhouette of himself. This co-op friendly system completely changes the flow of battle when you’re playing with a friend, because if you’re playing it right, almost every kill will be instantaneously avenged. Whether or not those spells of vengeance are successful is entirely down to you.

Avenge the death of your partner, and he’ll spawn on you much more quickly than if you do something like run away or take cover. Conversely, every kill has to be executed rather carefully, because if you aren’t always on your guard, you’ll often be set upon by a gung-ho enemy desperate to avenge the death of his co-op partner. Because of the prevalence of hand grenades in CoD, hanging around in pairs is never the smartest tactical move; hence why projectiles have been nerfed considerably here. To counter their diminished blast radius, grenades explode a split-second after they make impact with the ground, which means that netting grenade frags is much more about precision and timing than it is in Call of Duty.

The beta’s only available gameplay mode is a brand new one called Hot Spot, and it’s vaguely reminiscent of Ground Control from THQ’s woefully underrated Homefront; the main difference being that only one objective is ever active at any one time. As each match begins, both teams are tasked with capturing the first control point, with the victors then forced to defend it from attack for around two-to-three minutes. At first, the map – entitled  Sarejevo Stadium – looks like it consists of nothing more than infuriating choke points, but prolonged play reveals something far more intricate. Broken walls, hidden pathways and doors are everywhere, and as is the case in Battlefield 3, it’s remarkably easy for a clever enemy to sneak behind enemy lines, completely undetected.

Win an objective and a second one is immediately activated, and wisely, each new location appears to be selected at random, which should put an end to that irritating situation where half of your team deem an objective to be a lost cause, and simply hang back and wait for the new one to pop up. Killstreaks are a big feature here, obviously, and they appear to be well-balanced and – when used appropriately – extremely effective; we seriously enjoyed the frenzy that ensued whenever we cloaked hot objectives with the assistance of laser-guided smoke missiles.

Perfect it isn’t. The netcode seems to work perfectly and it all runs exceptionally well for a beta, but this level of slickness appears to have resulted in visuals that are, to put it very politely, nothing special at all. Headshots don’t currently register, so regardless of whether you hit an enemy in the head or in the leg, getting a kill demands exactly the same number of bullets. Both issues are certain to be remedied before launch however, and it was recently announced that the game is to come on two discs on Xbox 360; the second of which, as in Battlefield 3, is rumoured to contain a texture-based install. Once those issues are remedied, this has the potential to be really rather good. Especially if you tend to play your first-person shooters tactically, and as one half of a duo.

Medal of Honor Warfighter is currently due for release on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC on Friday, October 26th 2012.

Watch the “Pakistan Car Chase” trailer for Medal of Honor Warfighter below:

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