As was the case with its immediate predecessor, Medal of Honor Warfighter’s online multiplayer component is its real reason for being. The competitive side of the underrated 2010 iteration was crafted by the ceaselessly impressive wunderkinds at DICE, but Warfighter finds EA’s Los Angeles studio Danger Close going it alone. The results are quietly impressive. Progression is hamstrung initially by a deeply confusing interface – stumbling in an area in which Call of Duty regularly flies – and doing battle alone is nowhere near as enjoyable as doing it with a real-life buddy in tow… but it’s functional and often gripping stuff. Like CoD it’s also a pretty vast undertaking, featuring a frankly labyrinthine network of unlocks, weapons and nationality-based perks, and to the game’s detriment, all of this is quite incredibly intimidating at first glance.
But if you stick with it and start toying around with everything as early as possible, the process of levelling up begins to exert some of the same coercive grip as you-know-what. The primary gameplay modes will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s played a first-person shooter at any point during this century, but the debuting Home Run mode is unquestionably the pick of the bunch. It’s essentially Capture the Flag by way of CoD’s Search and Destroy; ten three-minute rounds, two objectives, one life. Smart map design dictates the ebb and flow of play in Home Run, and there are moments when it almost resembles a complicated beat ‘em up, in which successfully heading your enemies off “at the pass” will be instantly punished if you attempt it again in subsequent rounds. Original it ain’t. Invigorating and exciting it most definitely is.
The single-player story mode isn’t too bad either. Warfighter’s advertising campaign may have seemed as if had been sponsored exclusively by the colour brown, but Danger Close have actually worked very hard to ensure that each mission feels genuinely distinctive. It’s an extremely good-looking game throughout, and sound design is predictably awards-worthy. However, unlike the surprisingly idiosyncratic 2010 game, Warfighter cribs way, way too often from its genre forebears. Helicopter turkey shoot? Check. A frenzied, on-foot pursuit of an enemy contact? Two time. Slow-mo breach sequences? Innumerable. It’s a little strange to find Warfighter’s creators taking so much pride in the real-world nature of their game’s “original” storyline, because they proceed to force those true events into the same ludicrous 1980s action movie grinder that Call of Duty uses every year.
But it’s competently entertaining, and never terrible. There are even a couple of brilliant strokes, such as the berserk driving set-piece which suddenly turns into an enthralling game of cat and mouse. Moments like this are more than worthy of commendation, but they’re suffocated by what surrounds them; such as the frustrating (and rather dull) boat chase or the utterly, utterly pointless breach options that were seemingly included merely to show off a handful of new character animations. For the most part, campaigns in games like this only exist as a gateway to the online arena anyway, and on that score, Warfighter’s single-player works adequately at the very least. But this is all about the multiplayer. And if you’re patient, that’s worth the stretch.