In 2009, EA announced development on what would only be called Medal of Honor - a reboot to the franchise based on the current conflict of Afghanistan (a departure from the covered ground of WWII titles). The proposition of multiplayer being developed by DICE and having this unchained approach was an exciting one for fans of the franchise and gamers looking for something a little different, but ultimately it didn't rise above the competition with a buggy, short campaign and average multiplayer offering with balance issues to boot. It was two very different experiences, with the multiplayer developed by DICE and single player by Danger Close on different engines.
So here we are in 2012, and Medal of Honor returns with what already looks like a step above the previous installment. Striking the balance of a frantic fast paced shooter like Call of Duty with the scale and feel of Battlefield, Medal of Honor grounds its locations and equipment with authenticity in mind. This time, DICE are out of the picture as Danger Close are working entirely on the game while utilizing Frostbite 2, EA's in-house engine which saw its first use in Battlefield 3 last year. Don't expect to be bringing down walls and buildings as focus is on micro destruction, so you can still chip away at cover or shoot up a fruit market which I guarantee will be in there somewhere. Frostbite 2 is as impressive as always with animations, graphics and sound looking a step above the competition.
This year we see the introduction of international tier one operators, with inspiration drawn from EA's own FIFA games and Tier One consultants talking highly of other forces encountered during deployment. Players will have the option to choose their nation from 10 different units around the globe, including US Navy Seals, SAS and GROM. You can then go up against other nations in the new blue vs. blue playlists to find out who really is the best. This playing for your home team element is a pretty cool addition which is sure to please the competitive and patriotic gamers out there. I imagine leaderboards for each of these forces will also be implemented to compare average K/D or W/L.
One of the more notable gameplay additions to Warfighter this year is fireteams. Every player is put into a two man squad and your buddy is outlined in green. The outline will show through foliage or walls much like in Left 4 Dead, so you can easily regroup or call out enemy positions for flanking manoeuvres. But it doesn't just stop there. If your buddy gets taken out, the aggressor will be highlighted in red. Avenge their death and the fallen teammate will instantly spawn on your six. Fireteams can even support each other with health or ammunition. The feature adds another layer of tactical thought in team based modes that more often than not end up being a lone wolf venture in other games. It's essentially co-operative in player vs. player playlists that rewards and encourages sticking together, and that is something worth getting excited about.
Something that bothered me in 2010 was the unlock progression and overall weapon selection. It was under developed with only a couple of selections for each of the three tiers, and although there was customisation for under barrels and sights, it rarely made for any noticeable difference in weapon performance. This doesn't seem like it will be a problem this year, as we can expect something similar to Battlefield 3's constant unlock progression. The pre-order bonus for the limited edition is a Navy Seal sniper rifle that would normally be unlocked from 40 hours of gameplay. That alone tells you that longevity is in mind. Expect a DLC plan similar to Battlefield 3 as well, as post launch support is likely to be better this time.
Each of the six classes have their own unique advantages like grenade types, scorechain rewards and weapon selections. For example, Assault troops have access to under slung grenade launchers while Spec Ops have increased mobility. The Demolition class looks very powerful which is a little worrying. Players who don the suit will have increased health, a shotgun, and a grenade launcher to boot. Mobility is heavily decreased as a down side, but not so much when the visor (increased health) is up, meaning players can still move fairly quickly and activate it in the action. I can't be sure about balance at this stage and I'm sure things are still being adjusted correctly or have been already. It's just a concern.
Returning from 2010 is the score chain reward system, giving on the fly decisions to either support your team with a tactical streak such as a UAV or Jammer, or the option to call in a more offensive streak like a deployable MK19 grenade launcher. This time there is a hefty variety of score chains that are specific to each of the six classes available (double the amount of classes from last time). Other new streaks include a Blackhawk helicopter with a mounted minigun (also working as a mobile spawn point for the entire team), and the MUSA unmanned robot seen in the E3 multiplayer trailer and single player demo. Streaks get more lethal or beneficial as you continue to dominate, but will reset upon death. This previously simple but cool mechanic worked well before, and has now returned in a familiar but much more robust fashion that is more than welcome.
Console players have no reason to feel like they are getting the shorter end of the stick in terms of player count or map size either, as Medal of Honor will support a maximum of 20 players across all platforms with skirmishes ranging from in 10 vs. 10 to 6 vs.6 dependant on the mode.
Speaking of modes, the previous game's best mode on offer, Combat Mission, is returning. This is an objective game type very similar to Battlefield's Rush, where the attackers move up once an objective has been completed and the opposing force attempt to deplete the opposition's lives before that can happen. But unlike Rush the objective varies from bomb plants to king of the hill style ground control as the attackers move up. It was very rewarding to watch team-mates advance through a pinned down position because of a cleverly placed smoke grenade. A couple of shots when popping out of cover would take you down, and so you had to take your time clearing paths and deciding whether to be the one braving an attempt to move up. Hardcore, Sector Control and classic Team Assault among others are also returning, as well as an all new search and destroy style gametype that is being named by the community.
No public beta has been announced, but with only a few months left it won't be too much longer until you can get your hands on it. Medal of Honor Warfighter releases October 23rd on PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.