Hey folks. Sorry that my posting is still somewhat erratic at the moment. Things have been going on in my life, and for a good while I didn’t have anything interesting to write about. I’ve amassed so many junk items over the years that they’re all strewn about in my room, hoping one day they’ll be played and/or written about.
So instead of struggling to think about something, I’m gonna do some posts about some of the games I’ve beaten throughout 2018. Surprisingly it is a small list, as I had fallen into the trap of playing the same quick pick up and play games instead: Killing Floor 2, Payday 2, Asphalt 8: Airborne, and more recently, Quake Champions.
Despite having a massive backlog, I still did finish a few games throughout the year. This was originally gonna be a post with two reviews, but this particular review got so lengthy that I had to split it up.
So let’s talk about a failed reboot of an iconic franchise, shall we?
(Warning: Spoilers for the story of Medal of Honor 2010 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 lie within.)
Back around 2014, I had written (but oddly didn’t publish) a thing about Medal of Honor: Airborne, which I had replayed because a friend was streaming the game. It’s one of his personal favorites, and while I liked some elements of it like being able to drop anywhere on the in-game map, or even the creative weapon upgrade system, it just felt like a tired shooter going through the motions, and was going beyond the more historical angle of Medal of Honor, even having Nazi super soldiers wielding MG42s like it was nothing.
At the end I had written something to the effect “It’s not as amazing as Frontline or Allied Assault, but it’s probably better than Medal of Honor: Warfighter.” At the time, I hadn’t played the most recent Medal of Honor games, and 2018 felt like the time to tackle Medal of Honor 2010 – as I’m gonna call it from here on in, to distinguish it from the 1999 original – and I felt disappointed all the way through.
Realizing World War II games were on their way out after a near ten-year period of them constantly coming out, EA was in a bind. Medal of Honor was considered this prestigious franchise, and they didn’t know where to take it. Their solution was to see what their competition already did three years prior and follow suit: Go modern, and see if it stuck.
The problem was that this came out right after the extremely successful Modern Warfare 2, and was out the same year as Call of Duty: Black Ops – probably in my top three favorite Call of Duty games for various reasons – so already EA was climbing a very, very steep hill. With Medal of Honor 2010, EA didn’t get to the top, but instead slipped and started rolling down the hill, giving themselves bruises and broken bones along the way.
Gameplay wise, it’s a boilerplate roller coaster of a modern military shooter. Shoot the bad guys, reload, occasionally use a grenade launcher or call in airstrikes. Right click aims, Left click shoots. Occasionally you get medals for headshots or multikills, a holdover from Medal of Honor: Airborne that doesn’t make sense here. There’s even a level where you’re in a helicopter. Occasionally soldiers go “hooah” and speaking military lingo so frequently that it’s almost self-parody.
It’s clear Danger Close was glancing at what Call of Duty 4 did years prior, and tried to copy it, but didn’t understand what made Call of Duty 4 such the blockbuster success.
There’s multiple characters to play as, switching between them through each stage. The main storyline involves a soldier codenamed Rabbit – named that because he has a lucky rabbit’s foot. Another character mostly hangs out with Dusty, aka Mr. DudeMcLargebeard from the cover. The last playable character is a random dude with a platoon ran by a Sgt. Patterson (presumably a callback to the classic games), complete with a Token Person of Color – a Hispanic who occasionally speaks Spanish for flavor.
Each of these playable characters are successful graduates of the Gordon Freeman School of Character Development – a protagonist that has a name, possibly a face, but never speaks. At this point I don’t like this kind of character because it just feels cheap and flat. It worked in both Half-Life and Half-Life 2 because Valve made wonderful environmental storytelling that shaped around Gordon Freeman. It was done so masterfully that having a spoken protagonist was unnecessary.
Whereas with this game, the silent protagonists make them pretty forgettable, even with everyone else talking. In a modern military shooter, I’d rather hear the player talk so I can at least feel a camaraderie between their squad.
Honestly, I am amazed I could even remember who the other characters were, or even Rabbit’s only known character trait. At the end of the game, the squad with the Token POC rescues the first squad with Rabbit, who is confirmed KIA by the end, with one of the squad members holding onto the lucky rabbit’s foot he kept rubbing onto throughout.
This was bad because I had no attachment to any of these characters. They were generic soldiers. Since I wasn’t playing as one soldier the whole game and there was little back story to them, I just didn’t care. I felt more for the guy in Modern Warfare 2 who went undercover with the villain Makarov, and his fate was done after only two levels.
The other important thing that bothered me about Medal of Honor 2010 was the overall setting. Mostly through Afghanistan, fighting Al-Qaeda soldiers, which by 2010 just felt long and dragged out by the general public. It also fed into the stereotype that “all military shooters are white dudes killing the brown people,” something Call of Duty slightly avoided by fighting mostly Russian Ultranationalists rather than Middle Eastern insurgents.
Because it’s based on a real location with real enemies in a present-day situation, it just feels a bit more unpleasant. Compare that to Call of Duty’s clear vision of being like a Hollywood action movie. Even though it’s partly fiction, it being based on then-current events just left an unpleasant taste in my mouth.
Keep in mind this is just covering the single player. The only reason I didn’t mention multiplayer ‘til now was because it’s so forgettable that it’s not worth talking about for more than a paragraph. There’s classes, weapons, killstreaks that amass through getting points (something Call of Duty would do with Black Ops II a few years later), that sort of thing. It even has game modes similar to sister series Battlefield. The only interesting thing here is each class having individual levels, but to go through the slog and play through it to unlock the good stuff isn’t worth it, especially considering the game has barely over a dozen people playing it at any time.
(I assume the 360/PS3 versions are dead as disco. Either because of lack of interest, or EA shutting the servers down. Same thing, really.)
The friend I mentioned earlier – the one who will defend Medal of Honor: Airborne to the hilt – said this game felt “designed by committee.” As in, this game was EA just following trends and current events, as well seeing what made Call of Duty successful, and instead of making a game that could be interesting or stand out, it just comes off as an extremely generic military FPS. A throwaway game that would be in bargain shelves everywhere.
This game didn’t need to exist, because they had already released Battlefield: Bad Company 2 earlier in 2010, which did storytelling and gameplay way better than this game did. It felt like an act of desperation to revive an already flat-lining franchise.
With Battlefield being EA’s flagship military shooter these days, I don’t know where Medal of Honor would even fit these days. The only way I could see is looking at what the original, Frontline and Allied Assault did, and put a stronger emphasis on espionage rather than all out war set pieces. There aren’t many games that do that, and I think it could carve a niche without stepping on Battlefield’s toes like Medal of Honor 2010 did. But I’m also okay with the franchise not coming back, being remembered with games that defined a genre rather than just being generic military shooters like it ended up being.
I don’t recommend playing Medal of Honor 2010. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, despite its age, is the better modern military shooter.
IF I HAD TO GIVE THIS GAME A SCORE: 2 out of 5.
Stay tuned next week as I’ll write about another game that, amusingly, is almost the new Medal of Honor game I really wanted. If only it wasn’t saddled with eurojank…