If there’s one thing that’s clear about Medal of Honor: Warfighter it is that developer Danger Close has the utmost respect for real-world soldiers. The story of the game’s campaign focuses on a Tier 1 soldier as he struggles to retain a stable home life while desiring to still protect his country. Scenarios in single player do not play out like summer blockbusters but are meant to portray war in a more realistic light, and even a message conveyed at the end of this tale commemorates the sacrifice of our nation’s heroes. Danger Close wants to convey their regard and admiration in Warfighter, but it is a shame that due to frequent technical issues and gameplay that feels familiar at almost every step, this message is lost amongst the humdrum affairs.
Warfighter puts you into the perspective of multiple soldiers during flashbacks (or are they flashforwards? It can be difficult to tell the timeline of the story coherently when it jumps so abruptly on many occasions) on a mission to stop a man known as The Cleric. The story wants to be more than a war duty, however, and attempts to hit you on an emotional level. Those confusing jumps in time frequently depict the soldier attempting to care for his wife and daughter in an attempt to connect you to his plight.
Yet these cutscenes often come with clunky writing, half-minute-long freezes and the alarming visages of his wife and daughter. Yes, despite the beauty of the Frostbite 2 engine building videos with realistic textures that few games can boast, the wife and young daughter are downright scary, and puncture scenes that are, if not interesting, at least impressive to watch.
Those remarkable visuals do translate for the most part into the actual campaign. Most of the war-torn world is beautifully crafted from mountainous caves to the more modern structures of Dubai. Gunfire looks damaging and explosions, whether scripted or of your own doing decimate the landscape to an engaging effect.
Watching the towering crate-shifting structures of a pier crumble to the ground around you is an impressive sight, and environments are well equally well developed. There’s a great sense of space and location that pervades the campaign, making it feel as if you are in a real-world location rather than a level designed to hurtle you from set piece to firefight. Unfortunately, the gameplay more than makes up for that feeling of linearity that the environment cannot fully alleviate.
Warfighter’s gunplay has its strengths, but the actual implementation of it is plagued with bugs and lacking in much excitement.. Enemy AI behaves the same way with every death, companion AI will knock you out of cover if that is where they must position themselves and enemies can clip in and out of cover making it difficult to keep them in your sights. Because of the scripted nature of events, firefights become a dull exercise in repetition that offers no options for creatively approaching a situation. Gameplay can feel so restrictive that at times the game actually takes away any sense of freedom. During one sniping mission, for example, instead of choosing a preferred spot in my cover building, Warfighter glues me to one spot on a table and forces me to play the mission from there. While not a problem at every point, these moments pop up enough to make firefights feel more like a shooting gallery and less like a frenzied, intense scenario.
Several levels during the game attempt to offer somewhat different experiences, but either succeed or fail because of their differences. Portions of missions put you in control of a robotic scout to clear the path ahead of your squad. This could have been a great opportunity for stealthy attacks, but the bot can be a hassle to navigate over the crumbled terrain of a bombed-out building. Thankfully, these inclusions are short in infrequent.
What succeeds more than perhaps even the shooting aspects of the campaign are two driving levels. Though somewhat long, these exceptions to the rule are intense, fun and creative in their use of a familiar mechanic. Both missions either task you with chasing another car or being the one chased, but I found it quite exciting to weave in and out of traffic. There is also a portion in a residential location that has you maneuvering out of sight from enemy vehicles, and that small gameplay mechanic, in a somewhat expanded form, is one I would love to see in another driving game.
It is a shame that the most enjoyable ideas in the campaign are not shooting-intensive. Warfighter’s guns operate well, and the sounds of fire feel meaty enough, but there is nothing that impelled me forward while playing. I rarely if ever found a reason to switch from the gun given to me at the onset of each mission or even switch to my pistol. Nighttime missions add an additional difficulty as, despite the beauty of most environments, without lighting the world can be nearly a hassle to walk through.
With the AI issues, audio and visual bugs – doors would not be opened yet I could walk through them, squadmates would run into their cover continuously, and audio will pop in and out unexpectedly – and the monotony of missions, it’s disappointing to see the care for a soldier’s life not carry over to the feel of the campaign. By the time I breached my half-a-dozen doors, I realized the rinse-and-repeat nature of proceedings was there to stay; a disheartening realization at which to arrive.