Military jargon is blasting over the radio. Together with my troop of bearded warriors I have just arrived in the Philippines in order to extract a hostage. The massive city has been flooded and the water tears down buildings and vegetation its path while the roads are now flowing rivers. The thought of this being a modern metropolis up until very recently is mind blowing.
Since we're completely outnumbered we have to be clever about the approach. Silent kills from behind and sniping are preferable, and for a while we managed to remain undetected, but all of a sudden all hell breaks loose. The visuals are amazing, the action overpowering, the sound effects some of the best I've ever experienced, and somehow manages to convey a sense of realism in spite of the grand spectacle on screen. I'm only bothered by one thing - I'm not enjoying this.
I was suspicious of the game even before it arrived at the office as it arrived on the same day as the game was released in America. That's usually a sign that the publisher does not want day one reviews of a game that they know isn't good enough. And when we finally got the game it needed a massive patch before I could get going.
Warning bells were sounding. Something seems to have gone terribly wrong at Danger Close, and an educated guess is that they simply ran out of time, but EA decided to push ahead and get the game out ahead of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Halo 4.
There is nothing in Medal of Honor: Warfighter to contradict my theories, as I manage to die within a few seconds of a training mission. It turns out I went about a task in different manner than the one intended, the price for this was instant death. There was a lesson to be learned there, Medal of Honor: Warfighter isn't a game that encourages creative thinking and expects you to fall in line and follow the trail of breadcrumbs.
It feels surrealistic, and while I curse the antiquated approach, I'm looking at what could quite possibly be the best graphics I've seen on Xbox 360, with the exception of Forza Horizon. Medal of Honor: Warfighter is at times simply stunningly beautiful and it's easy to tell that Danger Close have done a good job with Frostbite 2. The harbour in the training mission comes to life with the dynamic lighting and everything falls apart, explodes and turns to rubble.
You're constantly expected to run along corridors that are a yard wide that have been formed by falling debris until you come upon a helicopter and a conveniently placed rocket launcher that lets you blow it up. Danger Close seems to have ignored everything that made the most recent Medal of Honor an enjoyable experience and instead simply cloned Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
And Modern Warfare 3 was criticised for its old and unmodern approach when it was released, so things don't exactly get better a year later when you're trying to do the same things, but can't quite manage to pull it off to the same effect.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter suffers from a case of identity crisis. Is it a hyper realistic action game with attention to detail or a roller coaster ride full of superficial military excess? When I visited Danger Close this spring I noted the passion and creative spark Greg Goodrich carried with him as he wanted to do something new and different in the genre.
He wanted to explore subjects like the strain family life puts on a job where you put your life on the line. He wanted to show how these elite soldiers are put to test trying to keep the world safe, and in order to achieve authenticity several former operatives were involved with the development.
These ambitions are easy to spot in the finished game. The main character is having to deal with a failed relationship and forced to choose whether to spend time with his daughter or help in the war against terrorism. A fresh approach that stands out.
Several of the missions are based on real world events, something that helps create an air of authenticity, and the attention to every little weapons component, and the fact that the screen turns green as you take damage (simulates a damaged gallbladder) are all details that impress. But when the game tells me to just run straight forward and shoot, and basically restricts me from any tactical thinking that whole air of authenticity feels shallow.
To make matters worse we are treated to a shortlist of clichés. There is a level where you're manning a mounted machine gun on the back of a vehicle during a wild chase, there's a pitch-black level where you kill silently using the night vision goggles, there's a level where you shoot people from the air, there's a car chase level, there is a level where you run someone down, and there is a level where you act the sniper and provide cover for your fellow soldiers. There is a complete lack of originality here.