quick medal of honor impressions

So far I’ve not been terribly impressed by the new Medal of Honor game (xbox version), but it is a nice distraction between COD titles, especially since I don’t take to Halo much.

Single Player: I’m still working through this, but so far there is nothing new here and just perpetuates how I don’t enjoy modern FPS campaigns very much. The whole “on rails” thing is just annoying. Most of the time I don’t feel like I have to actually *do* anything except let my teammates do it, and then run around trying to figure out where they went and get caught up because I was exploring. I miss the games where it’s me against 1000 enemies…although I imagine that would create some AI challenges when you are the only target 12 enemies are shooting at… I imagine I won’t like the highest difficulty level, Tier 1, because it is time-based.

On a brighter note, I really like the low-key yet driving music so far, I love the feel of the early game sniper rifle, and I’m glad the controls are essentially identically to COD. Checkpoints are often as well. It is otherwise a solid single player experience so far. The individual moments aren’t as good as MW2 individual moments, but the sum is likely better. (COD:MW2 was a strange game built as individual moments strung together by a horrible plot, making the sum of its parts actually LESS than the parts alone. Go figure, but that’s what you get by making a story in backwards fashion and making the climax a boat chase and quick-time-event.)

Multiplayer: In short, multiplayer Medal of Honor is just plain unpolished. It really feels like the bare minimum has been done with very little real play testing. I suspect this needed to be rushed out before COD hit and after Halo. The litany of little complains mounts slowly. I’ve tried out other modes, but I play mostly Team Assault (essentially team deathmatch). I’ll constantly compare this to the current bar: Call of Duty.

  • no team balancing! Yes, really, if your team is getting owned, you’ll keep getting owned until players come and go. This is the COD equivalent of being forced, at times, to play against a whole clan/party. The sorts of games I often avoid if I’m not the one in a large party. Also, if you and a buddy join a game and are placed on different teams despite being in a party/playgroup, you have to back out, reinvite, and rejoin a game to get on the same team. The game doesn’t recover from this. (This happened only twice for me, but that’s two times the game should have recovered on the next map.)
  • I shit you not, there is no way to tell who is talking. There’s no indicationo on the HUD and no indication in the player score tab or minimap or big map. None.
  • no audio and really no visual indication that a match is ready to be joined. And it never starts on its own, you *have* to press A. So if you’ve turned to a buddy to jaw a bit or grabbed a drink in between matches, you never know without closely watching the screen that the game is under way. COD had an audio tick, a timer, and forcefully started the match for you.
  • As in COD:MW2, shotguns still feel way over-powered, even at a distance. At least you can’t run around like an idiot getting cheap kills by double-fisting them…
  • I dislike multiplayer games where the more you play, then the better you are. MOH doesn’t make any attempt to fix this. The more you play, the more you unlock. I have high hopes that COD:BO will get this right with the purchasing mechanic.
  • I also dislike abilities that allow better players to be even better by scoring kills in a row. An example is COD:MW2. If you’re good enough to get 5 kills in a row, the game will help you get another 20 cheesy kills (predator, harrier, chopper=nuke). If you’re already slightly better, the game makes the gulf even bigger. At least in MOH the rewards are based on points and not kills and it is harder to string them together without some additional kills of your own in the middle. So this is better than COD, at least.
  • between-game screens suck! Not only do they rotate in a forced fashion (game scores, your stats, and then map description text which is useless), but you get very little time to absorb much. COD gives you about 30 seconds to digest information and jaw with players. MOH gives about 5 seconds.
  • between-game screens suck 2! There’s not much information here, but at least what is given is relevant. I just wish it didn’t need three screens to do it and wish there were better stats…like suicides, team kills, maybe some ratios on who I killed or who killed me more, etc. Oh, and you’ll never know how many assists you got. To MOHs credit, COD:MW2 also failed in this regard. COD:WaW was far (far!) superior.
  • between-game screens suck 3! You can vote to skip a map, but you’ll never see any vote tally nor ever know the vote passed or failed. WTF?
  • death text sucks. “Player1 [M124AM] Player2.” At least in COD you get an icon of the weapon used, which is a great and quick way to see how someone died. I don’t know what M124AM is and it will take a very long time to figure that out…
  • death text sucks 2. No headshots are represented. I do like to know when I was headshot which would explain why I die so quick sometimes.
  • death text sucks 3. I can’t describe how many double-kills I’ve had on players in game, but I would never know it if I hadn’t been playing right next to a buddy and could glance at his screen’s death text. It is very useful to know when a double-kill occurs because you know that your enemy is no longer in that spot.
  • Hardcore doesn’t feel hardcore, other than the lack of a HUD. I should be expecting more one-shot kills.
  • I really hate not being able to see teammate names when they’re 30 feet away from me or more. MOH displays them only if you’re close, but if you’re far away you just see the friendly marker. If I see a teammate ahead of me duck into a room and he dies, I want to be able to know who ran in and how he died. This plus the death text makes this impossible. Yes, I really do get into the meta-game of how the ebb and flow feel…if I know John went left, Bob went right, and Jim ran up the middle, and it took 15 seconds for John to die but only 2 for Jim to die, I have just gained a *lot* of intel about where the enemy is and where the flow is. MOH doesn’t give me any chance to play on this level.
  • netcode is suspect. Far more than other games, I feel movement is glitchy when I’m next to a teammate. I also have plenty of moments where center-mass body shots gain me nothing but a shot I obviously missed on nets me a kill. Mysterious.
  • netcode is suspect 2: There is no indication of your latency in game. None.
  • Respawning is buggy. COD has done a great job making sure players spawn out of site of other players, but MOH has a lot to learn. I’m not sure I’ve actually ever seen someone spawn in COD, but in MOH I regularly actually see them spawn. There are moments where you can get set up and snipe guys spawning into the game. Not cool. Even less cool when you target artillery on a spawn. In COD, it happens but is rare that I die within seconds of a spawn. In MOH, it happens. A lot. More spawn locations and better ability to spawn out of sight is needed.
  • Map flow is suspect. Somewhat similar to the spawn item above, there are places on some maps in Team Assault where you can pin an enemy into and it absolutely sucks to bust out. This smacks of poor playtesting or poor multiplayer map design. COD also has come a long way in this regard these days.
  • In Team Assault, I really wish the maps had been larger. I really think game flow would be far better with larger maps where it is not just run 5 steps and start shooting. With some of these maps there is no chance to get a feel of the ebb and flow of the team dynamics. In maps that are big enough, they often suffer from a team being spawned in a poor corner and getting stuck in there.
  • Defensive perks are lost quickly. Because of some of the issues with maps and game flow, defensive perks are very quickly lost because you can die. A lot. And quickly.
  • Deaths are kinda slow (netcode?). It takes effort to figure out that I killed someone sometimes. They’ll take the hit, I’ll line up again, and then they keel over and I get the credit. Huh? Did he not know he was dead right away? Also in the same vein, I would love better indication on the HUD that I killed someone and who it was. COD:MW2 has this beautifully displayed along with their title/emblem for easy ID.
  • No titles, emblems, or anything that really helps you distinguish yourself. Sure, you can unlock a new skin at higher levels, but there’s not much else you can do.
  • When you step back for a moment, you realize there aren’t very many guns in the game.
  • Your team in a deathmatch can lose the game even if you had more net kills. This is because the score is based on points, not kills. This means players who can score chains of kills and drop artillery or call in defensive perks get even more powerful/useful because they can influence the score more than someone with the same number of kills but not able to string them all together for rewards. Honestly, this assumption goes against 20 years of FPS game scoring, and it’s just weird.
  • Not many maps. I’m likely spoiled by all the map packs in COD games, but so far MOH has very few maps to play.
  • Because of issues with map flow and quickness, the special sniper ability to lay down an IED and detonate it is useless other than if that’s all you want to do. MOH really should have allowed trip-wired claymores instead of something you have to actually trigger. That way you can benefit from it, but yet still dig in and shoot your gun.
  • Melee kills are underwhelming. COW:WaW had a *great* feel to them, and COD:MW2 was ok as well. Hatchet and knife kills in MOH are buggy, annoying, and have zero visceral feedback to them.

That’s a huge fucking list of complaints, but not everything is bad!

  • No COD voice chatter. No, seriously, MOH games have been largely quiet that I’ve played in. No kids or rednecks or gangsters or trailer trash or toddlers droning on about the most idiotic things like you hear, constantly, in COD. Over the weekend, I think I heard maybe 6 other players actually talk. That’s out of many hundreds I played with.
  • Physically, every player is on the same footing in game. There are no perks to run faster or have camoflage or quiet footsteps. The unlocks all pertain to weapons and gear, but not physical perks like COD. I like that.
  • Unlimited running ability. No reason for soldiers to be winded after 10 steps!
  • You can reload while running. We’ve obviously gotten more coordinated at Tier 1.
  • You can change your weapons/class/loadout mid-game while dead.
  • Minimap icons of enemies show which direction they’re facing.
  • Unlike COD games, missile launchers, bazookas, and grenade launchers don’t feel as cheap and powerful in MOH. Despite the fact that 2 of the 3 classes almost always have them available on their person.

And one undecided item: In hardcore team assault modes, you can kill your teammates, but it often takes *lots* of shots to do so. Part of playing hardcore is to be much more careful in what you do, and that includes friendly fire. Now, this does eliminate morons who just go and kill everyone, but COD:MW2 has already demonstrated how to properly handle them quite nicely. And I will fully admit that I do sometimes pick out particularly whiney people who seem like the kinds of people who will blow up at me if I kill them, to actually kill them when they’re on my team. I’m rarely wrong, and am far too entertained by such demonstrations by hot-tempered persons.

In the end, this game is making for a nice break between COD titles, but without a lot of polish and hot-patching, it leaves a large gap that needs work before it feels like a fun way to spend my time.