Medal of Honor: Warfighter Preview

There is no security in this earth; there is only opportunity.

At a closed event in San Francisco, the team from Danger Close showed off the current PC build of Medal of Honor: Warfighter. The event highlighted both the multiplayer and single-player sections of the game, with a limited build of both made just for the event.

Two of the game's single-player sections were playable: Shore Leave set in Mogadishu, and Hot Pursuit in Karachi. We were told the story was following the trail of high-explosives traffickers in terrorist networks, and that there were plenty enough explosions in Shore Leave.

Shore Leave guided the player in from the sea to a series of dilapidated buildings, where the player was ambushed on the way in. Stray too far in one direction and a sniper from a nearby building would pick you off; go in the other direction and droves of insurgents with AKs would blast the player to bits. Together, it presents a single-player experience that's linear, yes, but by no means weak.

Guiding the team up of Tier 1 operatives up the beach was challenging but fun, and was good for a quick lesson in the game's controls. This was followed by a section where players had to send a robot through some rubble to assist another unit, then go through another series of firefights and a sniping section that simulated bullets dropping over distance and holding one's breath to steady the rifle.

The second level, Hot Pursuit, was a driving level that, we were told, was made with the assistance of the developers of the Need for Speed franchise. Driving felt clean and intuitive, nothing felt too iffy, and the greatest challenges were the natural ones in the game, like avoiding Karachi traffic while tracking the target through the city in a high-speed chase through densely populated areas.

There's no denying that the single-player campaign in Medal of Honor: Warfighter looks great, running on DICE's Frostbite 2 engine. In the cinematics the characters are expressive, and the game looks incredibly clean and smooth. The PC build we played on hummed along at what looked like a breezy 60 FPS during the missions; the cinemas looked capped at 24fps for a “filmic look”. I switched from the keyboard and mouse controls to the Xbox 360 controller and back several times, finding both fluid and easy to use.

The multiplayer was the highlight of the preview, with over four hours of dedicated play to different maps and modes. The single-player campaign section at the start of the day had taught us well, as everyone seemed to have a pretty good handle on the controls. The first map was a cobblestone urban environment with three heavily contested bases, in open enough areas to make defense a serious contest. Spawn points in this first set of areas happened behind a line that was out of the playable area for the other team, making spawn camping all but impossible. Unless of course, you spawned off your battle buddy.

The developers showed off this buddy concept with pride, assigning players partners in the game with whom they could be awarded combat bonuses for playing close to during matches. How much better my performance was with my chosen comrade, I couldn't say, though I did seem to stay alive longer when we were paired; and if they weren't in combat after I died, I could spawn off of their location rather than going back to the starting point.

A later game type played out Counter-Strike-style, with no respawns but a brief time limit in a small, tightly cornered urban environment where one team tried to capture the other's flag and the the other tried to defend it, before switching halfway through. The final game we played featured the same attack-defend trade-off, but with randomly selected bomb sites in the combat area that one site had to defend and the other had to attack.

One enormously fun aspect of the multiplayer is its leveling system. As the player levels up, the options for choosing their character's nationality, combat role, and loadout begin to fill out with members of different elite forces from around the world: Canadian point man, S. Korean Sniper, etc. Each of these different loadouts featured different skills, attributes, and weapons complimentary to the character type that necessitated changing the style of play, with additional secondary weapons, skills, or the ability to call in airstrikes or a temporary defended respawn point in the form of an armed helicopter.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter is looking very polished, and the story divides itself between the anti-terrorist action and the emotional stories of the Tier 1 operatives, drawing on the experiences of real combat professionals. The game releases on October 23 for PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3.