Last week, we took a look at Medal of Honor: Warfighter's single¬-player campaign. Today, though, I'm finally allowed to talk about the multiplayer content I saw at EA's San Francisco event last month and, let's be honest, it's the multiplayer you really care about, right? I mean, a first-person shooter campaign is great and all, but you're not in it to save the day and hear about the bleed between military and civilian life. You want to shoot the avatars of real people, display your dominance, compete for the crown.
Well, Warfighter has a multiplayer mode. How does it stack up?
EA let us journalists tear into one another in five maps spanning four distinct multiplayer modes. The maps? Somalia Stronghold and Al Fara Cliffside for the "Sector Control" mode, Shogore Valley showed off "Combat Mission," Sarajevo Stadium introduced us to "Home Run" mode, and Novi Grad Warzone educated us on "Hotspot" mode.
The first thing to note, regardless of what mode or map you are playing, is that the multiplayer, as with the single-player campaign, is built on DICE's Frostbite 2 engine, which powered Battlefield 3. This means that the game, which we were playing on PC, was absolutely gorgeous. It also means that there's potential for destructible environments, though this was played up to a greater degree in the campaign; in multiplayer, cover seems to have more permanence. Also, durability.
Before we get into the specifics of each multiplayer mode, though, a moment to reflect on the adamant, team-based nature of this game. Warfighter does not try to be Call of Duty, in that it's at its best when teams play in a supportive, coordinated manner. This is driven home by the "Fireteam" mechanic, which pairs you up with another player at the start of a match. The two of you are encouraged to stick together because you can do things such as refilling one another's ammunition and, if one or the other should take a lethal round, it's possible to spawn on your teammate instead of at the standard spawn point. There are limits on this, but it's a great way of getting deceased players back into the action as quickly as possible. There's also the fact that one's health takes a significant amount of time to build back up after one has been injured. It pays to play carefully, rather than going in gung-ho.
Beyond that, the game modes we played were, almost across the board, geared toward group play. Some of the mechanics they use to enforce this group-play mentality are extremely compelling. It also pays to remember that this is a somewhat slower, more deliberate game, though it isn't trying to be Battlefield 3, either. There were no vehicles and nothing was on the scale of the wide-open, massive player-count of Battlefield 3 engagements.
So, multiplayer modes. Sector Control. Call of Duty players will know this one as Domination. Sit around a target long enough to capture it and it grants your team points. There are three in a level and the game becomes an ever-escalating case of tug-of-war, in which both teams are progressing ever closer to their goal while trying to stifle the opposition's progress. As noted before, group tactics pay off since you have to balance assaulting enemy-held targets with defending the ones you already have. It's fun, but nothing unique, so let's move on.
Combat Mission ties with Home Run for my favorite game mode. In Combat Mission, the player is tasked with either attacking or defending three objectives, each one further into the level. While one team scrambles to clear the objective zone and set a charge, the other is gunning them down, running interference, disarming charges once they've been set. Urgency comes from both a time limit on each objective and a total reinforcement count. The attackers extend the round in both senses when they successfully destroy an objective, but it does prevent one from rushing in blindly because dying costs one's team both time and soldiers. It's a great way of introducing a sense of responsibility into multiplayer. Once you've had a turn attacking, you'll have one defending; so goes the yin and yang of Combat Mission.
But Combat Mission can take a while. What if you just want a few quick rounds, over in a minute or two tops, before you head out for a night on the town? Try Home Run mode. It's a one-sided capture the flag variant. One team wants to capture the flag and take it to the extraction point, the other is trying to stop them. The caveat is pulled straight from Counter-Strike: You only live once. After you die, in a given round, you're out of that round for good. Since they're so quick, this isn't a tremendous penalty and allows for a game mode in which the flag-capturing team has two paths to victory (though they're scored differently). It's a best-of mode, too, so you'll switch objectives with your opponents halfway through.
The last mode, Hotspot, is kind of confusing. I get the sense that it's supposed to be the largest scale conflict mode of the five, but it ends up feeling a little disjointed. Imagine Combat Mission, but take that game's tightly scripted, tiered goal system. That one has direct progression, advancement from one point of interest to the next. It gets a lot of its urgency from the idea that, "Oh crap, they're moving in on us! They're getting closer to the goal!"
Hotspot provides the defending team with five objectives to defend from the aggressors. If the attackers can successfully complete three of these five objectives within their respective time limits, they win. They're scattered across a generously large map and chosen at random. You can only go after the objective the game chooses for you, but it might have you bouncing back and forth across the map. It ends up feeling a little aimless, far from the cohesive gameplay in the other modes. Odds are, though, that it just isn't my cup of tea.
And Warfighter does a lot to let you play in a way that appeals to you. Classes are incredibly diverse. After you've unlocked the various archetypes, of which there are half a dozen, you'll find yourself unlocking representatives for the twelve international Tier 1 organizations within each archetype. They have distinct equipment available to them and their kill-streak bonuses (the term used in-game escapes me, but this is essentially what they are) differ. Those bonuses, in a neat twist, offer both an offensive and a defensive option at each tier, and can be as simple as a smoke grenade or as unique as a hovering spawn point in enemy territory (in the form of a Blackhawk chopper).
All of this is unlocked by way of the leveling system, which is about what you'd expect. Kill stuff, complete objectives, finish the match, and get your experience. You'll rank up and unlock new weapons, archetypes, and operators.
You might already know all of this. The multiplayer beta has been chugging along on Xbox LIVE for a while now (it's ending this Sunday) and, if you've been in it, odds are you've seen some of this stuff for yourself and have drawn your own conclusions. As one who doesn't think quickly enough for the high-octane, hyper-kinetic multiplayer of the Call of Duty series, though, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, with less frantic pacing and greater emphasis on group tactics, holds a tantalizing appeal.
Date: October 12, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*