Medal of Honor Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC
Medal of Honor box art
System: X360, PS3, PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: Danger Close/DICE 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Electronic Arts 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Oct. 12, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-24 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Tango Down
by Steve Haske

There’s been a lot of hype and complication surrounding EA’s Afghanistan-based Medal of Honor reboot leading up to release. The game caught initial flack for allowing players to play as the Taliban in good-guys-vs.-bad-guys opposing force team matches. EA defense of the decision was fiercely unapologetic; in turn, the game lost some support, including from retailers on U.S. military bases.

Medal of Honor screenshot

Feeling the pressure, Danger Close then seemingly caved, removing any mention of the Taliban from multiplayer modes. Though the decision did not censor the Taliban’s presence in the game’s single-player campaign, the resultant free speech criticisms ripped open a freshly-sutured wound. Then there’s the setting itself: with Afghanistan as the backdrop, EA raised the stakes against the fictional, sci-fi-tinged battlefields of Modern Warfare, while skirting the issue of making perhaps too bold a statement against current military policy in the vein of the nebulous Iraq docu-game Six Days in Fallujah.

It’s in this no-man’s-land where Medal of Honor ultimately resides, somewhere between the shock-and-awe bombast of Activision’s cash cow and something a little more timely and relevant, a game that isn’t sure if it should tow the line or actually send some sort of politically relevant message. On the one hand, Danger Close has done an admirable job with the game’s campaign, which follows the U.S. Spec Ops teams as they grapple with a far more hostile deployment situation against Taliban forces than expected in the days following 9/11. Unlike Modern Warfare, the storyline is much more localized and ridiculous, and basically just runs these soldiers through the on-the-ground view of an increasingly worsening situation. If you’re looking for Michael Bay-style setpieces, you’re not going to find them here—one of the most refreshing things about Medal of Honor is that it seems fairly realistic, if perhaps a little adrenaline-heightened, in its terms of destruction or action-movie heroism (at least if you can look past the video game logic of the sheer number of enemies killed by an average soldier in any given situation here). You can’t go in guns blazing in every situation. Gathering intel on enemy movements, clearing out scattered hostile bases, and cooperating with air support to eliminate high priority targets make up a majority of the game’s mission objectives, making every step along the way feel somewhat grueling and part of a much larger process. There are still action-packed scenes in the game, but they’re far more grounded than your typical summer blockbuster. In other words, don’t expect your team to operate in a vaccum, or any EMPs-turning-D.C.-into-a-ravaged warzone-type situations.

Medal of Honor screenshot

On the other hand, since Medal of Honor’s campaign is typically less-Hollywoodized than Modern Warfare, Danger Close has (whether intentional or not) separated it from the Mountain Dew approach to war usually taken by video games. Even if the game still kowtows to fanboys of Call of Duty or other military shooters, underneath the gloss the message seems to run closer to political relevance than simply entertainment for entertainment’s sake. Unfortunately, this is where Medal of Honor falters somewhat, choosing mostly to push forward with the status quo. It’s admirable that the game is essentially a dedication to our fallen soldiers in battle, as well as a tribute to those who are out there risking their lives every day for our freedom. I have nothing but respect for this idea and these people. But stopping short of making any statement outside of patriotism, heroism, and sacrifice in the face of overwhelming and deadly odds is a misfire on EA’s part. Sadly, simply honoring courage and resolve glosses over the real issues, which makes Medal of Honor feel more like a game supporting the U.S. military but not a commentary on current military policy. We get tiny hints of less-than-noble policy here or there, with the top brass embodiment trying to push U.S. forces into Afghanistan as hard and fast as possible, or with the numerous times the soldiers on the ground remark just how much “intel f—ked us on this one.” But overall it’s a missed opportunity on EA’s part.

Medal of Honor screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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