ncf: MoH

Early in Medal of Honor’s 2010 lunge at Modern Warfare’s boot heels*  I’m shadowing a beard-and-Oakleys wearing operator tasked with leading me  around a Taliban compound by the super-sneaky halter when he tells me: I’ve got this one.

And I say fuck you, buddy, this is my game, and rush around the corner ahead of him to stab the one-he’s-got in the back of the neck. The collision of neck and knife produces a sound like metal striking metal and a sentry who continues to stand staring off into space as it nothing has happened. I try again, get the same result, and back off a few steps to watch Oakleys wrassle him to the ground.

I followed my bearded companion to this encounter on an ATV. I followed him, and he murmured prompts like “go slow” and “kill your lights before bad dudes shoot us!!!”. I did as I was told, going down a long corridor of rock in the dark until I reached a village and there I snuck, carefully guided/instructed by my partner, until deciding I’d had it, it was time to take the initiative, and the game rewarded me with PANG. Afterward, we got back on our four-wheelers and tore down another uneventful outside corridor to another compound. At some point, Oakleys asked me to retrieve the bolted-down-at-all-other-times .50 caliber rifle from the front of my ride to shootmen from a great distance. He talked about windage and bullet drop while I put my cross hair right over heads and exploded them.

It’s a limp combo of MW’s “All Ghillied Up” and the breathless snowmobile escape from MW2:  the vehicle parts are boring and the sneaking is never particularly tense. It starts and stops and lurches back into action again. It locks you in a room with another pair of fellows so you can not participate in their lengthy-seeming dialog re: THE MISSION. Later, it will often make you walk calmly with your weapon down, lest you escape the non-participatory conversation chunks, or else block the narrow way with friendlies crouching to discuss tactical options.

There are doors.

Sometimes, your allies open them, usually so they can close-quarter a scripted enemy to death in some Awesome Special Forces kind of way. Other times, you are prompted to perform the opening ritual, and you maybe apply bullets on the immediate other side. Of course, you can’t kick down a door if the level is designed for COMRADE X to do it. For most of the game you have to move at the pace dictated by your partners.

Which makes a certain sense, right? You’re a soldier, you’re not supposed to go tear-assing around the map, indulging whatever whim.  Medal of Honor seems to be striving for a certain authenticity, eschewing Modern Warfare’s crazed barely intelligible technothriller shenanigans for a more modest story of YOU KNOW SOME GUYS rooting around SOME MOUNTAINS looking for some Taliban to shoot. Almost every gun has two reload animations: one for when you’ve run dry, another for when you hit the manual reload key.  The former is what you expect, while the latter excises the working of bolt-or-slide and results in a +1, for the still-chambered round, in your ammo readout. You no longer play hot potato with the opposing force’s guns, except in desperation: if you run low on ammo, you can request that another team member top you off, so you’re not switching to the Kalashnikov to the G3 to a sawed-off shotgun spewing pellets that magically disappear after 20 feet. This device allows you to retain your own weapon (JUST LIKE A REAL SOLDIER!) and reinforces how the game wants you to approach it: Work with your team, it says, listen, and if you do then everything’s buttery-smooth.

What about that sentry I couldn’t stab? The time I’m sent to a window to provide sniper cover, and can do nothing else because only Oakleys can open the door to the next chunk of level, and there is no way for me myself to get through it until all the enemies on the other side are dead? The two-dozen other times in the length of its short campaign that I tried to get a little ahead or approach a situation in a different way, only for the world itself to rise up as a barrier? Discover self-motivation and the seams tear; you feel annoyed, or like a jackass. As a staunch defender of American Special Forces Canon, Medal of Honor’s pretty great. As a video game, it’s stifling.

Medal of Honor is that kid** who read all the for-younger-readers history books in the third grade, demanded that his friends play viking with him, then lashed out when  they in turn insisted on some detail that wasn’t supported by his books. No Ben, vikings didn’t have castles like that! The fort is going to be a longship! Eventually, they stomped off to sulk because no one would play the right way. Medal of Honor doesn’t have to sulk: it makes the world, you play by its rules or go home.

Also, I was really hoping to play the guy with the massive special forces beard. Ideally, my body would be visible from first-person so I could look down at the huge beard on my chest at any point during the game.***


*every time I bring this game up I call it “the new Call of Duty” and have to correct myself

**me 😦

***Trespasser style beard-based health gauge??????


~ by ironcupshrug on 04/05/2011.

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