Out of the gate at PAX we quickly scanned the showroom floor for things to play. Time is limited in the first few moments of PAX, you need to get your ass in gear before the lines fill too quickly. We found Medal of Honor Warfighter with barely anyone discovering the line entrance and decided to hop into the next match. I’m glad we did too, because before long the line was pretty large and didn’t die down until later in the weekend.
Medal of Honor Warfighter is the sequel to the rebooted Medal of Honor from 2010. That game was met with tepid review scores and for good reason. Most of us agreed that the game had some great concepts and was very well executed, but was simply under-cooked. Perhaps another year of development time and it felt like the game could have been something much, much more. Warfighter is what a well done version of that game feels like.
The demo at PAX was lengthy and had us playing an objective-based version of multiplayer. We played 8 on 8 from my count, which really got to show off the game’s large map and objective-oriented gameplay. One thing to note right away is an emphasis on a new “buddy system” which will allow you to spawn next to a buddy after each death and leech points from anything they do. Thankfully one of my friends was my “buddy” and we were able to piggy-back on each other for spawns and points.
Let’s not beat around the bush too much though, this is very much a Call of Duty-like game and felt like just as much. Spawning was not static and moved with where the teams were positioned, just like in CoD. This worked very well for when my team needed to hold a certain position on the map. The dynamic spawning also worked against me on several occasions and got me quickly killed right out of the gate, just like in CoD.
Also like CoD was a small assortment of streak rewards, although admittedly at the time I wasn’t able to figure out much about the system. I was earning a great deal of kills myself, scoring 30 by the end of the match (2nd place!), but with 27 deaths, so there was never more than 4 in a row for me. Someone was able to score a helicopter with a machine gun, however, which was rather frightening to see in action, especially since it was against me. The helicopter looked very easy to snipe out of the air and hung low to the ground, but my class didn’t have anything to take it down.
Classes were the general assortment of assault, support and sniping, but I could tell there was going to be a pretty heavy emphasis on unlocking and leveling yourself to gain more stuff. Since the details on this were spotty I can’t comment on what is included or how it will unlock precisely, but I took my own console up from level 1 to level 4 in the span of the match, outpacing most of the others in the room.
As far as the actual, down-to-earth gameplay is concerned I can say it was solid. Running around didn’t feel like I was Superman with an assault rifle, but tapping the crouch button let me slide on my knees into position. Holding the couch button let me jump into a prone position, which was very well appreciated in a game of this type. Shooting a gun at first felt difficult, but I quickly adjusted and was able to start landing kills before I knew it. Firing the gun-mounted grenade launcher felt very underpowered. Despite making it long to pull out and longer to reload, the splash damage was next-to-nothing and almost seemed to require direct hits. That might be good for preventing “noob tubing”, but there should still be some saving grace to using one in a crowd of enemies.
On our play-through we assaulted an array of several objectives that had us trying to plant bombs on key locations. Planting a bomb takes several seconds and is a little nerve-wracking to say the least. The night-time cover on this particular map let me plant objectives with a little more safety however.
Speaking of maps, I was pretty impressed by the design on this one. It was a dark supply depot-type of area that had lots of places blasted away by bombs. This also meant there were cool areas like a blown-out concrete pipe that cut through the middle of the map and provided a safe quick-path to the other side. Most of the fights concentrated in otherwise obvious corridors and buildings, but I was able to get good flanks in open areas and crouch-slide into cover behind all sorts of concrete slabs and unused trucks.
So overall I would say this was a great experience for play-testing Warfighter, but let’s not rush ourselves here. Back in 2010 we also demoed a version of Medal of Honor at PAX and found it to be fantastic, only to discover how under-cooked it was on release. The same may be true to this preview, but we’ll see. In any case I can say that EA is really damn good at doing these preview events, they always catch my attention and leave me excited for the game afterward.