Medal of Honor Warfighter

FBT plays the game that stripped Medal of its Honor.

I was always more of a MoH soldier than a CoD one, Allied Assault is perfect and I even have a soft spot for Airborne. The MoH reboot was good in places, but it still felt like MoH was aping CoD's modern segue; the leader had become the follower. Still, it was a strong start to MoH’s modern era … but then came Warfighter; it was no Modern Warfare 2. It was so terrible the series was cancelled. I’ve resisted playing this for years, I didn’t want to see the mighty fall so I just avoided it. But I’ve waited long enough. Even the name is stupid.

We begin as Preacher, one of the Operators we fought alongside in MoH. A shipping port is controlled by someone terroristy so we set off a bomb but it triggers a huge explosion, causing cargo crates to crash down on us as we try to escape. It’s very CoD but also … daft. Why is our exit spot right where we just set off a bomb? We secretly planted a bomb on a truck so it delivered our explosion and kept us from infiltrating the place, so why are we exiting through the secure area we just exploded?

Now, a tutorial. What?! I just navigated on-fire terrorists and cargo containers falling from the sky, now I’m learning how to crouch? And I’m doing so as a terrorist. But what kind of terrorist? Am I a legit one, or have I infiltrated the group? Am I No Russian? Who knows, it never comes up again. What was that? Does that mean I shot myself later when I take down this group? What did I miss, what’s going on?!

Who knows. A lot of the levels open with ‘two weeks earlier’ or some other date, but I don’t really know what I’m flashbacking from. All this time-shifting is like Chris Nolan does The Hurt Locker. Preacher is a committed American Hero who is married to war as much as his doe-eyed wife and weird-looking daughter and action is intercut with marital strive scenes of his wife holding back tears as he sits in a hotel room like he’s Apocalypse Now’s Willard and tries to tell his wife he’s done with war. Is he? I’m close to being done with Warfighter.

Turns out those cargo crates were loaded with some super explosive that Preacher’s ‘Mako’ unit are ordered to track down; or the inventor, or the guy who’s gonna use it, who knows. We keep getting sent off to various places to do stuff and it’s impossible to keep track because we suddenly seem to be doing something else. One minute we’re in Mogadishu because Black Hawk Down is another easy rip-off, then we’re saving hostages which doesn’t seem to be directly related to the explosives but might be, and then out of nowhere we’re re-enacting the end scene of Captain Phillips – I just saved Tom Hanks?

And then Preacher is discharged for disobeying orders – like we ever understood the orders - and we’ve caught up with the flashback in the hotel room. Eh? Now he’s waiting for wifey at a train station, and he recognises a terrorist who suicide bombs the train. Was that a coincidence? Revenge? Is that me, the Tutorial guy? Did I recognise myself? Preacher’s okay and wifey and child are fine too, they missed the train. So what was the point of that?! Oh, so the missus can now see the light and give her blessing to go back to war. Like she'd stopped him previously. She can overrule him being discharged too? And that’s how you win an argument with the wife, get blown up? Actually, that sounds about right.

Preacher joins some other Spec Ops team (I think) to go hunt the man with the explosives, while Mako team (which I thought was doing that already) is outfitted with new guys, including ‘Stump’ who I now play as. I’m Stumpy? The MoH reboot had three narratives, Navy Seal ‘Rabbit’, Delta Force sniper Deuce and Ranger Adams, but their missions were starkly different, and they intersected. Here, Preacher and Stump are interchangeable, I could be playing either at any time – I could be Tom Hanks for all I know.

Warfighter is like an unintentional comedy, ‘The Room’ of shooters. Once I realise that, this becomes the best game ever, a wonderful absurdist comedy. Our handler is Dusty, our Delta Force spotter in MoH. But all his scenes have his face hidden - why?! When its revealed in the final mission it’s him, it’s hardly a shocker; they call him by name! He’s also now missing a leg for some reason. Oh, Hai Dusty.

The hilarity continues. The insurgents are clearly fans of whack-a-mole, I once got killed because I was giggling at all the heads that keep popping up and down on the battlefield. During a mission on a boat several terrorists floated up through the deck and one passed through a closed door. Is this a ghost ship? Some ignore me even after I shot at them, and others fire without any conceivable way of knowing I was there - and fire through walls. Occasionally they’ll rocket towards you like the game just lagged. It’s like that bit in Holy Grail where the attacking knight is miles away and getting nowhere then suddenly he’s jumping over the battlements. This is getting like a Kafka dream.

Of course, this shouldn’t be funny - it’s terrible AI, coding and scripting; sometimes you just can’t kill someone until something else happens or they’re scripted to die at another point so you’re just wasting ammo; one near rage-quit moment has me sniping RPG’ers on a tower to stop them downing a helicopter. Fine, except the chopper is literally ten feet away and firing on them. It’s actually in the way of my shot, and it’s timed; I got ‘you failed to protect the helicopter’ even though I could see through my scope the RPG guy had missed it.

My squad isn’t much better. They’ll ignore someone melee’ing them or just fire endlessly at whatever cover the terrorist is chilling out behind. If you happen to be where they want to be, they’ll push you out into enemy fire or they’ll suddenly crouch in front of you then complain about friendly fire. Nothing friendly about it, get out the way idiot.

There’s a door breach mechanic where headshots unlock alternative breaching options. But they don’t actually seem to alter how you enter the room, it’s just a different way to watch your buddy break down a door. Let’s go with … crowbar this time lads. Oddly your sidearm has infinite ammo but the main weapon has to be replenished by asking for it from the squad members, who have infinite refills, adding more surrealism to it all and if you pick up an enemy weapon switching to another causes him to drop it.

By the time I’ve reached the final few missions I’ve given up all pretence of knowing what’s going on and fully embraced the sheer lunacy of it all. As they get all serious about finally catching the explosives mastermind and spouting lines like ‘Let’s do it for Mother’ I’m to busy being in hysterics to care about how atrocious and derivative it all is. I’m having a great time, and despite it all, there are some sequences I really enjoyed.

A fight through smoke bombs is thrilling, as is a flooded town, and some scripted moments work really well. There’s two sequences where we drive a car - the later one where we kidnap an informant and try to escape his security forces on the highways of Dubai is genuinely ace fun. Maybe not for the pedestrian chickens though.

That's followed by us in the suburbs playing hide and seek with security, trying to find wifi hotspots to send a message while Dusty gives us completely inaccurate info about enemy locations. That the best missions are in a car not a battlefield says it all about Warfighter. The level is called ‘Hello and Dubai’ – and you’re telling me this isn’t a comedy? That’s so bad it’s good, and that’s exactly what Warfighter is.

Warfighter deserves its reputation, but I had a cracking time. It’s completely mad, and if you take it as a straight-faced comedy it’s the gaming equivalent of Tropic Thunder. Every war-game cliché is here. It’s a parody of CoD not a clone.

After this, EA dropped MoH and focused on Battlefield as their CoD-killer, and the way that’s going it might not be long before MoH gets another reboot. I’d love to see a return to Allied Assault, but I’m secretly hoping it’s another comedy. This has to be played. ‘For Mother!’