After all the silly controversy hanging over EA's Medal of Honor, what we get on its release is a game that is incredibly respectful to the men and women fighting overseas--sorry, conspiracy theorists--but lacking, a bit, in playability. That is, it's a nice homage to the US armed services. But it's only a good, not great, game.
That said, Medal of Honor does satisfy one very important need: It's a lot more accessible to average gamers than the Call of Duty (COD): Modern Warfare games, especially the latest one, which has gotten horribly complex. This is especially true of multiplayer. If you've worked your way through the last three COD games, Modern Warfare, World at War, and Modern Warfare 2 (MW2), you've probably been able to deal with the creeping complexity. But I pity anyone trying to jump into console shooters by trying one of these games.
MOH, by contrast, is much easier. The single player campaign, even on the hardest difficulty level, is a straightforward, rail-like shooter, and not one of those open environment-type games. You progress logically from checkpoint to checkpoint, and while some of them are too widely spaced--way too widely spaced in a few annoying cases--for the most part the whole thing is very straightforward.
The single player campaign both benefits and suffers from its adherence to real world events. It is a beautiful, beautiful game, with the best graphics I've yet seen in any Xbox 360 title. But the story is, well, boring for lack of a better word, and you don't really feel any connection to the in-game characters, with one major exception described below.
For longtime shooter fans, there are some nice throwbacks to the classic World War II Medal of Honor and Call of Duty titles: You get to take down mortar and AAA teams, and attach explosives to cannons. It's all oddly familiar despite the unfamiliarity of the locations and events in Afghanistan.
But MOH is also a throwback in a bad way: The enemy AI is almost completely non-existent and very reminiscent of decade-old game titles. On the other hand, this is an easy game to beat, even on the hardest skill level, and it hands out Achievements like a Pez dispenser.
There's no character development per se, but who cares. It's a shooter, and the presentation is fantastic. But it's still quite moving when a compatriot appears to buy it near the end of the game. The developers at least did a good job of causing you to root for the good guys, which is especially poignant given the overall futility of what they're doing there, far from home.
Put simply, the MOH single player is much more accessible than that of the Modern Warfare games and is based on actual events, albeit with some pretty pointless objectives. If you're looking to get into Call of Duty, this is a great place to start. Otherwise, MOH is just a way to kill time until COD: Black Ops ships next month.
This is even more true of the multiplayer experience, which falls well short of that of the past three COD games. The presentation, again, is gorgeous, and this is absolutely the nicest looking multiplayer shooter I've ever seen. (And to be accurate, MOH single player and multiplayer are in fact completely different games, with different look and feels, and designed by different teams.) The problem with multiplayer is hard to categorize, but it boils down to the same issue I have with the Battlefield games. It just "feels" off. Something's not right in the control scheme and in the way in which your player moves (all too quickly, for whatever that's worth) onscreen.
All the basics are available in multiplayer, however, including multiple game modes and at least one key feature COD games lack: Actual multiplayer Achievements. Bravo to EA for that.
Still, multiplayer won't keep me captivated for long, and I'm pretty sure I'll be heading back to the comfortable confines of MW2 before long (and until Black Ops hits).
And really, that's the problem with MOH: There's just not a heck of a lot of replay value here. I played thorough the campaign once on the hardest skill level, and sopped up literally every possible Achievement, and now I'll never bother with that again. Meanwhile, the multiplayer, while decent, just isn't as high quality and durable as MW2. So it's a nice way to pass some time, but only for now. There's a new Call of Duty came coming down the pike, and something tells me that's going to be a much better experience.