Medal Of Honor: Beta, Criticism

By Jim Rossignol on October 4th, 2010 at 2:49 pm.


Ah, time for fresh manshoots. The Medal Of Honor beta is open and ready to accept you. You should probably sign up there if you want to shoot some men.

What you should definitely do, however, is read Ian Bogost’s scathing analysis of EA’s decision to drop the “Taliban” name from their game:

“Medal of Honor is just another well-produced first-person shooter, one that invokes a recent war as a marketing gimmick to accompany an equally generic plea to “support our troops.” Playing as the Taliban never mattered anyway. It was just a menu item, so no big deal to remove or rename it. Just a marketing tag on the box. Just a clever hook to spin free publicity, and just an inconvenient but essentially irrelevant feature to drop when the Army brass raised its eyebrows.”

There are some big implications tied up with EA’s marketing awfulness, as Bogost explains. Read.

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81 Comments »

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  1. misterk says:

    This was kind of my feelings with the original controversy, as I said at the time: while there are certainly interesting things to be said in a video game about the conflict in Afghanisthan, I strongly suspected, and appear to be correct now, that medal of honour never intended to do that, and only had the name to produce a frisson of familiarty. That is, while it sold copies, the bad guys were taleban, and now it looks like it might not, the bad guys are nameless.

  2. Urthman says:

    Kieron nailed it in his MW2 review. The stupid, ham-handed No Russian really poisoned the well for this kind of thing. It’s hard to defend game companies attempts to do something like this when you know it’s going to be handled with all the maturity of an XBox Live deathmatch.

    Imagine showing the multiplayer game to a skeptical non-gamer and all they see is a bunch of “Taliban” soldiers running around calling you “fag” and teabagging your corpse and then trying with a straight face compare the game to The Hurt Locker or Generation Kill.

    • Cramen says:

      It goes deeper than just the fight between agency and narrative it’s at the very core of the design. Bogost really sums it up in the article, just before the quote Jim has pulled above:

      Electronic Arts made a war game about the U.S.-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but that game is not about war, not about Afghanistan, not about the Taliban, not political, and not interested in making or supporting any discussion.

      (I hope I did that right)

      This is a game going out of it’s way to say absolutely nothing, but to use controversial window dressing to help sales. No Russian was bad for similar reasons. It’s cynical and kind of insulting.

  3. kobzonistan says:

    Do they even allow beards like that in the US army?

    Anyway, like hell am I reading that. From now on anyone engaging in any kind of discussion over this is basically a hype drone.

    • Rich says:

      Their Tier-1 Spec. Ops. chappies are apparently allowed them.
      You wouldn’t get any of that in the SAS. How the hell could you wear a gas mask?

    • coldwave says:

      Apperently, not anymore, beards were banned this year, or so I heard.

      Guy on boxart is modeled after a pretty known picture of a special forces operator( -operator-operator-operator).

      Or maybe he was PMC.

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      Last thing I have heard is that those men in contact with the locals are allowed or even encouraged to grow beards, so as to signal respect to local customs. Might have been the british, though.

      Ninja Edit: Sky has the scoop.

    • Unaco says:

      Unless it’s a recent re-banning, I’m fairly sure the UK forces dropped (or at least relaxed) the prohibition on facial hair for active personnel in Afghanistan… certainly for the Royal Marines at least. Beards are a sign of status in the country, and it was hoped that more soldiers with beards would help in improving relations with the populace. I think there was even a group, from the RAF, that were encouraged to grow beards prior to their deployment. There was also a water situation during the early years of the war… shortages and rationing, which meant that shaving was not considered a priority.

      Not sure about the SAS these days… but certainly during their early years, and the North Africa campaign in WW2, most of them sported beards, although that was probably down to the nature of their work, lack of water and/or time for personal hygiene.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Beards have always (well, at least as far back as WW2) been allowed, or at least not prohibited, for front line troops actually up to their necks in it.

      Apparently a porn-star moustache and a pair of £500 hiking boots in Aldershot is a fairly good indicator of you know what…

  4. Dreamhacker says:

    Double standards alert, send in the bullshit teams.

    Having North Koreans, Chinese, Russians, Western mercenaries, African militias or, heck, Vietnamese civilians is completely okay, but Talibans? No-no, that would be disrespectful!

    • Rich says:

      Disrespectful to Americans, rather than the Taliban themselves. I imagine they couldn’t give a damn what the actual Taliban think.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I still don’t see how it’s disrespectful to Americans.

    • Rich says:

      To the friends and family of those who’ve died. Like I’ve said before, I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.

  5. ZARKON says:

    This game is Battlefield Bad Company 2 with everything that made BC2 good stripped out. Why anyone would buy this instead of CoD Black Ops or the upcoming BC2 Vietnam expansion is beyond me.

    • Rich says:

      This is going to have a polarising effect, that’s for sure. So far, everything I’ve read about the singleplayer (the bit I care about) in both games, suggests MoH is going to be a lot better.
      Incidentally, I was a CoD fan, but never followed it further than CoD4.

    • wazups2x says:

      I completely agree. MoH is a wannabe COD with some of the elements of BC2. However, what we end up with is a game that is no where as good as BC2 or COD.

  6. poop says:

    incredibly generic military-industrial-complex war porn with a linkin park soundtrack turns out to be incredibly generic military-industrial-complex war porn with a linkin park soundtrack that is also completely removed from reality and artistic credibility

    fuck this im going to bed

  7. Giant, fussy whingebag says:

    So, how many people are going to give their ‘terrorist’ team characters names like ‘Osama bin Taliban’ or ‘Ahmed al-Qaeda’? Will they be deemed inappropriate, and banned?

  8. ScubaMonster says:

    The biggest concern I have about game sale regulations to minors, is that publishers will insist on sanitizing games or removing even remotely questionable content out of fear they won’t be able to sell it to everybody. This might be a moot point since parents buy the games for their kids regardless, but I’ve seen this in the movie industry on occasion. A movie that should have been R gets polished up for a PG-13 release.

    I’d hate to lose the sorts of games we are currently getting.

  9. Saucy says:

    TALK ABOUT GOD HAND

  10. Lars BR says:

    I’m flabbergasted people aren’t getting that most men shooters are at least TWO games. In this case it’s even literally true, as the single player and multi player parts are developed on opposite sides of the planet. The “realism” part of this MoH is about the single player campaign – this is where you can/should expect the developers to attempt to tell a gripping war-movie-like story, and I bloody well hope they haven’t renamed the Taliban as OpFor here, if they have kept the setting. That’s disrespectful for everyone.

    I haven’t heard of a “No Pashto” mission in the game, so I doubt you get to gun down american soldiers during the single player campaign.

    In the multi player, where you actually CAN play both sides, they appear to be ignoring all attempts at making asymmetric warfare, so I don’t care about the name change. It’s not as if the Taliban has an air force they can call in for air strikes, so arguing that we should call them Taliban for “realism” is nonsense. And NOBODY cares what side they’re playing anyway in online games. It’s Them vs. Us. And none of Them are getting out of here alive.

    I don’t expect the main stream press to get this, but I do wish the gaming media they quote bothered to mention the difference between single player story telling aspirations and multi player realities.

    • Ted says:

      *I* used to care about my side in these games..
      and yeah, it’s sort of annoying to see how these people fail to grasp the concept of multiplayer and singleplayer being very different things.
      now, Imma going to boot up project reality and play some insurgency.

    • Jad says:

      Yes, good lord, yes!

      I’ve been thinking the same thing — I expect the mainstream press to be confused about this, but not long-time PC gamers!

      It’s always been like this in FPSes. I mean, even Doom’s single player had a somewhat coherent storyline, with a lone space marine protecting Earth from evil demons and hellspawn. Boot up the multiplayer and suddenly you’re shooting other space marines. Why? Who knows and who cares, its multiplayer! I’ve bashed Gordon Freeman’s head in with a crowbar as a scientist in Half-Life deathmatch. I’ve chosen to either conquer Europe as Nazi or liberate it as an Allied soldier by which team has fewer players in Day of Defeat. I’ve killed the same guy over and over again in a Quake match — apparently he can’t die permanently, but that’s okay because neither can I.

      The Team Fortress 2 team has gotten great mileage out of the utter pointlessness of the eternal Red vs. Blu conflict, because it illustrates a central fact of FPS multiplayer: there is no story, there is no realism, there is no point to it all. The team names are merely labels, and changing TF2 to Green vs. Orange would not change it at all.

      Whether this is a good thing or a necessary thing always is worth discussing, but it is the current state of things.

      EA could have made one team be half American soldier models and half Taliban models fighting the French allied with Klingons and it wouldn’t change anything or have anything to do with the much bally-hooed “realism” or “authenticity” of the entirely separate single player portion.

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      UW says:

      I always used to play as a Nazi in Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory.

      I preferred their guns. Also their satchel charges were grey so they looked quite similar to medipacks. If you took a medic’s outfit and hung around the opponents base, eventually you’d notice a guy sort of staring at you. He was probably asking you for medipacks, but obviously you couldn’t know that because you’re not on his team.

      If you were playing Allied and you threw down a satchel charge, it was a shade of light brown and your treachery was instantly apparent. Conversely, playing Axis threw down a satchel which looked, at first glance, strikingly similar to a medipack. You step back and watch your hapless victim (Sometimes two or three) run over to the satchel, realise they can’t pick it up and look at you just as they hear the “Phweeeee-” of the bomb about to explode. Hahaha, fantastic.

      I agree with you though, most players wouldn’t even blink if they entered a multiplayer game and were put on the “Taliban” side. They might be a little bit upset if that side happened to be losing, I suppose.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      If you changed TF2 to green vs orange I imagine it would become hell to play for a certain sort of colour blind person.

  11. Kid A says:

    The first person to make an Operation Flashpoint-esque, 1 bullet and you’re dead or seriously fucked up, current-gen FPS that accurately portrays modern combat in Afghanistan (which is, as a friend who returned from service there recently told me, basically 20 hours of sitting in camp doing gear maintenance, eating and sleeping while wondering when you’re going to be mortared, interspersed with 4 hours or so of riding in a APC or IFV wondering when you’re going to go over an AT mine or an IED) and allows you to play both sides, will get all the money I can give them. Sadly, EA were never going to be that person. As a big target, they know anyone who thinks they can will try and eke money out of them if they did make that game – so they went with Medal of Honour: Desensitised Modern Warfare Clone.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      You make a solid point but I think as long as it was one sided that would be acceptable to the mainstream narrative. The problem with naming the Taliban and certainly the problem with playing as them is they cease to be such generic Islam robots that we should all be afraid of and hate. Now certainly the Taliban leadership aren’t very nice people but the actual people on the ground, the PBI so to speak, will be involved for lots of different reasons just as western troops are. But an occupation is even harder to justify if your dehumanisation of the enemy starts to slip.

      I made a similar point in another discussion but I think it still holds true; if this were Star Wars the Taliban would be the rebels fighting the all powerful American Empire which has a Deathstar (massive nuclear arsenal) and star destroyers (super carriers). Now does this make the Taliban into “good guys”? No of course not but it does make the narrative of goodies vs baddies much harder to sell. Better the enemy remains faceless non-humans who we can’t empathise with or come to understand (even if we can’t condone) their motivations.

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      Regardless of what one thinks of their methods, the Taliban are patriots( noun a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors) fighting a religious and political war. Calling them terrorists when they are fighting an occupying power(s) is falling for dehumanizing/delegitimizing ‘marketing’.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      “Calling them terrorists when they are fighting an occupying power(s) is falling for dehumanizing/delegitimizing ‘marketing’.”

      An odd assertion.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-10922405

      The taliban are certainly terrorists. They are a force, perhaps under 40,000 strong (I read earlier they have a permanent force of around 10,000, but cannot find the source) who use violence and intimidation in controlling the civilian population, killing indiscriminately with huge numbers of IEDs, and executing civilians (including children). Their political aims also happen to be beyond awful.

      The Taliban deserve to be wiped out. Whether that is possible, whether the casualties we are taking are worth it, whether it is our responsibility to do so and whether the government we are currently propping up in Afghanistan is much better are more prescient questions than whether or not the Taliban are terrorists.

    • DrGonzo says:

      The point isn’t that they are good or bad. They aren’t terrorist’s because they previously had control of the country and it is now being occupied. Plus who is to say who has the ‘right’ views.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/terrorism

      “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion”

      Again, the Taliban are certainly terrorists, in much the same way as the Jacobins (the original terrorists, named after their Reign of Terror) were. If you consider the Taliban to be the rightful governors of Afghanistan, then they are simply state terrorists. It doesn’t really matter.

      I don’t really want to get caught up in an off-topic argument about semantics, though, so I’ll bow out here. I did start the argument, so uh, sorry about that.

      “Plus who is to say who has the ‘right’ views.”

      Me. You can too, if you want. We don’t have to agree, although I’d hope we would.

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      Daniel Rivas –

      I didn’t say I agree with their methods or ideology. I merely stated that they are patriots fighting an occupying power. As long as they are cast as inhuman scum, there will be no way of finding a peaceful resolution for Afghanistan. I am sure the people of that country are tired of being pawns in the ‘Great Game’. I also greet with skepticism reports from most Western media as to their actual numbers. And, besides, I honestly don’t see a huge difference between their using IEDs when the Coalition forces use drones.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      “I didn’t say I agree with their methods or ideology.”

      To be fair, I didn’t say you were.

      “I merely stated that they are patriots fighting an occupying power.”

      Instead of fighting for their country, I think they are rather fighting for control of their country, for power and wealth, with their own awful interpretation of holy texts supporting these aims. You may disagree and certainly I don’t know any Taliban commanders, so I can’t really say with any authority.

      “As long as they are cast as inhuman scum, there will be no way of finding a peaceful resolution for Afghanistan.”

      I would argue that their behaviour towards their own people, especially women, fully qualify the Taliban as “inhuman scum”. That doesn’t mean we won’t do business with them. (Although I feel quite confident in predicting that we will abandon Afghanistan, much as the Russians did.)

      “And, besides, I honestly don’t see a huge difference between their using IEDs when the Coalition forces use drones.”

      Drones are at least in theory only used to attack enemy combatants whereas IEDs are not targeted, an attack on whoever walks or drives down the wrong lane. The (depressingly frequent) reports of weddings and parties being attacked by accident do mean you have a fair point. However, atrocities on the side of Western forces do not in any way excuse the Taleban.

      Phew. Now, I really need to do some work.

    • Jeremy says:

      People like to hide behind relative morality, but surely killing innocents and using fear to control a population base can’t be considered right by anyone who is rational. Right?

    • Nick says:

      Pretty sure the general populance of the country aren’t too fond of the Taliban either.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Nick: the “general population”* of Afghanistan is more than capable of making its feelings towards its “rulers” perfectly well known. As we’re all finding out, all over again.

      *of course, the general population is a bit more complicated than that – do you mean the nascent middle-class in Kabul, or the Pashtun warloads, or the tajik minority etc…

  12. Zwack says:

    Am I reading this right and this Ian Bogost chap expected the new EA shooter to be an extended meditation on the Afghan war, an incisive disection of beligerent American foreign policy? And he believed that’s what it would be if they’d kept the name ‘Taliban’ in there? And that he thinks computer games stand alone in that the most challenging material comes from independents?

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      No he is asserting that the manner in which EA portrays itself in its’ fight with California’s rating system would cause them to be making games that do dig deeper than having controversies that can be removed with a name change. He didn’t think it would be the case but he does think it should be the case.

    • Kid A says:

      I’m pretty sure his point is that if changing “Taliban” to “OPFOR” in a few menus is all it’s taken, then it could never have been the gritty, realistic portrayal of the Afghanistan military operation that EA has touted the game as – it’s just another generic “shoot the man who is unhappy you invaded his country, therefore he is a terrorist” game.
      DON’T THESE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND WE LIBERATED THEM?! etc.

    • Cramen says:

      To answer your question: no, you’re not reading it right.

      To be less snarky, what he’s saying is that the fact that the name of the opponent could be anything meant that the game never had any intention of doing anything with that name but drum up controversy. This is completely backed up by the quotes issued by EA when they announced the name change. Despite never wanting to make any sort of comment about anything the game had tried to invoke ‘freedom of speech’ as a defense for setting the single and multiplayer inside a very current conflict.

      What Bogost is angry about in the article then, is the fact that such an important topic is used, with full knowledge of its inherent controversy, for no better reason than PR.

      Maybe that’s not shocking, but perhaps it should be. And if the medium want’s its rights respected maybe it shouldn’t abuse them so openly.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      My interpretation was that’s what it would need to do for EA to really deserve the protection of the 1st Amendment. Because they produce nothing that justifies it, as the amendment is intended:

      “Despite its importance to American life, many citizens misunderstand the First Amendment. It is not meant as an anything-goes license to say whatever you want in any context without consequence. Rather, it is meant primarily to protect citizens from government reprisals if the former wish to mount criticisms or advance unpopular ideas against the latter.”

      They also look like hypocrites because they have helped to create the situation wherein freedom of speech is restricted in the mainstream, because if there were an “extended meditation on the Afghan war, an incisive disection of beligerent American foreign policy” then EA would most likely refuse to publish it.

    • Zwack says:

      What Bogost is angry about in the article then, is the fact that such an important topic is used, with full knowledge of its inherent controversy, for no better reason than PR.

      Maybe that’s not shocking, but perhaps it should be. And if the medium want’s its rights respected maybe it shouldn’t abuse them so openly.

      What surprises me is:

      a) Anyone expects anything else. Controversy’s been a valid marketing tool since before Malcom McLaren. It’s not strictly ethical but it’s hardly rare and this certainly isn’t the most egregious example.

      b) Anyone thinks changing the name of the opposition nullifies any validity of the “message” (if there is one). Lots of Soviet-era sci fi was about the dangers of totalitarianism, the Outlaw Josey Wales is largely about Vietnam. Altering the labels to avoid offending public/official sensitivities is a well established way to sneak your message to your audience. Whether in this case there is a message is a moot point.

  13. Daniel Rivas says:

    This article was linked in the Sunday Papers, and talks pretty extensively about Medal of Honour. I found this stuff interesting:

    ““They’re selling authenticity and realism,” said Coop, a thick man with a Boston accent; he looks not unlike one of the muscled space marines in Gears of War, a popular sci-fi video game. “We wanted to help bring that to the table,” he said. “But we also wanted to make sure it didn’t go too far.”

    […]

    In Medal of Honor, when a helicopter is hit over the mountain of Takur Ghar, the men on board leap out and take the fight to the enemy. Goodrich says the consultants helped to make the game “authentic and plausible” rather than “accurate and realistic.”

    […]

    “There’s nothing so close where it’s a re-enactment,” Coop said at brunch. “In my eyes, that would be wrong.””

    This to me says a Black Hawk Down approach (hopefully not as hideously racist as that film), rather than something especially realistic. This isn’t that interesting to me, although I suppose it makes it easier to fit into the “Modern Military Shooter” template. Has all mention of the Taleban been removed from the single player as well? If so, does that mean chunks of dialogue have been cut out?

  14. Ignorant Texan says:

    My speculation on all this horse-shit? All the ‘sensitivity’ bullshit is a smoke-screen. EA caved for commercial reasons, as the true arbiter of what is acceptable in mass-market video games, movies, music and magazines – Wal~Mart – told EA, that after further consideration, they needed to shit-can the Taliban if they wanted to sell at Wal~Mart/Sam’s Club. Ian Bogost is correct, this game is not artistic expression, it’s just another example of a company trying to make money. Perhaps the US military had some effect, but the Beast of Bentonville is the one who forced the issue.

  15. Giant, fussy whingebag says:

    From the Gamasutra article:
    “Free speech is not a marketing plan. Free speech is only any good if you take advantage of its invitation.”

    I have to disagree here. Free speech is only any good if you protect it when necessary. You don’t need to be making a point to deserve it. As soon as you start saying something is more worthy of being said than another, you’re eroding everyone’s rights.

    That said, the Taliban label added nothing to the game and EA themselves admitted it. I think the game would be more interesting (as in I might actually play it), if it had Taliban missions in the single player game. We can dream for big-budget games to explore controversial issues constructively. However publishers, much like movie producers, are more interested in the bottom line than politics.

  16. Premium User Badge

    El_MUERkO says:

    i downloaded the beta but couldn’t get on, a friend who did joined a server where he was spawn camped and killed instantly… then got disconnected :)

  17. Delusibeta says:

    On the topic of the beta, I downloaded it via Steam. Mistake. Still waiting for it to unlock (the store page says another two hours). Oh, well.

  18. Alistar says:

    Ahh Bogost. Just because you’re giving you’re opinion on a product doesn’t give you free reign to spout your uneducated and biased opinions on politics and economics. That man never ceases to bring an ironic sense of fulfillment to those rare days I decide to read his columns.

  19. hamster says:

    I really don’t understand what the big fuss is about…

    I like to think that maybe all the meaty parts of the experience are still in the game, with or without the name. Which, I suppose, is sort of the point, isn’t it? That when you’re out in the field shooting and dying and fighting for something with your life – whether that cause is fighting for the guy next to you, for eliminating terrorists, for fighting off foreign oppressors, or even for survival – that its kind of the same for both sides. If the game allegedly intends to portray that kind of moral duality then it doesn’t really matter whether the Taliban are called the Taliban.

    But it seems like Bogost wants EA to go further. I say its naive/foolish for anyone to expect the game to portray the life experiences of an authentic member of the Taliban. Think about what that would entail. Suicide bomb attacks against U.S. troops; suicide (or otherwise) attacks against foreign civilians. A perspective of American PMCs, corporations, political parties weakening/taking over/conquering the country and its culture and its freedom, collateral damage inflicted by American forces. And you’re supposed to sympathize with that. I say: no way EA or anybody in their right mind would do that, even though that’s clearly what Bogost seemed to expect. It would be completely contrary to everything that’s in the political and cultural mindset for the last half a decade or so.

    As for whether removing the name really meant anything to me: well firstly, its just a name and secondly, don’t expect any real narrative or philosophical depth in multiplayer mode anyway.

    • Kid A says:

      Go back a decade. Imagine Baldur’s Gate has been touted as the most utterly perfect depiction of the D&D world it draws from. Now imagine that, in the weeks before release, Mothers Against Magic get angry because they’re worried it’ll get kids desensitized to all that awful Satanic stuff. Now imagine a week before release, the devs turn all the spells and classes into things that sound vaguely D&D, but are not – the game plays the same as it ever would have, the names have just been fiddled. However, they have still been selling that game as the best ever D&D RPG on PC, despite it actually being a pale imitation. Now imagine the shitfest that would have led to.

    • hamster says:

      Assuming KID A was replying to my post:

      Like I said, the only way they’re going to depict both sides of the conflict without utterly shedding all common sensibilities is by way of what i described in the 2nd paragraph rather than the 3rd paragraph.

      In any case…your hypothetical D&D game would still be a pretty picture perfect D&D game, wouldn’t it? The names have changed but all the THAC0’s and dice rolls and spell effects are exactly the same. Don’t really see that as a huge problem.

  20. Snall says:

    Except for being kicked every 5 minutes I’ve loved the OB so far- guys die nice and realistically (Which is one of my main mantras for a FPS) and the art is awesome- guns feel heavy (lol) and accuracy is pretty good. <3ing the whole 15 minutes I've played (Had to clean and do laundry and being kicked because too many ppl on their servers or whatever sucked). Does this one have normal servers or just company servers?

  21. DerShcraa says:

    operation arrowhead
    project reality mod

  22. l1ddl3monkey says:

    I said in a past post (the one about EA Booth Babes threatening to sue over the “Grope a Booth Babe” photo competition that EA tried to run during the run up to Inferno) that EA deliberately generate bad publicity as a way of garnering more media attention and that these are not “bad calls” or mistakes on behalf of an overzealous marketing department, they do this shit on purpose for precisely this reason; everyone is now talking about their new game.

    • Snall says:

      You sir are smarter then your infected monkey AV would lead one to believe!! ..also the game is pretty ok…and I guess COD4 MW1 is getting a little dated for me..so win win!

  23. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    I was generally agreeing with the piece until page 3 where he’s like “I can’t make my speech heard because I can’t get published on consoles.” It’s likely true that if he wanted to publish a game that was an introspective criticism of American foreign policy it wouldn’t get published on the consoles. But then he goes on to dismiss “the web, there’s the PC, there’s the iPhone and so forth” as if they don’t matter.

    Well fuck him then.

  24. Merc says:

    What’s really amusing is that the reason that the special operation soldiers were allowed to grow beards was to blend in better with the locals, both visually and culturally. Somewhere there’s a picture I can’t find right now, that shows a Delta Force soldier with an afghani-looking beard wearing an afghani-style hat.

    But here, we have a soldier with a full beard, but wearing shades and a backwards baseball cap. About as American looking as you can get.

    http://www.jewishpolicycenter.org/94/the-british-leave-basra-and-iraq

    Immediately following the invasion, British officials were keen to contrast the more subtle British tactics with those of their clumsy American cousins. Donning full body armor and helmets was seen as needlessly antagonizing the local Iraqis. Wearing sunglasses so Iraqis could not see the soldier’s eyes was another problem. (Apart from the importance of establishing rapport through eye contact, the American practice of wearing dark lenses also led to the Iraqi street rumor that U.S. soldiers could see through the clothes of Iraqi women.)

    I think it’s pretty clear that the sunglasses, beard and hat are there to make your generic “good guys” war character look cool.

  25. Premium User Badge

    stahlwerk says:

    What is happening in that picture, anyway?

    murderous black giganto-pollen? good luck picking those out of your beard over the next three days.

  26. Premium User Badge

    UW says:

    I’m always puzzled by the obvious hypocrisy of society when it comes to “taboo” subjects. Just because a war is going on or recent, it is somehow offensive or disrespectful to make light of it in anyway, but over time it is eventually deemed perfectly acceptable to do just that.

    World War 2 was (I would say) almost inarguably more destructive than the War in Afghanistan will ever be, and yet is the hugely popular setting for some incredibly tasteless movies, TV shows and video games. People say time is a great healer but I don’t see how it can make things like institutional genocide and war any less horrific, yet nobody even bats an eyelid if you represent a Nazi soldier in a video game and I’m sure the same will apply in a situation like this a few years after the war on Afghanistan is over. It just doesn’t make sense.

    • suibhne says:

      I think it’s not a question of the destructiveness or even the broad social impact of a particular conflict, but rather the dehumanization of a particular enemy. One factor may be the propaganda machine, which always shadows the war machine (by which I don’t mean Don Cheadle); but the dehumanizing impact of that propaganda fades in time and other media take over with a more complex, nuanced perspective on events. For example, it would be totally non-controversial at this point (at least outside of Germany, what with its somewhat odd laws) to peddle some cultural product portraying the perspective of a common German soldier with some sympathy – but of course such would have raised considerable ire in the late ’40s, with everyone’s memory still fresh with the grotesque caricatures that enabled us to firebomb Dresden with an easy conscience.

      It may take much longer for us to ever get there with, say, the Taliban – reason being that there’s a fair bit of Orientalizing going on alongside the standard war propaganda.

      On the flip side, tho – having played the beta now, I have to say the lack of the name “Taliban” is simply ridiculous, because the OpFor/Insurgents fit the iconic look of the Taliban (at least as it exists in the Western press) to a T. I’m not sure I can identify why, but this seems much more powerful than playing OpFor in CoD4; those forces seemed overly generic to me, while these men are clearly, obviously, unavoidably the Taliban, not withstanding the sanitized non-name. So I might want to take a contrary view to Bogost’s, even while agreeing with him on all the points about the game’s PR, because I think there might actually be something significant going on here when millions of players end up seeing such a routinely Orientalized enemy as normalized alongside their own country’s troops. Sure, there’s no exploration of the Taliban perspective whatsoever, which means there can be no real denunciation of the Taliban’s odious (to many of us) belief system, but even presenting the Taliban as vessels for player agency is…well, it’s real. Not sure what it means or what effect it could have, but the non-name doesn’t change its existence.

  27. i am paul newman says:

    just played it a for a few hours, wanted to be disappointed, and found it great : \

  28. Gabbo says:

    This is all over the multiplayer correct?
    Is that he’s maybe forgetting that this is all over the deathmatch/capture the flag element of the game, which never has any real context or deeper meaning in it at all. It’s simply ‘kill the other team more’/’take their flag, bring it back here’. The single player could weave such political and social introspection into the narrative, though I am under no illusions that it. It would be beneficial for gaming as a whole if EA had the spine to give more context to its mutliplayer. The number of people that would bother to notice or care if such context existed in the multiplayer versus the number that would simply click past it would heavily favour the latter I imagine.

    It’s weird that TF2 with its satirical take on multiplayer/team based warfare does more to address the things Bogost is looking for, even if it lacks any real social context (its slight ties to the greater Half-life universe not withstanding).

  29. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    The word ‘taliban’ as such doesn’t really matter to me in this context. I do think it’s in rather bad taste to place a game in a current theatre of war, though.

  30. Cyrus says:

    To review:
    1. Marketing turns out to be just that.
    2. Big corporations turn out to be liars in the courtroom. Oh, and they like to make money too.
    3. Game journalist doesn’t understand what is important in FPS Multiplayer (HOW DOES SKAARJ CULTURE INFORM MY UNREAL TOURNAMENT, FASCIST).
    4. Someone bereft of irony says that as the Taliban are murdering bastards, so we should wipe them out.
    5. Multiple people blather about THOSE EVIL CORPORATIONS and WE’RE JUST AS BAD AS THEM.
    6. The Great Beard Debate begins anew, as it must on all MoH discussions.
    7. Nobody discusses the genuinely relevant aspects of the game, i.e. the First-Person Shooting.

    Truly we live in a golden age of videogames criticism.

    • poop says:

      no one talks about the actual gameplay because the game is a generic COD clone with absolutely nothing interesting about it duder.

    • poop says:

      also it isnt as if the articles posted are reviews, they are commentary about subjects to which the gameplay is irrelevant

  31. suibhne says:

    Played for an hour or two tonight with clanmates (well, except for those who crash every few minutes; judging by the Steam forums, the game’s unplayable for some folks right now). Doesn’t feel that different from the beta to me. The old keybinding bug was fixed, but there are new keybinding bugs to take its place – so pretty much a wash on that, innit. The Rush-type map we played seems to be fairly imbalanced, and it’s so linear that a few of us even said it might as well be a corridor shooter. Both maps are next-gen-purty, but invisible walls rankle.

    Weapons seem easier to earn than in the earlier beta, and they have a satisfying punch. There are still odd hitreg issues with some guns, however. Nades, C4, and IEDs all seem to be thrown about as far as an iron safe, and the blast radius on nades seems pretty small. (Otoh, you can cook them, so that’s cool.)

    Generally, the game still just feels a bit dull to me. My yardstick right now is whether I’d rather be playing BC2 – and despite all of that game’s (many, many) faults, I still prefer it to MoH.

    Not impressed enough right now to re-order the game, after I canceled my original pre-order due to the underwhelmingness of the previous beta.

    • suibhne says:

      Also, what the heck is with some previews saying that the game now features a lot more environmental destruction? I didn’t notice anything like that – nothing seems changed from the beta in that regard. There’s no walling and no destruction of level geometry, and I don’t think walls even got bullet decals when I shot them. It’s exceedingly minimal if it’s there, in other words.

  32. The Juice says:

    The SF guys have beards like that because of the culture in Afghanistan. It’s something to the effect of they don’t see you as a man and deserving of respect unless you have a full beard. That’s probably not 100% correct, but that’s the basic gist of it from what I’ve heard.

  33. Boris says:

    Politics and beards (This ain’t Dorf Fortress!) aside, this is just another CoD game.

    You spawn, walk ten meters and get shot in the back by an enemy that just spawned in the room with one entrance you just cleared.

    Or:

    You spawn, walk ten meters up a hill and get shot in the back by the “sniper” STILL hiding a meter to your right behind that rock. None of your teammates seems to be bothered by his presence.

    Or:

    You spawn, begin to walk ten meters up a hill and BOOM! Random grenade fell into your pants.

    Not to mention the ridiculous “RPG” aspects. These games are no longer about skill. A brand new player has NO chance taking on someone who has “leveled” a few times. The “Veteran” can take more hits, deal more damage and has better weapons. Proper bullshit.

    I miss the days when shooters where fun.

  34. RoTapper says:

    What Boris said sums it up pretty well. Its not a bad shooter, but it actually feels like step back from bc2. Very constrained gameplay and a lack of destructible terrain. Rush to one chokepoint, shoot a bit, rush to the next.

    You get the option of running down corridor A or corridor B, each of which ends in a 5 foot “doorway” everyone must squeeze though.

    The only feature that really jumps out at you is the excessive bloom/hdr when you first start playing.

    • Premium User Badge

      wengart says:

      After playing the OB I have a hard time calling it worse than BC2. I wouldn’t say its better and if I had the opportunity to trade in BC2 for MOH I wouldn’t, but it feels like a much more directed BC2. I especially enjoy how the Linear Combat Mission map evolves in a way that feels organic. There isn’t a point at which you’re suddenly losing or rushing to defend the objective, but instead the sensation that things are going badly creeps up on you as you and your fellow defenders are slowly pushed back hill by hill, rock by rock.

      “Not to mention the ridiculous “RPG” aspects. These games are no longer about skill. A brand new player has NO chance taking on someone who has “leveled” a few times. The “Veteran” can take more hits, deal more damage and has better weapons. Proper bullshit.” -Boris

      Actually, I thought that MOH was commendable for its lack of RPG determination. None of the “perks” are must have and I’ve yet to encounter anything that increases player health or damage that cannot be found on the map.

      Also they fixed noob-tubes! and the removal of prone is brilliant!

  35. Kadayi says:

    I got the impression they are just taking the name out of the multi-player tbh (so you can’t play as the Taliban). As regards the single player I think it’s staying untouched. So any storyline messages regarding the present conflict are therefore still applicable (I’ve yet to encounter the arena mode MP game that has a ‘message’) . Gamasutra article is wrong end of the stick fail.

  36. wazups2x says:

    MoH is a cheap mod for BC2. MoH feels like a mix of BC2 and MW but it is no where as good as either.

  37. Matt says:

    I played the OB for about an hour so far. I can’t believe no one has mentioned this yet:

    Why do the graphics look so washed out/desaturated? Did BFBC2 look this bad?

  38. Grape Flavor says:

    I fully condemn this decision. “opfor” just dehumanizes the Taliban. Who we should be dehumanizing are the baby-killer, jingoist american soldiers. Taliban are just standing up to the military-industrial, colonialist oppression of their home country. They are no different than any other heroes, every country has the right to resist neo-imperialism and genocide. The capitalist scum mega-corporation lackeys just want to dominate Afghanistan and steal all their precious sand to fuel their Nazi war machine. Taliban say NO, this sand belongs to the Afghans and their goats. They are right. Yankee idiot bastards have no right to force their will on the 3rd world and neither do the collaborating quisling buffoons in Karzai regime. When a game allows you to kill these woman-raping yankee scum, that is when you can say your game is art. Not all this “rah-rah lets kill the towelhead” American fascist lies. AFGHAN SAND BELONGS TO THE AFGHANS AND EAs LIES WILL NOT CHANGE THAT. SAY NO TO NEO-CORPORATE SAND THEFT.

    • Cherokee Jack says:

      Before “NEO-CORPORATE SAND THEFT” I thought you were a semi-believable troll.