By Craig Pearson on October 11th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.
News arrived over the RPS battle computer that EA wanted to show us their latest Medal Of Honour game, so we sent in elite fightering journalist Craig Pearson. Having donned his ghillie suit to play the game and held down ‘E’ to hack into the EA war satellite, he sent us this report.
Warfighter’s multiplayer has one big idea that’s sort of genius: every time you join a server you’re partnered up with another player in a fire team. It could be a friend, but if you’re just looking for a quick blast on a public server you’ll find a buddy within your team. You’ll know everything about this player: their shoe size and hygiene habits, as well as their position, health, and ammo. You have no choice in the matter, but that’s okay because there are positives in having that decision taken from you. Your partner can refill your ammo and health, and you can respawn on his (or her) position. Score!
These features aren’t new, but having to do it is. As silly as it sounds, just knowing all this information created a bond between me and the other player. We stuck together like a new DVD in a grippy DVD case. I started to care about that one person, even though I’ve no idea who I was playing with. He was just a dude, but as an ever-present glow on my HUD he gave me a secondary purpose over the level’s objectives, creating an odd little co-op game within a larger multiplayer structure. None of the rest is particularly innovative: the game modes are variants of control point capture and CTF, and you have guns and unlocks. But it is all solid, with neat level design and fun movement in compact levels.
The first game mode I was dropped into was Sector Control in a Somali map. It’s basically control point. Flags are set at the extremities of a closed-off Somali village, and the two teams fight over their control. The game begins and the pair of us fall into an easy rhythm. There’s no communication at all, but we work well together. I took the rear, and we snuck through the broken buildings to head to a flag, listening to an announcer updating us on the level’s balance of power.
We gathered around a flag in a courtyard behind a house. My buddy kept to the ground level while I hopped into the overlooking building. I swung around occasionally to check his positioning, using his glow to keep tracks, and I could see his health in a widget on the screen at all times so I’d know when trouble came. Except it came to me first, with a sparse blast of gun fire picking some health off me and forcing me to cower under a window. When I turned to check if my attackers had pushed past the window, I found my partner right behind me, healing me. I didn’t ask. The system works. We even died together.
It’s not just us. All around people were moving in twosomes: I respawned and tracked after an enemy I spotted. Movement is fun, with some Blink-ish walljumps that made it easy to keep up with him when not following directly behind. I pop a lucky headshot and he falls. Because he was always just out of reach, I didn’t realise he was with another player. A grenade bounces around the corner and takes me out. Brilliantly, my partner takes revenge. I hadn’t paid attention, because I wanted to see if he would follow. It’s either a lesson in human behaviour, or a lesson in gamers following glowy things.
It’s very focused on the blood and guts, but there are unlocks. The other nationalities are technically different classes, and their unlocks bring new weapons and special abilities. Each player has a main rifle, a secondary pistol, and a special power. I unlocked Canadian Special Forces and fell in love. Sorry Britain, but if the Canucks really do have a Signal Scan that allows them to see through walls (for a brief second, but still enormously handy) then pour me some maple syrup and buy me a bear saddle. The other unlocks, like a grenade launcher or a sniper’s steady ability, didn’t fit into my playstyle. Signal Scan pings the enemy positions, and for a brief moment you can see them on your screen, frozen like an afterglow. It fits the slow-paced, sneaky way I like to play games, and gave me a hellish edge when approaching objectives.
It really helped in the Hot Spot game mode: here there are three set objectives, in the Shogore Valley map’s case it’s a sequential series of bombs to plant then protect from being disarmed. It’s crumbling village, with plenty of space to flank. Being a naturally sneaky player I took the wider alleys to the first objective. I was in sync with my buddy: he understood what I was doing and supported it, pulling two enemies away from a car that I was sneaking up to. I pinged my Signal Scan and hopped over to the car to plant the bomb, while he doubled back and helped me defend it. He didn’t shake his pursuers, though, and they bombed us and unbombed the bomb. A buddy mix of one person with Signal Scan and another with the grenade launcher looks like a devastating combo, and we suffered. Even thought he led them to me, I forgave him. That’s what friends are for.
But I still managed to pull off two bomb plants in a short space of time. Using the Signal Scan, I noticed a dip in the enemy forces and sprinted to the first car. It was almost too easy, but it’s pleasing the way the unlock can be used to pick the correct moment. There was no resistance. The second was a sprint using the surprisingly slick movement tricks to dash through a broken building and out of a window, sliding under a stationary truck and planting the bomb on the other side. It was exactly like that moment in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, but with DEVGRU operators.
By now we were pushed right up to the enemy spawn area, and fighting for control over a wide, circular area with a sunken centre to plant the final bomb in. I died often, attempting the same sort of slippery free-running assaults that worked so well on the first two sections. My buddy held back a little, sniping into the spawn area and keeping himself alive to spawn on. We still failed, because I enjoyed the movement. I could have held back, but the layout was fun to run through. The levels really support the runny gunny types, but have plenty of cover for the more careful operatives.
The final game mode shown was Homerun. It’s a speedy CTF mode set in small levels. It has the same effect that Gun Game has in Counter-Strike, and acts like a palate cleanser to the more complex modes. It’s fairly inconsequential, something to play for a moment to get a rush of blood, but I reckon it could be used as a fun way to farm unlocks.
But that’s not the point of Warfighter. I was never really pushing for the shiny baubles that multiplayer games often dangle. Sure, there’s screen spam telling you what you’ve gained in XP, but I barely noticed it. I was too concerned with my other half’s condition. The point of the game is to focus on creating a dynamic little partnership. Not a team, not a squad, but a pair. And it really seems to work.
Then there’s this: