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Medal of Honor: the first 15 minutes (plus analysis)

Go watch the first fifteen minutes of Medal of Honor here.

Between this video provided by EA to numerous press outlets, press reviews, and the various “MoH Experience” trailers available pre-release, gamers have a very good idea of what to expect if they decide to play Medal of Honor. We can argue about whether this is almost too much exposure, but EA recognizes that FPS fans are looking at their game with a considerable amount of skepticism.

One, this is another WWII franchise that is modernizing itself. In so doing, is it anything more than a Modern Warfare clone? Two, it’s sandwiched between two very popular games, Halo: Reach having already been released and Call of Duty: Black Ops coming in just a few weeks. This is a game that has to stand out for people to get really excited, especially since both Reach and Black Ops are arguably more innovative (Reach with its Forge revamp in particular, and Black Ops with its 3D capability, and credit system/wager mode/contract additions onto the classic Modern Wafare-style multiplayer).

So, you watched the video. Here are a some things to take away from it:

  • The headshot indicator. I love the medals and campaign scoring in the Halo games from Halo 3 onwards, but it feels out of place in a game like this. I’ve read a lot of press reviews, so forgive me for forgetting who wrote this, but the indicator stays on-screen for far too long.
  • The dialogue sounds accurate and full of jargon, as a modern military FPS should be. That, together with the interesting opening sequence gives Medal of Honor a different vibe from its predecessors. It will be interesting, though, to see Treyarch’s take on special ops (granted, of a different era) in Black Ops.
  • Perhaps the worst melee animations I’ve seen this generation. Seriously, how fake does that look–and EA doesn’t help its cause by providing footage involving a number of gratuitous knife slashes. It just highlights how bad it looks. Especially since I’ve been playing a lot of Halo: Reach–a game whose assassination animations are nothing short of fantastic. I want an allegedly “badass” Tier 1 operator to do dramatic knife kills.

Have your own comments on the video? Actually playing the game and want to add something? That’s what the comments are for!

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Marketing campaign over: Taliban out of Medal of Honor

New contributor Brice followed by an S. commented on the same phenomenon in GT5 yesterday, but today the whole advertising features destined never to be in the game solely for publicity phenomenon got a new confirmed member when EA removed the Taliban from the upcoming Medal of Honor.

Raise your hand if you’re surprised. No, we don’t have any chips. Stop raising your hand, please, WE DON’T HAVE ANY.

Let’s flash back to the history of this development decision. In March, no one gave half a shit about the Medal of Honor reboot except really hardcore BF:BC2 players. Who are the core audience of any DICE shooter. This is a good audience, but not quite Call of Duty size. EA thought, “How do we get more people to play our game?”

“Let’s put the Taliban in!” someone said. Everyone looked at him funny, like he had sprouted wings that were desperately trying to detach his head from his body. “No, not permanently. We put them in the public beta. People play as the Taliban. Crisis reaches fever pitch, we get on Fox News, all the conservative gun nuts see it, think, ‘We buy this game to shoots us some terr’ists’, and get Battlefield to play the beta. Before release, we cut them from the actual game, so no one actually boycotts the game.” Everyone realizes this man is a genius and gives him a medal. Perhaps of honor. I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

So bravo, EA. You set gaming as an art form back about a year and got people to care about your shitty, derivative military shooter (derivative in that it is BF:BC2 but “realistic”). Good job. I’ve got a suggestion for your next step, too: rename the game after a barely related piece of literature. Seriously. Look how many people cared about Dante’s Inferno who wouldn’t have cared about Walkabout in Hell!

Politicians enter Medal of Honor fray

Liam Fox, the UK Secretary of Defense, is encouraging retailers not to stock the new Medal of Honor title, a game in which you can kill UK Soldiers while playing as a member of the Taliban.

I’ve gotta say I’m surprised it has taken this long for some politician somewhere to start a bandwagon. After all the gaming industry has seen through the years – especially in the US – as far as politicians or Bullying mobs of angry parents drinking too much Hot Coffee go , there is finally a game that warrants an outcry from public officials. If you read Fox’s comments, you will probably come to the conclusion that his outrage does not stem from the fact that British soldiers can be killed, but rather the sensitive nature of this game taking place in modern times.

Not that modern military tactics haven’t been incorporated into games before. Battlefield and Call of Duty are both at the top of the list for recreating  modern, urban warfare scenarios based on real life armies, places, people, and enemies. It stands to reason that the sole reason this Medal of Honor game is being singled out, is not because of the recreation of modern urban warfare, but that the game takes place in Afghanistan. I only wish a politician like Fox might cite recent Wikileaks leak as a reason to condemn the game. Within the Wikileaks documents, we have learned that squads like this special ops squad portrayed in Medal of  Honor can be a walking death squad. It might have sounded cool before all the disturbing cover ups were exposed and when it was all hush hush…but now that it is out in the open, EA’s “creative risk” is not a “creative” risk at all, and is instead a risk perpetrating blatant human rights violations, as well as the debauchery in Afghanistan.

I highly doubt this game will aim to teach players ins and outs of the cover ups, the war crimes, or any illegal war activities. Politicians like Fox though, are in a bind. No politician in the UK or US government would dare make any link whatsoever between Medal of Honor and the information ousted in Wikileaks. To do so would be to give validity to the documents and publicly admit the wrongdoings within are true. This might seem like a crazy thing to say or even well above “obvious,” but both governments have lambasted Wikileaks for the document release as wrongful, leaking sensitive information, or putting the lives of coalition forces at risk.

The way I see it, EA is throwing in the towel as far as the Medal of Honor franchise goes. It has reached the end of the line. The name was built on the back of World War II stories and now that everyone has gotten bored shooting Nazis, well, they’ve moved on. EA could have done the honorable thing and let the franchise fade gracefully into the sunset. Instead it seems to me EA is grasping on threads trying to make an irrelevant franchise relevant by doing none other than jumping the shark.

Medal of Honor is a “Creative Risk” From Which EA Will Not Back Down Despite Media Criticism

Frank Gibeau, president of EA Games, told Develop that what they are doing with Medal of Honor is tied to creative vision. “We respect the media’s views,” he said, “but at the same time [these reports] don’t compromise our creative vision and what we want to do.”

More than creative vision–art!

“At EA we passionately believe games are an artform, and I don’t know why films and books set in Afghanistan don’t get flack, yet [games] do. Whether it’s Red Badge Of Courage or The Hurt Locker, the media of its time can be a platform for the people who wish to tell their stories. Games are becoming that platform.”

Hmm. I was under the impression that art provoked critical thought of some sort? How can you claim to produce art when you can also say that you don’t intend to push too hard? Now, I know what you’re thinking. Patricia, that’s a quote from DICE, and they’re just handling the multiplayer aspect. So what? They are still speaking on behalf of the game, but more importantly, we already know that games with multiplayer components do not have to suffer a complete dichotomy from the single-player. Brink has taught us that multiplayer can be completely purposeful and integrated into the main game: hell, there’s no dichotomy between the two modes, there. Am I to believe that EA wanted to give such justice to the subject that they’re fine with providing us a mindless game mode, which only exists to satiate new consumer demands for online multiplayer? There’s really no excuse for it.

So, then, is it any surprise that they’re proud of what they’re doing? “The development teams care very much about what they’re building, and of course a bit of criticism from the media causes some to get demoralised, but at the end of the day we’re proud of what we’re doing. Brining Medal of Honor back was no small feat.”

And why brave all the criticism for this game? Because they want you to see “what it was like to be in a soldier’s position.” Because that experience is completely transferable in an entertainment medium, right?

Medal of Honor Becomes a Missed Opportunity

I have nothing but harsh words for the people over at DICE today. But, before I start firing my guns, I should give you guys some context:

“I think it is a fair point.” said producer Patrick Liu on the latest issue of PSM3 magazine, on whether or not playing as Taliban soldiers may be pushing it too far, “We do stir up some feelings, although it’s not about the war, it’s about the soldiers…We can’t get away from what the setting is and who the factions are, but in the end, it’s a game, so we’re not pushing or provoking too hard.”

I can’t even count the number of things wrong with those statements. Let’s tackle them one at a time, shall we?

Controversy around this subject is to be expected, especially considering that Medal of Honor will depict present-day conflict. The subject isn’t something most of us have only read in history books, this is something that’s happening right now. And we get to use the actual guns on actual enemies while simulating war tactics in our pursuits for killstreaks. Given these facts, it’s not surprising that some people may have issues with what the game depicts. It’s a sensitive issue.

Still, I maintained hope that the direction the game is taking is some sort of artistic choice–it had to be. Why pick the current war? Why pick the current “enemy?” There has to be some intent, some message, a qualifier of some sort, right?

Hmm. Red flag # 1: it’s not about the war. It’s about the soldiers.

And, it’s a fair enough point. Except, if it’s not really about the war, why bother going through so much trouble to make the game as realistic as possible in the “right” way? It doesn’t make any sense to put so much effort into showing current armed conflict if that’s not the point. Why bother consulting all those special forces? To me, saying that it’s not about the war serves as a deflection.

DICE could have avoided this entire debacle if they just abstracted the themes they want to relay in a different setting or context–after all, it’s about the soldiers. Not about the war. So it doesn’t make sense for them to say they couldn’t “get away” from the setting and the factions. Yes, they could have. In fact, it’s becoming obvious that perhaps they should have, considering that they just got done saying that the war itself isn’t the point. Why bother depicting that, specifically, then?

Unless, you know, the setting wasn’t chosen for some artistic reason, or chosen to relay some sort of message. What if the setting was chosen knowing that it would garner controversy and sell more copies?

Read the rest of this entry

Medal of Honor Limited Edition Comes with Battlefield 3 Beta

Praise the lord, the fabled Battlefield 3 exists! IGN is reporting that the Limited Edition of the Medal of Honor will come bundled with the Battlefield 3 beta–in addition to the extra game (for the PS3), weapons, and camo which we already know the LE will include. Not much else is known about Battlefield 3 at the moment–but it exists!

Update: EA has an official page for the Battlefield 3 beta, here. “Beta offer is contingent on Beta availability within 12 months of Medal of Honor release. Beta will be available for a limited time only and offer expires upon close of Beta events. Participation in Beta requires acceptance of Beta Agreement. Must be 18+. Xbox GOLD membership required for Xbox users. Check this site for further details when available.”

Medal of Honor Beta Ending July 31st For PS3 & PC, August 9th for 360

And the Medal of Honor blog thanks fans for their efforts in helping DICE produce a better game. Here are some of the fixes we can expect to see in-game once it releases:

•    Improved hit detection
•    Breath control for all classes
•    Crash fixes
•    Improved control input mapping
•    In-game HUD polished
•    All weapon stats are now updated in the spawn menu
•    Spawn points tweaked

The full game drops October 12th.

Battlefield 1943 Players Get Medal of Honor Beta on PSN

Good news for those of you that own BF1943, who want to get in on the Medal of Honor action: DICE has just announced that anyone who owns 1943, will be able to get into the Medal of Honor beta through PSN. “We at DICE appreciate your loyalty and are happy to let you know we were able to unlock the Medal of Honor beta directly on PSN for you for a limited time!  All you have to do is access the “New Releases” section of PlayStation Network and start downloading your way into Tier 1 warfare.”

This probably only works if you own BF1943 on PSN, too, though–not XBL. No word on what ‘limited time’ means, and so, if I were you, I’d get crackin’ on that download.

New Tier 1 Interview for Medal of Honor, Hammer & Scalpel

“Within the U.S. Special Operations community is an elite group of handpicked warriors who are tasked with only the most dangerous and difficult missions. A small group of these men acted as consultants on the development of Medal of Honor, infusing the game with their experiences and contributing ideas that make it the most authentic and relevant combat experience to date. In the Tier 1 Interview Series you’ll hear their personal stories and find out what it takes to operate at the highest levels of the U.S Military.”

Quotes of interest:

“I don’t want to read about somebody else, I wanna make history”

“No telling what he had to do to get to that point, to break through that door”

“He’s risking his life, to save someone else’s life”

“I wish the public could have an understanding, of what they do, not just operationally, what they sacrifice for years and years”

Medal of Honor Beta Drops for the 360 Right Now

That’s right, if you’re a 360 owner then your wait is finally over. At this very moment, I am downloading the Medal of Honor beta, a 510.56mb download. Should you want to join me, you’ll have to go over here to insert your beta key, and that should produce a code. That code, you’ll want to insert in the game marketplace’s “Redeem Code” section. I had to try a couple of times over at the redemption portal, since I imagine it is getting flooded right now, so don’t be surprised if something wacky happens while you’re visiting. Just stay cool, and try again.

See you on the battlefield!