You already know that Medal of Honor’s campaign involves dashing to cover, clearing AK-wielding bad guys out of dusty rooms, and operating airborne cannons. It doesn’t reinvent single-player war shooters, and nor should it. Medal of Honor is Medal of Honor, so it’s EALA's craftsmanship of this campaign that matters. Standard shooter conventions don’t inescapably prevent a game from being fresh and original - it’s all in the details.
I powered through three of MoH’s single-player missions, with three of the game’s four playable characters. My first host body was a machinegunning Army Ranger named Dante Adams. The mission, Belly of the Beast, was an arduous uphill battle (largely against all odds) into enemy defenses. It began with a throwback to the D-Day landings as we shuffled out of a transport helicopter and into enemy-infested territory.
The details "it's all about" are pacing and authenticity. From what I've seen thusfar, Medal of Honor nails them. It’s not a dash up the mountain, it’s a tense trek through clouds of choking dust, which the developers recreated on advice from combat-tested consultants. It wasn't all "go, go, go," but it wasn't slow either - it was calculated.
I don't mean that to say that MoH is an absolutely authentic recreation of war, which would probably be boring and depressing. It's still an action game with big set pieces and unrealistic scenarios, but it does a great job suspending disbelief anyway. The excellent dialog, for example, convinced me to follow firing orders and mimic my squad’s cautious ascent without being forced by the game (except for occasionally having my gun auto-lowered, or weapons disabled in the next mission, but I barely noticed it happening).
Okay, a few times I got carried away – the slide maneuver is addictive, as was my secondary shotgun’s ability to vaporize heads. But mostly I did what I was told, like keeping steady machinegun fire on a stationary gun while our guys pushed forward. It feels good to help.
After a bout of close-quarters house clearing in a small town, we took cover in a building to set up the mission’s big “hold off the onslaught” finale. Ant-like streams of combatants trickled down the surrounding hills, trucks barreled toward us (one of them made it too far and busted through the forward wall of our cover like the Kool-Aid Man), and RPGs bombarded our shelter. Every second felt like a minute, because I was aware there was no way I could drop every approaching soldier – it’s a frustrating feeling for completionists. But I held them off long enough to trip the conclusion – a pair of very-welcome Apache helicopters. As little as I like timed survival in games, watching the Apache’s eviscerate the ant hill was satisfying as hell.
Then I seamlessly switched bodies and became Apache gunner Brad “Hawk” Hawkins, just in time to overhear the pilot describing how close the guys on the ground were to their graves. The radio chatter, by the way, was written by actual Apache pilots.
I took control of the chopper’s cannon, Hydro rockets, and Hellfire missiles. The cannon and rockets were a point-and-shoot affair, but the Hellfires could only be fired at targets marked by a spotter. At times my view switched away from the directly surrounding area to TADS (Tactical Acquisition and Designation System), which displayed non-player-controlled views of distant enemies. Once a target was marked in TADS, my job was simply to trigger a Hellfire and watch as mile-away encampments turned to dust - not much to it, but a fun touch.
The mission was not an unusual chopper gunner mission - I cleared rooftops, blew up cars and mortars, and took out AA guns. The only time I died during our demo was during a particularly hairy ambush which requires the player to quickly identify and rocket up a series of anti-air defenses. I'm just thankful the moment occurred just after a checkpoint, because it took be several tries.