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Electronic Arts held a hush-hush preview event during the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle last Friday night to give a selected number of community members an early taste of some of the multiplayer goodness.  Sorry, single player content is still embargoed.

I personally enjoyed the first Medal of Honor single-player campaign. Having been in the military in a line company, the campaign had a distinct feeling of a development team that really worked with Tier 1 operators like Delta and SEALs to hammer out a believable scenario.   However, the Medal of Honor multiplayer was kind of a mess despite being put together by DICE.  Bad respawns, no ability to go prone or lean around cover, no killcams, and a general hasty cut/pasting of many of the tropes used in Modern Warfare, the whole thing felt like a rush job onto what could have been a more polished single player experience.  It certainly didn’t feel like DICE was involved with it.  It was with a decent amount of hesitation that I went forward to play the next iteration of the Danger Close’s series of multiplayer shooter with Medal of Honor: Warfighter.

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While there are two other types of multiplayer modes called Sector Control (capture and hold objectives) and Hot Spot (one team attacking shifting objective points), this go around, Medal of Honor: Warfighter is going after e-Sports.  Warfighter takes a new stab at class based multiplayer shooters with a mode that seems like it was hand crafted specifically to turn the Medal of Honor series into a game that could be seen at a Major League Gaming event, including the not-so-subtle hint that there would be a spectator mode for shoutcasters.  Nicknamed “Home Run” mode, the game is distinctly reminiscent of Valve’s Counter Strike.  Home Run is 10 rounds of three minute intervals, with a capture-the-flag objective, and, just like Counter Strike, Home Run mode allows no respawn.  Capturing a flag is worth two points, while killing the whole of the enemy team gets your team one point, incentivizing both teams to try to capture the other team’s flag, as opposed to just hunting down and whacking the other team.  However, your opponents have two map locations, just like Counter Strike’s multiple “bomb point” areas, forcing both 6-man teams to have to get creative to cover both points as well as send a fireteam out to go after the enemy flag.  The decimated Sarajevo Olympic village map we played our Home Run matches on was cramped, but definitely in a good way; such tight quarters made for a very fast paced tooth-and-claw fight.

The other major addition to Medal of Honor: Warfighter multiplayer is called the “Fireteam” concept, and what a great idea that is.  A refinement of the Battlefield: Bad Company four person non-mandatory fireteams, where you could spawn on your team if you had one man standing, The original Medal of Honor  seemed to value lone wolf tactics, where  Medal of Honor: Warfighter the new Fireteam concept rewards you for being a part of a two-man team.  Not only can you respawn behind your partner in regular multiplayer modes and receive bonus experience for working as a team, you can see your partner outlined in green through anywhere on the map and no matter the terrain or distance.  As the benefit outweighs running off and doing your own thing by working with a partner, if you’re out by yourself, you’re more likely to get mowed down by enemy fireteams who are deciding to work together, which gives you that much more reason to stick close to your teammate.  Even though you are unable to respawn in Home Run mode on your fire team buddy, you still are able to maintain situational awareness  if one member is watching one flag while the other one maintains eyes on the other one; pretty damn clever.

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The six “classes” are based on real-world Special Operations teams from around the globe, from the Canadian JTF to the Korean SEAL (yes, Korea has SEALs too).  Unfortunately from my short time playing the game, I didn’t see a lot of customization between the classes and the operators.  If you only knew what a Delta Force operator was from Medal of Honor: Warfighter, you would think they were all stomping around the battlefield in bombproof armor carrying shotguns.  I would have enjoyed being able to set up a loadout based on preferences, such has handing that US Navy Seal something other than a long rifle.

Medal of Honor’s version of the “killstreak”, known as the support action from the original Medal of Honor, is back, but revamped based on experience gained over time as opposed to the number of kills/experience gained per life.  In other words, you can still rack up your support action and not have to go 10-0 to do so; support action progress does not reset following death, meaning that sub-par players still have the ability to rock the opposing team with a chopper door gunner every few deaths.

Overall?  A breath of fresh air coming off of Call of Duty, and definitely a better feel than the original’s multiplayer.  It’s obvious they listened to the screaming fans as well as giving DICE enough time to really get in there and roll up their sleeves.   Medal of Honor: Warfighter seems like it will make for a great game to add to my “I feel like shooting someone” multiplayer rotation in place of Battlefield 3 when I’m looking for a break from the usual shooters. 

And in case you missed it, here is my interview with EA and Danger Close’s Global Brand Manager for Medal of Honor Warfighter, Kevin O’Leary: