The links throughout this article are walk-throughs of various Medal of Honor games.
Years before Battlefield and Call of Duty, there was another title that stood alone and ruled the military first person shooters – Medal of Honor. The fame of the game is legendary being among the first video game titles to portray the assault on Omaha Beach and parachute drops into Normandy. Like Battlefield and Call of Duty, the Medal of Honor series was originally set during World War II. After the release of it’s award winning title Medal of Honor Allied Assault, the franchise fell significantly over the years until it fell completely off the radar by 2007. By this time both Call of Duty and Battlefield were seeing tremendous amount of success from modernizing their games and breaking away from World War II. In 2010 we saw the resurrection of Medal of Honor in the more modern setting of Afghanistan in 2002 and in November of this year, Medal of Honor plans to release it’s fourteenth title Medal of Honor Warfighter. It’s hard not to notice that the game that defined World War II First Person Shooters is chasing a market from behind when it could be leading a market from the front.
Playing Medal of Honor back in 1999 on the Playstation 2, one found a game fresh, exciting and even realistic for the time. Directed by Steven Spielberg with a music score by Michael Giacchino, Medal of Honor and again Medal of Honor Underground gave any WWII enthusiast the goosebumps. Morgan Sheppard narrates your through combat operations after combat operations, with military style slideshow presentations and the combination of it all simply put you right in the middle of the early Fourties. When Medal of Honor Allied Assault was released, it was huge and anyone who loved Saving Private Ryan could see all the similarities that Spielberg brought to both the movie and to Allied Assualt including Omaha Beach. Bringing the game over to the PC format really gave developers an amazing array of control with much improved graphics, sounds from Saving Private Ryan and gameplay. At the same time they introduced Medal of Honor to the online PC gaming community and us here at the Allied Airborne Army. With the Spearhead and Breakthrough expansion packs for MoHAA the game seriously stood alone pleasing a large following in the gaming community.
About this time, Activision was about to steal Medal of Honor’s thunder with the release of Call of Duty. Gamers flocked to Call of Duty for it’s overall more realistic feel, iron sites, and a really improved multiplayer system that allowed gamers to save favorite servers and create really colorful names which is a must for any true gamer (sarcasm). Even at the sacrifice of custom player skins, amazingly cleaver taunts, the real reason why COD did better at the time, was the iron sites. Being able to aim down the sites of a Thompson MP made you feel more like Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan than the game that literally was the equivalent to Saving Private Ryan. Call of Duty not only moved in on MoH’s WWII genre, it also moved in on it’s theater of war by embracing Europe and the Eastern Front with Call of Duty United Offensive. CODUO allowed gamers to go prone with heavy machine guns, drive vehicles and tanks in an obvious Band of Brother’s feel making the game very attractive.
Medal of Honor’s answer back with Medal of Honor Pacific Assault stepping away from and forfeiting the European Theater of Operation. Now the truth is that the Pacific Theater of Operation is a lot less attractive than the European Theater of Operation. The battles were hard and ugly and Japanese had none of the charisma of the Third Reich. Granted the Third Reich is literal the symbol of evil, they at least knew how to sell their image and look good. Conquering the Germans were more glorified and an honor than fighting to the death against the Japanese, and gamers recognized that. Call of Duty 2 was released and again owned the European Theater while Battlefield 2 began a whole new war on the gaming market by release a modern warfare game taking the first steps away from WWII.
With other Medal of Honor release like Frontline , Infiltrator, European Assault, Heroes and Vanguard on the console units, Medal of Honor decided to take one last stab at the ETO on the PC with Medal of Honor Airborne . With Michael Giacchino again doing the musical score and nearly a year of promoting and developing, this was sure to be the game that would finally put Medal of Honor back on top of the WWII FPS market only to release when COD4 finally took their genre to the modern era. But instead of releasing what should have been the best game in a now empty market, Electronic Arts provided no support and the game completely flopped. It was fun, it was beautiful, but it had no support and E.A. looked like they could care less. They didn’t just abandon Medal of Honor’s legacy, they abandoned their community who was now and ever since stuck with modern combat games.
With Call of Duty and Battlefield firmly pumping out titles after titles of relatively the same games, Medal of Honor decided to jump on board in 2010 with their release of Medal of Honor 2010, one couldn’t stop thinking two things. First, E.A. is supposed to be better than this. And second, Activision and Call of Duty have nothing to worry about. Medal of Honor is set squarely on the battlefields of Afghanistan, with the player cast for most of the game as an American special forces operative and as an everyday United States soldier in a few scenes. While Call of Duty revolved around fictional terrorist organizations and plots.
In November Medal of Honor is releasing Warfighter and they feel that the modern genre is clearly worth another shot. Since Battlefield 4 is still a while away, E.A. clearly wanted something else to try and go up against Call of Duty Black Ops 2 which is due out at the end of the year. Medal of Honor Warfighter looks good and reportedly plays well in multiplayer. And the new focus on real world events surrounding different sets of Special Missions Units from all around the world actually does give the game something new to work with. However, the major challenge for Medal of Honor is whether it will be enough to stand out from the crowd. Or indeed, manage to forge a new identity for itself, given its iconic beginnings.
Thirteen years after the release of the original Medal of Honor, it’s clear that the game franchise that so many of us loved, really went down a tough road. Some caused by it’s competitions, some is it’s own fault. Looking at the countless mods and small independent game developing that keep working on building great WWII games, one can’t help to think about Medal of Honor and question why do they not claim their throne. If they put their effort into building a WWII ETO based game here in this decade, maybe with a little assistance from Spielberg and maybe even Tom Hanks, the narrative voice of Morgan Sheppard with music by Michael Giacchino, they would be able to produce a sure winning game of the year. E.A. – “it’s in the game” – put some love in the game, look over your formula and see what worked, grab the bull by the horns and make the game that Medal of Honor deserves to be and not what it has become which is little more that a filler game to go after E.A. competition.