In the crowded first-person shooter market, it’s important for a game to carve out a niche–do something better than or different from its competitors. Medal of Honor tries to do just that by representing a real conflict that is really happening in a real country between two real opposing forces. From the chatter among the soldiers and the authentic weapons to the environmental continuity, there are many elements that enliven the campaign with an invigorating sense of realism. Unfortunately, this energy is diminished somewhat by a bunch of video game-y elements, like invisible walls, invincible allies, and an incongruous icon that pops up whenever you get a headshot. The campaign finds a reasonable balance between realism and escapism, where it manages to provide a fairly engrossing experience despite its flaws. The online multiplayer offers many thrills of its own, and the adherence to realism makes for battlefields where the only thing between you and a swift death is your gun and your reflexes. Both the single-player and multiplayer components provide some robust entertainment, and though flaws and limitations keep it from being all it can be, Medal of Honor still distinguishes itself on the field of first-person battle.
The single-player campaign takes place in Afghanistan, where craggy peaks loom over dry, rocky terrain. You are part of an American military effort to find and eliminate Taliban forces, and the grounded-in-reality premise feels more immediate than those that feature fictional enemies. The nicely varied environments provide an attractive array of places to wage war, and even though the visuals suffer from some technical imperfections, the fact that the whole campaign takes place in one region of the world creates a good sense of cohesion. It’s easy to keep track of who you are and where you fit into the offensive even though you play as multiple characters. While come cutscenes provide good dramatic set-up, the ham-fisted interactions that take place in the command outpost often feel cliche and cheap. It’s probably for the best that Medal of Honor didn’t take on a wider representation of the current conflict, focusing instead on the characters you meet in the field and their soldierly attitudes. The great battlefield chatter portrays intriguing facets of professionalism and camaraderie among the soldiers, setting an authentic tone that enhances the experience.