EA Games is not only positioning this year's Medal of Honor as a return to form for the classic FPS series but also as a direct competitor to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's crown as the most-played console online multiplayer game to date. To accomplish that latter goal, they've asked DICE, developers of the Battlefield franchise, to help out with the game. That seems to have paid off, as the multiplayer portion is turning out to be solid stuff. Unlike almost all of the E3 demos and previews you'll read this year, you'll get to play this for yourself as the open beta will officially launch next week for non-VIP EA GunClub members.
The demo we were shown put us in teams comprised of both journalists and QA members at the EA LA offices. The game was objective-based, just like some of the team-based modes in the latest Battlefield: Bad Company 2, with the Tier-1 U.S. team going on the offense against the defending terrorist team. There were initially three classes to choose from — including the assault, marksman and rifleman classes — and each has its own set of weapons and abilities. There was only one map featured, though it was quite large in comparison to the competition, and the goal was to simply make the U.S. team reach the terrorist base and take it over. Battlefield veterans will be used to seeing a point system accompany the game; basic kills and completing objectives garner points while assists and headshots will yield small bonuses. There didn't seem to be a leveling system in place during our short time with the game, but we were assured that it will be there for the full game and, to a lesser degree, the beta.
Vehicular combat was also on display for the demo, though we only saw a tank during the match. Getting into vehicles was as easy as going up to it and pressing a button, and while your placement in the tank will be dependent on who's currently occupying which gun, you have the option to do some seat switching once you're inside. The camera only shows your gun's view, and while we couldn't see the view from the turret because someone else was occupying that seat, the view for the side guns is effective enough for you to brutally defeat the opposition.
Another new option had to do with character respawning. While most games have you spawning at the base, Medal of Honor always gives you the option to spawn at the base or at the front lines. Spawning at base ensures safety but makes you trek back to battle while the front line spawns put you a few steps away from the combat. The option is a nice one to have, especially for players seeking pure action all the time, but there were a few times when quick deaths occurred because of people camping at the spawn points. Hopefully, this issue will be fixed in time for the retail release of the game.
From a technical standpoint, everything is lined up quite nicely for the demo. The graphics looked great, and the sound effects are pitch-perfect. The controls are also done well, and while the default setup was nice, we had to glance at the layout sheet a few times for certain actions, such as crouching and grenades. There wasn't any time to see if there was a controller configuration option in the demo, but hopefully one will exist in the open beta. As for general network performance, the game ran quite smoothly online. Despite the large number of people playing, there were no signs of lag with character movement or voice chat.
From the short time we spent with the E3 demo, it really felt like the multiplayer portion of Medal of Honor mixed the basic mechanics of Battlefield 1943 with the skin of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It isn't exactly revolutionary, especially for recent Battlefield players, but it is familiar and the mechanics are still solid. Most of all, the experience is fun enough to give the game some legs once players have completed the campaign mode. This is one of the few times when everyone can try out an E3 demo for themselves. If you were ever interested in Medal of Honor, be sure to grab the open beta demo next week and see it for yourself.