EA’s Medal of Honor beta: first impressions

Having bought Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on Steam, I’m one of the lucky, er, many to have access to the Medal of Honor multiplayer beta. The two games share a publisher, EA, and Bad Company 2 developer DICE actually whipped up the new Medal of Honor game’s multiplayer component. I can taste the synergy from all the way over here.

Medal of Honor is the latest in a slew of shooters based in the present day, usually involving coalition forces in the Gulf. (No, not the one with all the oil, the other Gulf… oh, never mind.) This present-day theme seems to be the rightful heir to the World War II craze, which game publishers milked completely dry in the early part of the last decade. This time, they’ve replaced Nazis with insurgents, M1 Garand rifles with M16s, and European meadows with some rocks and sand. Cashing in on the present conflict seemed like such a good idea even the folks on the other side gave it a shot, albeit with somewhat more limited success.

EA’s upcoming blockbuster will be a little late to the party when it launches in October, though. The original Modern Warfare from Infinity Ward hit stores back in November 2007, and Battlefield 2 was out even before that, in June 2005. Of course, if someone wants to take another crack at the concept, and they do a particularly good job of it, who am I to complain?

Eager see what EA and DICE had thrown together this time, I giddily downloaded the 1.6GB Medal of Honor multiplayer beta a few days ago and promptly joined a multiplayer battle. Well, not before attempting to change graphical settings using the atrocious menu interface. That’s a bug report right there—the menu interface sucks! Some games make it painfully obvious that their menus were designed with console controllers in mind. This is one of those titles. You can’t even quit a game when you’re dead or after a battle ends—the "exit game" button only shows up if you press ESC while alive. And don’t get me started on the "edit" button for resolution switching.

But I digress. The multiplayer beta includes two modes: Combat Mission, which is essentially a capture-and-defend type of campaign, and Team Assault, which you might better know as team deathmatch. Both modes do away with the pesky rigors of traditional PC multiplayer games by letting you respawn almost instantly at all times and heal by crouching in a corner for a few seconds. To counterbalance those tweaks to the classic formula, being shot almost always guarantees your immediate death. No progressively wounding an opponent while playing an adrenaline-pumping game of cat and mouse here—either the other guy misses and you kill him, or you miss and he kills you. Or, more likely, you get insta-killed by an unseen opponent when attempting anything more daring than crouching behind cover.

Players can choose between three classes: rifleman, special ops, and sniper. The rifleman gets an assault rifle and grenade launcher, the special ops gets a submachine gun and an RPG, while the sniper gets some type of sniper rifle and IEDs. Playing and earning points enables class-specific upgrades, so in theory, the more you play, the more deadly you can be. Sort of like World of Warcraft with the Taliban and guns, I guess. I personally only bother with the rifleman and sniper classes, since the special ops dude’s rocket launcher seems useless for anything except blowing up tanks. (Oh, that’s right; the Combat Mission mode has tanks. Only U.S. forces get ’em, though.)

Medal of Honor‘s simplified, instant-gratification-laced gameplay makes the team deathmatch mode almost unplayable for me. I loved Counter-Strike because of the team dynamics and the fact that you could carefully hunt down and eliminate the bad guys over a few, very tense minutes. Here, the instant respawns ensure there’s rarely a cohesive team at one place at any one time, and taking out someone doesn’t really get you anywhere. In most cases, players are scattered across the map running around, getting a kill or two before being terminated in the blink of an eye. Not really my cup of tea.

The Combat Mission mode is a little more fun, since you actually feel like you’re part of a real conflict, either boldly attacking an insurgent position or defending it from an onslaught of U.S. forces. But the core gameplay feels more tedious than anything. Players can choose to respawn right on the front lines, so again, taking out folks from the opposing team doesn’t get you very far. The best you can hope for is to get enough players to survive near a control point to capture it, then move up to the next one. Maybe that’s all the rage with kids these days, like skinny jeans and scarves, but I just don’t get much enjoyment out of it. Where’s the strategy? Where are the defining moments, like in Counter-Strike when you’re the sole survivor on your team and manage to take out the rest of the enemy players?

And, more importantly, is this the best PC multiplayer games can do in 2010?

Yes, I realize the Medal of Honor multiplayer beta is just that: a beta. But I’m not talking about little bugs and balance tweaks. I didn’t even complain about getting stuck on geometry all too often when running for cover! No, I’m getting the impression that the whole premise for Medal of Honor‘s multiplayer component is flawed. And it’s not the only game to do this sort of thing—I gave up trying to play Modern Warfare online for similar reasons. That game is just too fast-paced, and getting a kill isn’t satisfying enough to make up for the frustration of getting downed instantly by an unseen opponent. Is it really so hard to design a multiplayer first-person shooter that’s neither mindlessly dull nor punishingly frustrating? I just want to spend my evening playing something engaging and fun.

Comments closed
    • aces170
    • 12 years ago

    Whatever happened to 1 vs 1 deathmatches 🙂 ? I dont think any current game requires skill close enough to master the Q3 mods, CPMA to be precise. I was pawned by a few pros I played with online, it takes immense skill to “fly” around doing rocket jumps, and fragging at the same time. Nothing comes close to the CPMA mod.

    Consoles just lowered the skill barometer.

    • south side sammy
    • 12 years ago

    Hat’s off to you guys. At least you got the demo/beta to work……

    • mafropetee
    • 12 years ago

    I didn’t really think about either of those. They’re ever so slightly before my time. I started playing FPS games when a LAN center opened up by my high school during my freshman year, and BF2 was the game I fell in love with there. I started playing Halo when it first came out on the PC and that’s how I knew Halo until I finally got an Xbox and Halo 2, which I didn’t like too much. I found it very sub-par compared to the way it was hyped. I wasn’t fond of the whole console idea to begin with, yet my parents were buying them for me ever since the Sega Genesis. It wasn’t until ’08 after I graduated that I started playing Halo 3 at a friend’s house, but I hated how complicated and overdone it was. That same friend proceeded to introduce me to MLG, and it made the game 100x better for me. Yes, it’s still your run of the mill console FPS, but you have to admit that MLG has brought it back from the depths of 13 year olds and their stupid service records. Sorry to tell my life’s story, but I just want to establish that I’m on the side of PC gamers, and if I had the money to build a decent PC like I used to have I would sell my 360 in a heartbeat. In fact I almost have enough money saved up to do just that.

    • Skrying
    • 12 years ago

    Quake truly started online MP (it wasn’t the first, but it made it a big deal). Counter-Strike made competitive online gaming real and started the formation of league play and large tournaments.

    When I hear about competitive console play it makes me puke.

    • mafropetee
    • 12 years ago

    It’s very sad, what’s happening to FPS games. The last one that REALLY wow’d me was Mirror’s Edge, and that game barely had a MP aspect at all. MW2 is beautiful and fun, but it stops there. It requires a very minimal amount of skill, and even if you do happen to get a kill that took some amount of skill and strategy, nobody knows you did it but you and the person you killed (provided they watch the killcam). BC2 is fun and retains a lot of the best aspects of BF2 (which was my forte until I got a 360), but the graphics aren’t the greatest, and it still doesn’t take too much skill to master. Strategy maybe, but not much skill. The Halo franchise basically pioneered the online multiplayer FPS, but it wasn’t until MLG got ahold of it that it became the intensely competitive and skill oriented game that Halo 3 is today. I only play MLG customs anymore, because even the MLG matchmaking playlist has been tainted by derankers and lag switches. Reach is coming out soon, and it’s beautiful, but now there’s even more unneccessary crap that makes it frustratingly comlicated. I am very interested to see what MLG does with Reach. Finally there’s the ulitimate downside to the Halo series: its unfortunate preference to a certain console. I love the 360 controller (though not more than the faithful keyboard and mouse), but I HATE Xbox Live with a burning passion.

    Okay, I could go on and on about online FPS games, but those are the main games that I have concerned myself with. Hopefully the FPS to end all FPS’s will come out soon. It will be like no other game before it, it will involve a perfect balance of skill, strategy, competition, teamwork, simplicity, and player involvement, and it will run graphics that blow Crysis right out of the water. Oh, and it WON’T be on consoles (Unless of course a console comes out with the same capabilities and potential as a gaming PC at an affordable price). Until that game comes out, I’m fine with MLG customs in H3 and the occasional MW2 game just for poos and giggles.

    • akrid
    • 12 years ago

    There have been alot of disappointments in the past couple of years on the FPS front. I currently run a clan that has been moving from game to game trying to find something that is strategic and not just a bunch of lil kids trying to up their KDR. Currently we’re staying with COD4 since the hardcore mode and search and destroy game-type provides the best means for a strategic game(its not without its flaws though).

    Our hope was that MOH would be like it was in the past allied assault era only modern of course. Then Dice got a hold of the MP and in essence turned it into an expansion of BC2. Now I don’t mind BC2 but its not one of those games I could spend hours playing cause i’m totally immersed in its gameplay. They touted its distructable terrain and the fact that you’ll always be in the action. But what they really did was make it so all these little kiddies run around with a 40mm grenade launcher shooting it at anything and everything….oh and don’t get me started on the snipers..oh the snipers

    • triton666
    • 12 years ago

    ” No, I’m getting the impression that the whole premise for Medal of Honor’s multiplayer component is flawed.”

    Yup, played it for a few hours and it was “ok”, but also, it felt like a mod that some people threw together that didn’t really get how these games work.

    • hapyman
    • 12 years ago

    This is why I still play Counter-Strike. The graphics don’t blow you away but you can play on an old rig for cheap and the gameplay is great.

    • burntham77
    • 12 years ago

    I like BC2, but the single player campaign can be punishingly hard at times, even on easy. Maybe I am just getting slow at age 33?

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 12 years ago

    @ Cyril Kowaliski

    “And, more importantly, is this the best PC multiplayer games can do in 2010?”

    Time to play more Bad Company 2. ^_^

    • Chrispy_
    • 12 years ago

    Good graphics do not make a game good.

    These graphics aren’t even particularly good.

    • TheBob!
    • 12 years ago

    I agree. I think consoles ports water stuff down. There are still many good PC online games.

    Lead and Gold though currently plagued by server issues(Not showing up in the browser) is a fantastic wild west online shooter.

    Team Fortress 2 is known as a easy to get into online game, but there are tons of strategy to it like finding the high ground vs a soldier, never backing up vs a demo, or getting a scout to follow you into a tight area were his speed can’t help him dodge.

    Valves new free game Alien Swarm is well worth the download. It only has one campaign right now, but I expect the modding community to hit it full blast with the release of the Source SDK that came along with it.

    Killing Floor a retail version of an old UT2k4 mod is loads of fun.

    Plain sight while there is not much to keep you around for more than a week or so is well worth the $10. A nice refreshing different game.

    Let us not forget the big dogs. Starcraft 2 is coming out in a little over a day. Counterstrike: Source just got a huge update and is the #1 game played on steam still to this day.

    In my opinion we should just be taking a break from the console port present day shooters that seem to be played oh so much. Maybe it’s not my cup of tea though. I tried Battlefield 2:Bad Company 2 and found the multiplayer ok, but very frustrating. I have played online games that I suck at and still have fun, but I don’t really seem to have much fun with these realistic shooters.

    • no51
    • 12 years ago

    DoD is the reason I can’t play the CoD series. Ultimately they watered it down to DoD:S but the HL1 DoD mod was brutal (for new players). You can bleed to death and the LMG’s had ridiculous recoil; emptying a clip would require the mouse to travel up to half a foot. My main gripe with it was the left arm hitbox that rendered the Garand useless, and when they tried to fix that, all it did was overpower the SMG’s since one hit to the left arm counted as two.

    • Skrying
    • 12 years ago

    The BC2 experience is completely unhinged. There’s this small lag that occurs on the input. I’m going to guess it has something to do with how the net code is written. When you play MW2 or CS:S or SoF2 (the FPS games I’ve played the most online) if there is lag it comes after your input. BC2 is before. It’s like you hit the keys and then the action happens, not at the same time. It’s massively annoying.

    Not to mention I’m not a fan of being out of the combat that long. I also think people’s claims about MW2 being about spawning in the right spot or using certain weapons are completely invalid. The most skilled players ALWAYS wins in MW2, always. It doesn’t matter if half of the opposing team is using “noob tubes.” A skilled player can completely own with the FAMAS or M4 against someone with a ACR and grenade launcher.

    I also STRONGLY dislike vehicles in FPS games. The controls never feel right and even once you’re over that they’re either too powerful (see BF2) or just annoying and a bit weak (BC2).

    Then there is the sniper problem. It’s huge in BC2. I can go out in some ridiculous location away from the objectives and kill until I run out of ammo. That’s not fun and it’s certainly not fun to be on the other end. But the player’s of those games do it constantly. I’m only going to guess that they noticed this and it is a reason for why prone is not in the game.

    Nope, I haven’t played a ton of BC2 because frankly it isn’t fun. I’m not going to wade through hours of a FPS I don’t find fun to get to the fun part. I’m willing to do that in WoW where the payoff is huge. But when the BC2 payoff is still a game I find less fun than another 15 years old… no thanks.

    • tanker27
    • 12 years ago

    I too am going to have to agree with Cyril. COD4, while visually stunning, played more like a Jerry Bruckheimer (sp?) film which didnt make for good game play. This game is more of the same. :/

    I played the beta for a bit and seriously didnt like it. I do, however, love BF2. the expansiveness of the maps, the somewhat strats, and heck even the destruction of buildings and trees. Nothing quite satisfying than getting to a building blowing a hole in the wall and enter.

    • lilbuddhaman
    • 12 years ago

    yeah I feel the complete opposite, once i got BC2 I never played MW2, sold it, and that was that.

    Also, what kiwik said.

    • kiwik
    • 12 years ago

    Troll detected.

    • BoBzeBuilder
    • 12 years ago

    BFBC2 single player was pathetic. A random MW ripoff with spawning enemies and pointless story.

    However, I love the multilayer, nothing like hiding behind the bush, sniping fools in the back.

    • Goty
    • 12 years ago

    So you’re the type of person who could never stand to play hardcore mode in CoD4, right?

    • ClickClick5
    • 12 years ago

    I just reviewed a game in the Gaming forums (single player only) but I do get that feeling of is this the best in 2010?

    I’m finding that games from big publishers are geared ONLY for consoles. And the players who have not hit puberty. *sigh*

    And multiplayer games in general: if the game is on a console, it shall suck on PC (and console too).

    • Mixer
    • 12 years ago

    Yea Cyril, I don’t share your gaming choices but I do agree this game is a poor effort on EA/Dice’s part. It really looks like a money grab….EA trying to get a little more coat tail money from MW2 before the magic wears off.
    (I say this knowing I will likely buy it down the road when it’s cheap.)

    I also cancelled my pre-order.
    I think they should break this game into two and sell the multiplayer as a BBC2 Expansion. (I don’t know what you would do with the single player portion. BBC2s single player sucked and I don’t know if many people care.)

    I love Sargent Duck’s comment suggesting spawn points be moved back. If you had to move up from way back in the rear every time that would add motivation not to be killed as well as giving an advantage to the team doing more of the killing. Anything to force teamwork and thoughtful movement.

    As for Snipers…They should limit the number of snipers allowed per team. And perhaps increase there spawn times to limit there effect.

    A lot of players are far more aware of there kill-death ration than they are of the objective. (I don’t know how you fix that.)

    • herothezero
    • 12 years ago

    Garbage like this and BF:BC2 are why I’m really pinning a lot of hope on Tripwire and Heroes of Stalingrad.

    • Prestige Worldwide
    • 12 years ago

    I found COD4 to be too full of cheap unbalanced guns, n00b tubes, RPG’s, claymores, etc. Let’s not forget all of the stupid perks either.

    I can’t stand the game without promod removing all of the perks and n00bish weapons. Promod balances it out nicely and actually makes skill a factor in winning the game.

    I like the MOH beta better than BC2 already just because it’s less of a n00b tube / carl gustav spamming fest. I just hope that they include at least some sort of server-side customization so as to implement weapon restrictions and custom rulesets crucial to having viable competitive play.

    • Skrying
    • 12 years ago

    Probably because I don’t want to wade through hours of playing a unfun game to make it fun. I don’t care for how motion feels on foot in BC2 either. Nothing about the game feels right. A friend summed it up nicely last night “BC2 isn’t bad but every time I play it I wish I was playing MW2.”

    • lilbuddhaman
    • 12 years ago

    i have to say the opposite about the map sizes. BC2 maps are pretty well sized, and snipers don’t just “own”. Every class has the potential of equipping a 4x scope for their weapon, and many of them are extremely accurate as long as you can point em right. I feel you haven’t devoted any long hours to BC2 at all as even on servers where everyone decides to do “sniper warz” the only people who get away with 0 deaths are ones using not-so-legit spots that usually involve weird terrain bugs and whatnot. Furthermore, unless you have an assault to provide you with an ammo pack, you will run out in one of those crazy spots.
    Calling the game “unplayable” unless you snipe is also the furthest from the truth. Anyone (myself included) who has taken the time to get all the pins/medals (achievements for kills ) for every weapon can tell you that there aren’t ANY weapons that are straight out useless, and a decent player can be Top 3 in K/D , points, whatever with any of them.

    The map I played in medal of honor was a tiny tiny MW2 sized one, and your comments about MoH’s UI being horrible are spot on. It is just bad, so bad, non-intuitive garbage.

    • Skrying
    • 12 years ago

    MW2 is hardly about spawning behind someone. Part of the reason is because you spawn by your team mates, not just in random locations. But also this is clear because the good players always do well and the bad always do bad. There’s also not much to “balance” in MW2 either. Everyone can get everything and the starting weapons are not great enough from the final ones to make up for skill.

    Then there’s the game modes that don’t spawn you right away.

    MW2 is a great multiplayer game besides the lack of servers. Sadly the lack of servers nearly kills it.

    • Bensam123
    • 12 years ago

    You know, it’s funny… the other day one of my friends brought over his friend who was ecstatic about MW2 and tried to convince us to buy it. I don’t really like the game because it’s extremely unbalanced and just a giant cluster fuck. I enjoyed BF2 immensly as well as MW1.

    He said he didn’t like those games because you spend half the time running around just to get shot once and die. Instead he said he liked being spawned right in the action. Basically it comes down to a very tactical and precise player being one upped by someone that spawns behind him. I’m not one for camping, far from it, but I almost think the latest craze is just to give ‘anyone’ kills and then pound their face with action to make up for the lack of depth and clear cut lines and thinking that’s involved with getting around it.

    Basically making it so anyone who picks up a controller can kill something.

    • lilbuddhaman
    • 12 years ago

    BFBC2 is a far better experience and I am saddened that I have no new maps to play on it because of this TRASH of a game.

    • SNM
    • 12 years ago

    I dunno if it’ll be the case here, but with the original Modern Warfare you just had to play the right game modes in order to find a much more satisfying experience. Kills were still relatively cheap, but if you got on a hardcore server with one of the objective-based modes a kill definitely made a difference.

    Or you could go for one of the crazy ones where they disallowed run-n-gun. 8|.

    • Skrying
    • 12 years ago

    The menu system sucks. The layout makes no sense for a PC but that’s not even the biggest problem. It’s that they clearly put no effort into making it work with the typical “shortcuts” you have on a computer. You can’t take to keys, you’re forced to click everything. Honestly, just let me hit the damn Enter key and have it so it takes the logical step. Every other game is able to grasp this concept.

    As for the game play…

    What’s with the no recoil? Why are the sounds nothing but bass? Do we really need yet another game where half of the players on each team are snipers because the maps are far to big for the amount of players? Do we need yet another game where the objectives are never the first goal?

    I would say the biggest step back these games are making is one where the amount of players has remained relatively low but map sizes are increasing. It’s making that certain games are simply not playable unless you want to snipe all day. For instance in Bad Company 2 the snipers simply own. You get in a good position and chances are you’ll survive all game racking up massive kills. The only person who can take you out is another lucky sniper.

    • Sargent Duck
    • 12 years ago

    Agreed on all points. PC multiplayer used to offer so much more.

    As you mentioned with counter-strike, you started as a team and when you found yourself last man with a whole slew of enemies, that was exciting.

    UT2k4: Even if someone got the first shot on you, or had a bigger gun, if you were good, you take them out. Even better was the cat-and-mouse of it. Then you pick up a health keg…

    Natural Selection: Team work for the win.

    Day of Defeat: Maps were large and spawn points far apart. You didn’t want to die as you’d be walking for a while to get back.

    Command and Conquer: Renegade (the game wasn’t that great, but multiplayer was a blast!) Simple enough. Protect your buildings, blow the other guys up. Tanks, stealth ninja’s, artillery pieces. Tons of fun.

    There are many more, but those are just the ones that I remember.

    Now, they all feel the same. Like game developers just take the current games, throw it into a blender, hit “frápe” and spit out a new title, with the same old.

    The last current fps I played was CoD4:MW. Since then I’ve been reliving the glory days of FPS, HL, HL2, F.E.A.R., UT2K4.

    I put the blame on consoles. Sorry, that’s not fair. I put the blame on all the kiddies who are console gamers.

    • rodidas
    • 12 years ago

    Totally agree Cyril. I was one of the few that got the beta early by pre-ordering the game through steam; and was pretty disappointed by the experience. I have since cancelled my pre-order =(.. Will continue playing tf2 and my steam backlog of single player games till another good multiplayer shooter comes out 🙂 (however that may be a while lol).

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