Slowly emerging from beneath the water, Rambo-style, two cleverly camouflaged and heavily armed Navy SEALs quietly creep toward the nearby shoreline. And when a gamer is first given control of his ready-for-action guy—a seasoned soldier named Preacher—the reticle of his gun is already aimed at the back of an unaware foe's head. Onscreen, we see the order to pull the trigger.
That and the next few minutes of learn-your-mechanics gameplay—sprinting through the shadows, planting explosives, picking off turbaned men screaming in Arabic, and downing a helicopter with an RPG—tell you almost all you need to know about what you can expect from Medal of Honor: Warfighter.
Here's the rest.
Heroes in Action (Mostly)
This latest in the battle-going franchise is a linear take on modern-day warfare and the professional soldier. There's a bit of a tale here, mainly centered around a SEAL wrestling with the strain created by his devotion to family and the toll of his bloodletting service to country. But don't expect an in-depth, movie-style story arc. This is more of a series of graphically defined battle scenes where gamers don the tightly laced boots of hard-driving pros and go at it. (There's also one odd early segment where you pick up skills while playing a jihadist trainee who practices murdering a plane full of decoy innocents.)
As Preacher and another stalwart named Stump jump to various terrorist hotspots around the world, they rescue captives, steal vital intel, call in air strikes, give chase in an SUV through city slums, pilot a boat and, of course, shoot enemies. They breach dozens of rooms full of terrorists, kidnap baddies, deliver stealthy kills with such weapons as sniper rifles, blaze away with a .50 caliber machine gun and generally do whatever is "necessary" to protect hearth and home.
That's not to suggest, however, that this is merely a flag-waving salute to God and country. There's quite a bit of grit and, well, glitch here too.
In one bloody stretch, Preacher watches a fellow soldier and friend murdered by terrorists with a bullet to the brain. So he goes on a revenge spree, snapping necks, driving his hatchet into chests and generally bloodying as many men as he can get his hands on—including one baddie whose face he pounds to a gory pulp.
Sequences of celebrated bloodletting like that are garnished with a gratuitous amount of profanity that includes quite a few f- and s-words.
Taking a Bullet on This One
There's no question that with real-life SEAL Team events in the headlines still fresh in our minds (such as the takedown of Osama bin Laden), there is bound to be plenty of interest in a game that purports to give an inside look at the world of SEALs. And it's quite clear that the gamemakers do want to tip their hats to those self-sacrificial warriors who serve our country so well.
The game itself, however, doesn't quite live up to what many will expect of it. It's an unpolished and often messy shooter that generally sensationalizes and revels in a whole lot of death-dealing. Or as review site ign.com put it, "Medal of Honor: Warfighter wants you to consider the effects of violence on those responsible for it. Such appeals to a player's humanity are bold but risky moves in a military shooter, where countless corpses of faceless terrorists pile up at your feet."
A postscript: We don't usually dwell on games' technically glitchy elements in these reviews, but in this case they should be mentioned. Warfighter feels, at times, like it was rushed into release. And that thought is driven home every time the screen freezes, the sound drops out or you wait on long load times.