Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond is a virtual reality, first-person shooter that can (currently) only be played with Oculus Rift, Valve Index or HTC Vive PC hardware. Gamers harken back to the action of World War II as a heroic lieutenant who, after putting his life on the line to save a group of stranded soldiers, gets recruited by American brass into the Office of Strategic Service.
As an agent of the OSS—the Office of Strategic Services, was a wartime intelligence agency and predecessor to the CIA during WWII—gamers are tasked with a wide variety of espionage activities in North Africa, France, Germany and Norway. Those missions include giving aid to the French Resistance, taking out German Gestapo bases and even planting explosives on the beaches at Normandy. Players are also given the unexpected chance to do everything from commanding a tank to dropping a payload from a WWII bomber. And, of course, there are lots and lots of gun battles using period accurate weapons against an onrush of Nazi and German forces.
The game includes both single player and multiplayer gameplay.
1999’s Medal of Honor was the game that helped make wartime first-person shooters popular while also giving players a fairly realistic sense of what soldiers went through, both physically and emotionally, during the battles of WWII. And that is definitely a part of this VR gaming approach as well.
Being fully immersed and surrounded by detailed battlefields and set pieces is impressive. And it does give a sense of stepping back in time, crawling through the trenches and slipping through the historically chronicled wartime dangers.
As you play through Above and Beyond, you also unlock a series of documentary interviews with actual WWII soldiers who share their particular stories. These videos communicate an uplifting human side to the deadly struggles those vets were a part of. They also offer some truly meaningful moments that the game itself isn’t quite able to achieve.
As you might expect, the war-focused gameplay involves quite a bit of death and splashing blood that’s delivered with high-def detail. That’s particularly true with some of the high-powered and percussive shotguns and rifles of the day when fired up close.
The frenetic battles themselves can get fairly intense at times as you mow down foes and are hit yourself with blasts from machine guns, rifles, pistols, and explosives. Your screen is splashed and lined with blood when you’re wounded, and you must jam a hypodermic needle into yourself when the wounds are severe. Cutscenes also depict Nazi executions and some slow-motion death moments.
On top of that, there’s M-rated language in the dialogue mix: including f- and s-words, misuse of Jesus’ name and uses of “h—” and “a–hole.”
There’s definitely quite a lot to appreciate here with some of Above and Beyond’s visuals and activities. And those mini-documentary personal interviews from actual vets are a high point.
But gamers should know that gunplay can be awkward and pretty messy. And the story action can be slow, stilted and static in others. Some of the battle sequences are also so head-whippingly intense that they cause some VR motion sickness, too, unless you take the time to tweak the game’s motion controls.
This VR dive into the Medal of Honor world is interesting. But it doesn’t quite rise to the expectations that many had for it.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.