Medal of Honor Warfighter's multiplayer is a war game-simulator.
You hear this line repeated at every Medal of Honor demo. "Medal of Honor has always been about authenticity and respect for the soldier." This presentation, in a stuffy booth on the side of EA's E3 compound on the Los Angeles Convention Center show floor, we're hearing it from a pre-recorded video of Greg Goodrich, the broad shouldered Executive Producer at developer Danger Close.
Goodrich is responsible for a lot of the partnership building between the Medal of Honor franchise and its stock of military advisors from across the globe. His relationships with the men who've experienced combat first-hand makes him one of the most informed designers of war games in the series. And they make watching the latest game, Medal of Honor Warfighter, all the more jarring.
Medal of Honor Warfighter more than any other iteration of the franchise treats war like a game. The multiplayer, playable for the first time at E3, pits the best operatives in the world -- from the US Navy SEALs to the British SAS to the German KSK -- against one another in competitive combat. This isn't a paintball match. Bullets draw blood.
Free of the context, that this is a "good guys shooting good guys" video game, Warfighter's multiplayer is a step forward from the previous Medal of Honor. At least, the one level, a pirate town off the coast of Somalia, is.
The abandoned town provides flimsy cover like busted walls and pocked marked walkways. Getting high, in the few upper level position, or low, in the high grass, seemed to be the best positions to stack kills.
This map is based off a real area of Somalia, says Creative Direct Kristoffer Bergqvist. A secret mission to land 140 operatives on the shore and clean out the town of dangerous global criminals was canceled by Obama at the last minute.
Asked how they create a realistic Somalian landscape, we're told the internet helps with research. That and talking to operatives who have shared personal photos from real firefights where real people died.
"We don't fly to Somalia," says Bergqvist.
Players now have two perks to choose from before a match, some offensive, some supportive, some local to each class. For example, the heavy gunner has a special Blackhawk transport ability that will spawn players into a tactical point, while the assaulter can call in an air strike.
I'm told the Polish GROM were in the office a few weeks ago.
Fireteams is the new co-operative feature included in multiplayer. Teams are broken up into micro-teams of two. The idea is to recreate the nearly mental mind meld between real life operative pairs. In the game, the player can see her partner anywhere on the map, they're silhouette wrapped in a neon green that shines through any walls separating the two.
Fireteam buddy's also have respawn advantages. A killed teammate can spawn along a living teammate after a short break. Or, if the living teammate gets revenge, the dead teammate can be immediately respawned.
It's sort of fantastic. In our short demo, duos play carefully and co-operatively, watching each other's back. The game feels more strategic, and because keeping someone other than yourself alive is key, more human.
I'm told the Polish GROM were in the office a few weeks ago. That they, like the other operatives helping to design the game, playfully bragged about their superiority in the world of war fighting, while modestly praising their colleagues in other countries. They have, we're told, a friendly camaraderie with the men who do their job across the globe. A respect.
Each year, many of them meet for Jackal Stone, a sort of Olympics slash meet and greet for special operatives. They flaunt their skills, vying for the rights to claim they're the best. It sounds, admittedly, vaguely like a less bloody version of the game we played.
When asked about the multiplayer modes central idea: real life good guys shooting each other in real world hotspots, Bergqvist doesn't seem put off. "[Operatives] have so much to be proud of," he says. "We see it as Batman versus Superman battles."