'Medal of Honor: Warfighter' blazes its own path in the military shooter genre

Polygon sat down to play Medal of Honor: Warfighter at PAX Prime, and these are our impressions.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter aims to prove that the first-person shooter genre has more to offer.

Based on a demo that we played during PAX Prime last month, Developer Danger Close is positioning Warfighter to riff on the genre's formula and distinguish itself from its competitors. Surface level mechanics aside, it's a unique experience. To begin with, there is no Rambo in Warfighter, no lone wolf against all odds. It's about teamwork, paired as deliberate twosomes both in the campaign and multiplayer modes.

There is no Rambo in 'Warfighter'

It's Danger Close's attempt to ground the story in reality. There are no energy shields in Warfighter, no science fiction laser weapons. It is a game that, to the greatest extent possible, creates a realistic simulation of what it might be like when a human being find himself on a battlefield.

The demo began with a story. Using strikingly high fidelity video pre-rendered courtesy of publisher Electronic Arts' Frostbite 2 game engine, we saw the backbone of the franchise: an attempt to humanize the titular warfighters. The brief scene centered around a wounded warrior in a hospital bed and a visit from his friends and family. Every interaction underscored the tension between the warrior's duty and everyone present.

Then, the theater of war, as the demo shifted to a team of warriors with a lock on a high value target, his armed guards, and half a dozen hostages. When things go awry, the setup transitioned into action as we took control of Preacher, who returns from the franchise's 2010 incarnation, Medal of Honor.

An ever-present pistol at our side and a rifle in our hands, we crouched to take over in a flooded section of the map, as enemies honed in on our position and opened fire.

We were in Isabella City, Basilan, Philippines, where we'd tracked the high value target. As we trudged through flooded streets in a rainstorm, we picked off enemies with a combination of our long-range and short range scopes, both mounted on the same weapon. That mechanic appears in the game because of feedback from real life solders who Danger Close worked with to make the game.

"The combat sight toggle, where you're in the middle of going up long distance ADS (aiming down the sight), and you need a short range opponent, you quickly turn to your iron sights to get a better short range view — these are the things that the Tier 1 operators we worked with tell us, and what make the game authentic," said Kevin O'Leary, EA's global brand manager.

"What separates us is the little things"

Enemies kept coming, and our team ducked behind impromptu cover via half-submerged cars and concrete barricades. Bits of the environment exploded like shrapnel as the environment gave way to the shelling. Our team called out the battlefield as they saw it, serving as a warning to replace the mapless HUD.

As the demo progressed, teamwork became increasingly more important. On the balcony of a building our team had just infiltrated, we painted to targets for an inbound helicopter. As it swooped in overhead, we switched perspective from the balcony to the helicopter's chain gun. The helicopter circled the courtyard, and the barrels on the chain gun glowed red hot, always on the cusp of overheating By laying waste to the enemies below, we provided help to the team we'd been playing as moments before.

"What separates us is the little things," he said. "At the end of the day, anyone can make a first-person shooter, but it's very, very tough, and it takes a lot of dedication to make an authentic first-person shooter."

Medal of Honor: Warfighter is loaded for an October 23rd release on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. You can check out our interview from PAX below.

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