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Medal of Honor Multiplayer Beta: Beards are the New Prestige

Company: EA Games

Ever since its announcement at the Spike VGA Awards and last week's recent beta launch, people have been clamoring for more Medal of Honor. The attention is well deserved at least. For a franchise whose last game's primary contribution was to let the player parachute into battle, the sudden excitement over its new look and feel stirs up ideas of a monumental comeback, of getting back on track. I recently played several hours of the multiplayer beta for PlayStation 3 over the past week and from what I can tell, Medal of Honor still has plenty of fight left.

I might be selling it short if I described the new game as "Bad Company's Modern Warfare of Honor," but that still serves as a good summation of all the ideas in the new game. You mix the kill streaks and level addiction of Modern Warfare with the depth, pacing, and strategy of Bad Company 2; then add Medal of Honor's commitment to historical accuracy and vivid detail, and what you get is something that is extremely familiar but still incredibly satisfying.

The limited multiplayer beta only allows access to two maps and two match types. The first, "Team Assault," is your standard Team Death-match fare, while the second match type is objective based. Stop me if you have heard this one; while one team defends a series of control points, another team tries to plant a bomb at said control point. The bombs are equipped with loud, ambulance-like sirens that take around a minute to detonate after which the map is extended to include another set of control points.

Like I said, this is all too familiar, but it should be. After all, DICE (the company behind Battlefield) is handling the multiplayer components of Medal of Honor while EA LA is creating the single-player campaign. The devil is in the details, though, because Medal of Honor may share many of the core mechanics with Battlefield (it is the same Frostbite engine too) but the urban environments and reward systems make this a different experience. The class-based load outs will be commonplace to anyone playing online shooters these days, but the reward systems in place encourage skill based play and teamwork. Medals are awarded for good shooting, and ribbons are given to those who excel in combat tactics.

After choosing a side, either the American Military forces (which include the epic beards of Tier 1 Operators) or the Taliban, players will choose their specialty: Assualt, Special Operations, or Sniper, and get to work. Each class has their own unique load out like Spec-Ops ability to carry a rocket launcher or the Taliban Sniper's... uhh... accurate ability to call in an IED on the battlegrounds. As you continue to build experience, either from kills or completing specific objectives, you can unlock more gear for you soldier like new scopes, guns, and support items. All of these unlocks are based on the same points system used to build experience, so an effective team-mate can also be the one who completes objectives instead of killing the most enemies.

So far, the matches have been fast and intense, which seems slightly ironic considering the most effective tactic is to crouch and move slowly in order to gain the best sight lines and escape routes, but it still focuses on the ins-and-outs of an online shooter; get in, get shot, respawn quickly. It is still fun and the level progression is undeniably addictive. There is enough going on here for Medal of Honor to separate itself from the crowded market and become a genuine hit. While this most certainly has the early characteristics of a beta, (i.e. awkward load times and a few balancing issues), I am still hooked. Finding your role to maximize your effort for your team is more rewarding than a dozen "Prestige" medals.

As of right now, I can't wait to see how to rest of the game pans out. If DICE can continue to tweak and polish, this might be my yearly replacement in light of the debacle at Infinity Ward and Activision. Watch your back, Modern Warfare, Medal of Honor is gunnin' for your spot.

Be sure to check back with us later this year for a full review when Medal of Honor ships this Fall.

-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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