Game Review Showdown: MEDAL OF HONOR & COD: BLACK OPS

Game Review Showdown: MOH & COD

Two big military shooters have hit shelves this fall. One of them is a rousing success and one did not live up to its potential. Read on to see which is which!


Medal of Honor

From: EA

Reviewed on: Xbox 360

Hey look, the military is full of idiots! Yay, that's exactly the game I wanted to play again. Unfortunately, I'm being sarcastic, and that is the game we get from EA's Medal of Honor. Here we have a General who is calling plays from thousands of miles away, troops jumping into ambush after ambush, and a "top level special forces unit" that has more dialogue in one mission than most war movies have in their entire run time. The comms chatter is so ridiculous, they even talk over their radios when they are standing 10 feet away from each other, staring at each other.

Now, I know not everyone playing this game has been in the military (as I have). I know that a video game has to take liberties to make things more entertaining. Unfortunately, things like the three other special forces guys narrating every single move you make while simultaneously being some of the worst shots in video game history quite simply takes me out of the game. If there are seven targets and four expert U.S. Military, no single soldier should ever have to shoot three of those targets. This kind of scenario happens repeatedly; you can say it's to have the player more engaged, but again, it took me out of the game every time. Throw in smaller things like having a covert operation with weapons set by default to three round burst instead of single shot, and you have one of the least accurate military games I've ever played.

And that's the exact opposite of how this game was billed and marketed. Accuracy was key in development, according to EA, and they worked alongside members of the military to make that happen.

It's interesting that all the chatter about this game before it came out was the controversy surrounding the multiplayer mode, in which you were originally going to have the option of playing as the bad guys, with their names being properly "Taliban." EA let the controversy ride for a few weeks, then changed the name to Opposing Forces at the zero hour, just days before release. There was no controversy about the ineptitude the American military is depicted as having, and that's where the focus should lie.

I would like a video game that is honest, and isn't propaganda, but also shows that the American military is one of the best trained in the world. They have discipline, they are prepared, and they can operate as a strong, efficient machine. Unfortunately, that's not the image of them shown in this game, or in many other games and movies of late. In a time when America is still actively in two wars (the combat mission in Iraq is over when soldiers and Marines stop getting shot to death, and not one second before that), it would be nice to see that. In a game called "Medal of Honor" set in one of those active wars, it's doubly important.

This game is not worth a Medal of Honor. It's barely worth an ArCom.


Call of Duty: Black Ops

From: Activision

Reviewed on: PlayStation 3

The last year has been a loud one for the Call of Duty franchise. They set an entertainment sales record (that means beating movies, music, etc) with Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. Then, the creators of the franchise, the heads of development studio Infinity Ward, had a very public and vicious falling out and departure from Activision. This was IW's off-year anyway, when Treyarch, who had a hit of their own two years ago with the WWII themed World at War takes the reigns of the franchise. If Treyarch is now destined to be the sole developer of the franchise, fans can consider themselves lucky that it is in such good hands.

This game has already set sales records for the second year in a row, beating its older brother. Regardless, let me tell the 20 of you who don't have it yet and are shooter fans why this is a great military shooter. The events in this game take place at the height of the cold war. You play primarily as one character who gets kidnapped by those red commie bastards early on and goes on an extended mission of revenge. An over-arching mystery, periods of torturous questioning, and one hell of a voice cast make the pace bigger and more explosive than a lot of big budget movies.

At its heart, that's what Black Ops really is, a big budget movie. It has insane over-the-top battle sequences, the obligatory driving, tank, and aerial missions, and even a level where you get to rock to the Stones while taking on the bad guys. It's from a simpler time, when Red was Wrong, and that's all you needed to know. The mystery driving the plot even has a little twist at the end, which should polarize players a bit. Bottom line, the background ingredients are all there, and that makes it easy to focus on the nuts and bolts.

The gameplay is incredibly tight here. Whether you're guiding a missile or sneaking up behind Viet Cong with naught but a knife in your hand, controls are smooth and easy to jump into, especially if you're a Call of Duty veteran. None of the weapons are too extreme, sticking to the realistic technology of the 60s. Audio, from the voices to the explosions to the more subtle things like variable volume in helicopter blades and a rocking soundtrack is near perfect. Lead man Sam Worthington is the only one that falters here and there, slipping into his native Australian accent and making a couple of pivotal lines a little bit comical, but for the most part he does an apt job of being an action hero, exactly as he is on the big screen. The graphics are great to look at, from lush jungles to open air and the insides of deep military complexes, with little to no clipping or stuttering.

Novice shooter players will find a couple of sequences a bit frustrating, when there is less instruction than there could (and perhaps should) be, and the game can be slightly unforgiving at time. Multiplayer is largely more-of-the-same in the best way possible; it's comfortable, familiar soldier on soldier action that nearly all skill levels can find ways to excel in somehow.

Call of Duty: Black Ops is not just another record setter because of the name. It's also a symbol that the franchise is far from dead, and a game that shows how production value and solid core gameplay can be married to create one hell of a fun ride.

What did you think of each of these? Is one of them on your Holiday wishlist?

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