Medal of Honor • Page 2

Goat Recon.

Modern Warfare, the property that, rightly, forever hangs in the air whenever Medal of Honor is mentioned, actually makes for quite an interesting comparison. Brilliant as it is, Activision's series is a fairly stellar example of the popcornification that occurs to any franchise over time. Skidoo chases and squaddies jumping over the flaming debris of a crashing helicopter are both undoubtedly cool things to take part in, but in its transition towards the scope and razzle-dazzle of Hollywood, Infinity Ward has given EA's team a neat little space to call its own.

It allows them to appear as the more authentic players - regardless of how incredibly stupid it is to believe that a videogame about war could ever be that authentic in the first place.

And the team's starting to put things together quite nicely, judging from the teeny-tiny slice of it EA is willing to reveal. Medal of Honor is set within the current conflict in Afghanistan, but focuses on a fictional story, based around a joint operation between a Ranger group, and two Tier One units. As you play, you'll flick back and forth between the two threads of the narrative, apparently; in doing so, you'll explore two different approaches to a troubled conflict.

The Rangers, like the rest of the military, are, in the words of senior creative director Richard Farrelly, "the sledgehammer". A blunt instrument. They blow stuff up, go in hard and fast, and leave a fair amount of charred rubble in their wake. The Tier Ones are "the scalpel". They're in behind the enemy lines, they speak the language, they have the beards. You know, just like scalpels.

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DICE's multiplayer component will use the Frostbite engine, which can't be a bad thing.

The crucial thing to understand is that both elements work together over the course of any mission, and as Farrelly walks me through a demo, it's clear that even when you're playing the Tier One role, the rest of the military is always part of the picture.

The level EA's currently unveiling is a night assault on an enemy-held mountain. The landscape is strewn with broken rocks and scrubby little patches of grass, the only light comes from distant campfires marking out enemy positions, and, playing as part of a squad, you're a Tier One advancing slowly into dangerous territory, with only the dark shapes of your nearby allies - and their precise, whispered commands in your earpiece - to keep you company.

The first encounter with the enemy is emblematic of the way you'll approach situations as an elite soldier. A gaggle of distant forms are gathered around a flickering campfire. Rather than wading straight in, your squad fans out around the edges of the area, each taking a target. It's a process that takes a surprisingly long time, given the zany pace of most action games, but it's all the more tense for it. Then, with just a few shots - resoundingly loud on the echoey hillside - everyone sat at the campsite is dead, and you're off again, moving further up the mountain.

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