In all their interviews regarding Medal of Honor, the folks at DICE have been adamant that just because they've been brought in to create the multiplayer component doesn't mean it's going to be a clone of Bad Company 2. While that may be technically true, you'd be forgiven for thinking the two games were twins, at least.
Created using DICE's proprietary Frostbite engine, and now snuggled up in a beta test for PC and PS3 players (Xbox 360 has been delayed, but should kick off this week), Medal of Honor's modern-day makeover can't help but look a lot like its nearest genetic relative. Partly, this is because DICE is pretty hot at FPS multiplayer, and if it ain't broke, blah blah blah.
That certainly explains why the two maps on show in the beta - Kabul City and Helmand Valley - bear all the hallmarks of the Swedish developer. These are organic, sprawling locations, jam-packed with hidey-holes, rat runs and sniping spots that change the gameplay on the fly. They're fun to discover, and even more fun once you've memorised some of the more useful spots and start to lure enemies to their doom in confined alleys or bullet-hell bottlenecks.
Visually, though, they couldn't be more distinct. Helmand is all scorched grassland and sun-bleached wreckage, a desolate rural hellhole dotted with ramshackle outposts. And where Helmand is all open skies and broad horizons, Kabul City is dense and claustrophobic, with ruined and half-built structures tumbling into abandoned market squares. Cover is plentiful but mostly small and ineffectual, forcing you to dash from one spot to another, minimising your profile from the enemy snipers that have surely made their nest in the scaffolds above.
Both maps are fun, and lend themselves to the sort of ebb and flow of combat that DICE seems to capture instinctively. Already in this beta I've experienced instant tactical connection with other players, where the action moves beautifully, seemingly through your own actions but in reality thanks to the subtle hand of the designers - guiding you into the most exciting situations with their sly player funnels.
What is missing is the epic environmental damage that Frostbite brought to Bad Company 2. No doubt the decision to leave it out was to better differentiate the two, but it's sorely missed. For a game that looks and feels similar, being able to shrug off RPG attacks by crouching behind a small wall feels weird.
In terms of options, things are deliberately simple. You get three combat classes - Rifleman, Special Ops and Sniper - and each does exactly what you'd expect. Rifleman is the standard infantry choice, the all-rounder for holding ground. Special Ops are the heavy lifters, the ones with the big guns that move into enemy territory and force the frontline backwards. Snipers, well, we know what they do: headshots.
Each class has 14 levels to move through, with a new unlock at each threshold that can be equipped in the relevant weapon slot - Rail, Barrel and Base - before you head into battle. New kickass guns and vital inventory boosts are the norm, and you'll notice the difference once you start earning better gear.
Two modes are available, one for each map. Kabul City plays host to Team Assault, the straight deathmatch option. Helmand Valley is where Mission takes place. Mission is, frankly, the same as Rush in Battlefield: Bad Company 2. One team defends, the other attacks. As each control point falls, the defenders are pushed back. If the attackers advance far enough, they win.