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Medal of Honor Multiplayer Beta

Kabul and wireless.

Control is nimble and intuitive, though DICE's continued aversion to the prone stance will surely stir up more debate as players weigh up the advantages of being able to hit the ground to avoid fire against the potential for campers to make themselves even harder to spot. Personally, I always miss it, if only because dropping to the floor is such an instinctive response. Maybe these soldiers have really dodgy knees.

It is, surprisingly, the weapon handling that feels skewed at the moment, but for now we're happy to file that under the "it's a beta test" defence. Minor lag issues mean that it's possible to be shot by an enemy before you actually see their weapon fire, and I emptied five sniper rounds into one foe to no effect while he polished me off with an impressive 150-foot headshot using an assault rifle.

Explosive splash damage also feels weak, meaning that RPG and grenade hits have to be very precise if they're to have any effect. Given DICE's pedigree, and the amount of time to go before the game ships, it seems fair to trust that such balancing quirks will be ironed out.

The unanswered question is what Medal of Honor will be bringing to the multiplayer party that we haven't seen already. In its present state it seems like a promising riff on a familiar formula, but nothing that would demand your attention over the current market leaders, especially with DICE's Vietnam expansion for Bad Company 2 arriving a few months after Medal of Honor hits.

Experienced players can unlock a special gun that sends a real live phoenix to burn the enemy's face off.

This might well be enough, but it would be a shame for DICE to be reduced to performing its multiplayer party piece in other people's games rather than moving the genre forward.

A less tangible complaint, and one that still lingers after I've put the joypad down, is the general matter of taste. The hardcore online FPS crowd is not known for its tact, and I can't help but wonder just what sort of epithets will be flying across PSN and Xbox Live when armchair Andy McNabs are shooting at players openly identified as Taliban.

Watching virtual Coalition troops gunned down by insurgents in the ruins of Kabul, I felt more than a little weird, especially since a friend lost his brother in Afghanistan only a few weeks ago.

The game features vehicles, but most are burned out husks. The occasional tank is all you get in the beta.

This is a real war that is happening right now, real blood is being shed, and simulating that for fragfest fun while being rewarded for kill streaks... Well, there's just something a bit icky about that. In single-player, there can be a story that adds context and meaning to the carnage. In multiplayer, it's all just for fun. At least the World War II games have the distance of history, and the fact that their conflict has been absorbed into popular entertainment for over 60 years.

Even the likes of Modern Warfare 2 and Bad Company hide their bloodlust behind a figleaf of fictional "what if" scenarios. Medal of Honor turns a real tragedy into a social shooting gallery, and is going to have to tread carefully to avoid belittling the reality it borrows for our amusement.

Medal of Honor is due out for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on 15th October.

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