Danger Close - the developer formerly known as EA Los Angeles - has been adamant about one thing throughout its work on the single-player campaign for this Medal of Honor reboot: it's not about the setting, it's about the individuals.
There's a group of Rangers, who go in hard and fast and leave in a cloud of brickdust and cordite; a pair of Apache gun crews, who back them up from the air; and the Tier One Operators, the best of the best of the best to infinity recurring. It's about them. It's about their story.
So why is it set in Afghanistan?
"The story that we wanted to tell was about these guys in this initial fight, and the [Tier One] individuals that we hooked up with happened to be doing it there, so that was the story we wanted to tell," says executive producer Greg Goodrich. "It's an historical fiction inspired by these guys in an historical event, like Saving Private Ryan. That's where they were."
That's where we are today, prowling through the variable conditions of the 12-kilometre span of the Shahikot Valley in Afghanistan which Danger Close has recreated in Medal of Honor. We're looking for the authenticity, respect for the soldier and reverence for the material that Goodrich insists were the developers' only motivations for using a current conflict as the backdrop for the game.
We're also looking for signs that Medal of Honor is more than just Call of Duty with beards and goats instead of nukes and skidoos. After all, were the game set somewhere else, that would be all anybody cared about.
Goodrich describes the game's first act for us before we sit down to play. The sledgehammer that is the US Army Rangers arrives in Shahikot confident and gung-ho, but no plan survives first contact with the enemy.
We pick up the controller as a Ranger squad led by Jim Patterson - grandson of Lieutenant Jimmy Patterson from the original Medal of Honor, released in 1999 - drops in and discovers that the military has underestimated its opponent quite considerably. As the Rangers advance through a valley they're assailed on all sides and take heavy casualties.
It leaves our party in a position where it's necessary to clear a landing zone for a Casevac helicopter. To do this we have to break through a run-down mountainside village overrun by insurgents. From behind the sights the Rangers are exactly as you would expect: there's lots of chatter, moving up, instructions to cover each other and enemies at every hand of the clock.
Armed with a SAW machine gun, you're a heavy weapon within a blunt instrument. Having cleared the village and moved through a gulley, your squad of four needs to take out a DShK gun emplacement by calling in air support. You're danger close, however, so you first need to lace it with red phosphorous before nearby F-15s can blow it off the mountain.
What follows is the Ranger experience in microcosm - rather than picking off insurgents as they appear on rooftops and behind sandbags, and inching toward a turret gun in the gaps that it gives you while it reloads, you just need to suppress. So you point your stack of 200-round clips at the big gun and paste down the fire button.
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