The US Tier 1 Unit Operators are a “different breed of warrior” mused EA LA’s Senior Creative Director, Richard Farrelly, who was in the UK to show off the latest build of their fall title, Medal of Honor. “It’s a new war, a new operator,” Farrelly continued. “Not a lot of World War 2 going on there,” he joked.
These Tier 1 operators –super-soldiers if you must – provide one of the central focuses of their latest current day first person shooter. They’re the “elite of the elite,” a unit based on a real life group of operatives that currently exist today. How elite you ask? Farrelly informed us that around 2 million people in uniform existed in the United States and “about 50,000 of those fall under the Special Operations Committee and around 200 of those are Tier 1 Operators.” So yeah, you get the point.
The Medal of Honor single player campaign takes place in Afghanistan during the current conflict. The events that transpire are all entirely fictional however, but they’ve enlisted the help of a group of Tier 1 Operators to help make sure their story is 100% authentic.
The main pillars of the campaign are what EA LA are calling the “scalpel and the sledgehammer.” The Tier 1 Operators in the title serve as the scalpels; an indigenous band of bushy bearded men who blend in and speak the language of the locals. They serve as the military’s infiltration team. Then we have the “sledgehammer” on the other hand that consist of the rangers, helicopter pilots and the brute strength of the US military. The one can’t effectively operate without the other and the emphasis in the campaign is on how these units work together, co-exist and watch one another’s backs.
We pick up events in the Afghan mountains, by the Shah-i-Kot valley specifically, located in the province of Paktia. With Farrelly at the pad in this hands off demonstration, the Creative Director took the reins of a character named Rabbit, part of the AFO SEAL Team – one of the scalpels. The Tier 1s are assigned the task to infiltrate a mountain and to eliminate and defeat local hostile militia – aka, anything that moves, ultimately getting to a point where they can laser tag some hostile armour for the local AC-130 to eradicate.
“I have the shot. Terminate?” whispers an ally over the radio. “Negative. No weapons,” his commanding officer chirps back. Moments later the SEAL drops the local scout to the floor without so much as a squeal as he uses his knife in true stealth fashion.
The crew of about 4 or 5 SEALs then continues to traverse the long, winding and narrow dusty paths that take form on the side of this mountain. The ambience and atmosphere from the opening 20 minutes alone are very positive signs for what EA LA are putting together in this modern day shooter. Whether it’s the wind whistling at the high altitudes, kicking up a cloud of dust along the way; the dead goat that lies at the base of the steep mountain path – an obvious victim of the local militia; or the crackling of a small fire that remains burning out – as the squad of hostiles who the SEALs silently took down flop to the floor like lifeless fish. Even the constant radio chatter does a lot for the immersion and creates a vibe of togetherness. You may be the stealth team – the scalpel – but you’re certainly not alone.
Up until now the SEAL’s infiltration has been plain sailing, but things take a hasty turn towards danger. Spotted by a team that patrolled the rocky slopes near a set of AA-guns, the SEALs moved quickly to dispatch them so they could get the AC-130 within range of their intended target. This heated fire-fight is the first we’ve experienced in the new Medal of Honor reboot. Taking place across a long distance and under the cover of night does in fact make it a tricky battle to see what the hell is going on. Luckily you’re not alone and your squad will not only act as some much needed aid, but a worthy distraction as well. A short intense battle and a few charges of C4 later and the AA guns and local militia are now a distant thought.
It is here that Rabbit – who now has the vantage point and with the AA guns firmly destroyed – must take out his night-observation-device – NOD to all the cool pool – and his IR laser to mark the trucks and tanks that sit in a convoy on the other side of the mountain range.
It was a dark, silent night. So peaceful and tranquil with not so much as a whisper from the Tier 1s who sat patiently. Moments later the night sky lights up and an almighty boom shakes the valley. The AC-130’s targeted strikes were beginning. Slowly and surely, the air support resorted the convoy in the distance to a smouldering wreck. They didn’t stand a chance.
To finish off the demo Rabbit and the SEALs pile into a local village, occupying the low ground as a more traditional fire-fight breaks out. Under fire, the SEALs navigate the village calmly, slowly one by one, gaining yards, taking care of the local militia. The differences of the scalpels and the sledgehammers transfers across into battle as well, with the radio chatter staying at a calm and professional tone for the Tier 1s who act with grace under fire, while the rangers on the other hand are a lot more emotional.
Bang! Rabbit takes a rifle-butt to the head, as he is brought to the floor in one fell swoop.
Rabbit’s eyes open. Slowly. As he focuses on the world, all he can see is the cold barrel of a gun as a local stands above him, gun to head. Bang! A fellow SEAL comes out of the shadows to save Rabbit’s ass from an almost certain messy death, as the presentation comes to a close.
On the basis of this short 20 minute presentation, it’s clear that EA LA are doing great things with the mood and atmosphere in Medal of Honor. The ambience to the whole environment is great, even at this early stage and the story looks to be a little more tactical and a little less far-fetched than a certain other shooter on the market. Comparisons are always going to arise between this and Infinity Ward’s shooter and whilst it’s too early to tell whether it’s got the legs to take on IW’s beast, Treyarch certainly had better watch out.
Medal of Honor is scheduled for a fall 2010 release.