When we first caught a glimpse of Medal of Honor Warfighter back in March during a private event at the Game Developers Conference, Electronic Arts and the developers at Danger Close let us know right up front that they weren't messing around. The beards that the Tier 1 soldiers had grown to great lengths in the first game were long gone, and the action had been beefed up big time over the 2010 Medal of Honor reboot, even if we did just see one stage. It was a breathtaking escape from a city in the Philippines, a daring boat chase in the midst of a tropical storm.
But little did we know what kind of emotional impact Danger Close was really going for with Warfighter. We learned a bit more behind it during a recent hands-on session that EA invited us out to while we were visiting Seattle for PAX Prime. In this demo, the events we ran through unfold before the climactic boat chase that we saw months before, with all hell breaking loose thanks to someone's bullet giving away our position to the enemy.
We're jumping ahead, though. The demo actually begins with a startlingly realistic cinematic sequence, showing one of the heroes from the original Medal of Honor, Preacher, lying in a hospital bed. He had just survived a terrorist ambush on a subway train, trying to stop the suspect before he blasted it to bits. His wife and daughter are doing their best to console him, but his partner, Mother (also from the original game) indicates that a terrorist target has resurfaced, and, much to his family's displeasure, he has to get back to work – especially considering they've gotten hold of some PETN, a deadly explosive that may or may not have been used with that subway train.
Now, not all of the plot points behind the single player campaign have been unveiled yet, but we do know a little more about the main antagonist in the game, Khalifa. We're first introduced to him through a stakeout, where the Tier 1 team is spying on him and his men as they watch over a group of hostages tied on the ground. Khalifa doesn't hesitate in showing his fury, smacking his number one man and chastising him for bringing the enemy to his front door. But when Tier 1 asks to fire, they're not given permission, as their allies want to hear more of their conversation.
All it takes, however, is one bullet, and chaos erupts as a result. The terrorists scramble the terrorists away, and Tier 1 is forced to take them on in the ensuing gun battle.
Again, this demo was rather brief, but we could see what improvements Danger Close has made to its engine over the past couple of years. The lighting is particularly good, especially when it comes to explosions and spotlights. They really illuminate the darkness that hangs over Isabella City and the surrounding Philippines areas. What's more, the animation and character models are absolutely splendid, not only in the cinemas but in the heat of battle as well. It actually feels like you're in the middle of a battlefield.
However, the real improvement lies in the gameplay. First-person shooting controls feel much tighter than the original game, and Danger Close has also ramped up the excitement, forcing you to find cover as you lock and load on any enemies that get in your way.
One new dynamic to the controls, with particular weapons in the game, is the ability to switch between multiple scopes on the fly. If you want to take out guys that are close to you and then shoot at someone from a distance, all it takes is the click of an analog button to change from being behind the iron sights to peering through a scope. And the performance of your gun doesn't suffer from the switch either. Nailing someone with a head shot is still as visceral as ever.
After cleaning up enemies on the ground with Preacher and Mother, the final part of the demo put us in the shoes of Stump, a gunner sitting in a helicopter that's sweeping above. As your vehicle flies over each area automatically, you need to hit highlighted targets before they have a chance to hit you back. Luckily, you have an awesome turret gun that is able to mow enemies down rather easily. Just make sure you allow for cool-down periods when you can. When your gun overheats, it leaves you vulnerable for a few seconds from attacks below.
And that concluded the demo. While we would've liked to have seen more, between what we saw here and back in March, Danger Close has really set the standard for what Medal of Honor is supposed to be with Warfighter. Combine that with the excellent team-based multiplayer (which we'll cover in a future article before the game's release), and you have a real winner on your hands. Be sure to check it out when it hits stores October 23rd for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
Get our official strategy guide for Medal of Honor: Warfighter!