Medal of Honor: Warfighter Benchmarked
An insubstantial spectacle. EA and Danger Close have created a serious opponent to Call of Duty with the new Medal of Honor: Warfighter. Thanks to the high class Frostbite 2 engine the action-beast is especially good in terms of visuals. Next to the hardware requirements we also take a look at the gaming qualities in this review. Can the title reach the level of a shooter-elite?
The 2010 released predecessor didn't receive much kindness from the press. If you take metacritic.com as an example, the worldwide average rating was only 72%. The scores from users only reached 6.4 out of 10 points. In the opinions of the critics, EA's plan to make a decent Call of Duty equivalent had failed. The October 2012 released Warfighter should finally close the gap to the Activision competition. With a fresh new graphics framework on board the conditions are ideal...
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From a technical viewpoint, the first person shooter is doing just about everything right. The modern Frostbite 2 engine is not only able to flex its muscles in Battlefield 3, but also in Medal of Honor: Warfighter. As we have come to expect from this engine, most textures are sharp and convincing with a high level of detail. Thanks to the powerful destruction physics, many level elements are able to be broken down into individual components.
The above average effects (lighting, reflections, explosions etc.) are also worthy of praise. Danger Close frequently makes use of the successful representations of rain and water effects. However, we should mention that some effects tend to be a bit exaggerated and therefore seem unrealistic. Nevertheless, the graphics are on a higher level than most of the competition. Action representatives that are using older graphics engines like the Unreal Engine 3 or the Source Engine (see Borderlands 2 or Counter Strike: GO) don't have any chance against Warfighter.
As it should be for a decent first person shooter, Medal of Honor does well in the categories of control and sound. With the exception of the somewhat unfortunate menu navigation, the title runs pleasantly precise and smoothly. Anyone familiar with the Call of Duty or Battlefield series will quickly feel at home. In combination with the clear hit feedback and great animations, the title makes for an intense gaming experience.
The gripping in-the-middle feeling also comes from the massive sound backdrop. With a good (surround) sound setup or a high quality headset, you should really be able to enjoy the great explosion and shooting sound effects. The driving music and professional (English) voice actors both add to the atmosphere.
Hands-on, Medal of Honor presents an ordinary prospect. While the gameplay is not at all bad, the single player still doesn't offer anything amazing. Let's begin with the positive aspects. When you take a look at the individual missions you can see that Danger Close has tried to take a new approach both visually and in terms of content.
During the single player campaign the gamer is confronted with things such as a breakneck speed car chase through a famous city and a motor boat evacuation in the flooded Philippines. Between the spectacular and adrenaline fueled action sequences are - in the spirit of Call of Duty - quiet moments that encourage a stealth approach (which seem fixed and set up).
Gaming freedom is not particularly written into Warfighter. In contrast to some Battlefield 3 levels, the war zone in Medal of Honor turns out to be narrow and tubular (the engine can clearly achieve more). As expected, the title pushes through quite linear levels, which are interwoven with lots of scripted parts. In other words: the action-per-second is extraordinarily high.
The grenades that somehow miraculously land right in front of the legs of the main character are also reminiscent of Call of Duty. The same goes for the AI characters, who all act in the standard manner, which means: the enemies sometimes entrench themselves behind cover, and then in other situations start stupidly advancing forward. Despite the high linearity it is not always clear what you should be doing next.
In terms of narrative, the action title has a few hiccups. Danger Close tries to unfold the story with numerous flashbacks and perspective changes, but this fails miserably in practice. With all the constant jumps it becomes difficult to follow or even identify a central theme.
Ergo: the tangled story line is consequently the weakest part of Warfighter. Even more annoying is the fact the cut scenes are really well made. Generally, the developers of war shooters need to finally venture into new realms. We have already dealt with enough uninspired anti-terrorist stories in the past.
We also have to criticize the questionable undertones of the game. Medal of Honor seems particularly jingoistic and military-glorifying at times. Its nationalistic themes could lead to alienating various sections of its targeted audience and some features could be deemed morally ambiguous (torture camps, drone missions etc). Warfighter is not alone in this respect: The Call of Duty series has been fighting with this 'problem' for years.
Overall, we feel the new Medal of Honor game is quite mixed. While the first person shooter is technically up to date, the game design and scenarios feel relatively antique. The extremely low scores on other portals are however not justified. Subjectively, the single player mode is not noticeably worse that the direct counterparts, ie. Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. The mundane 'I shoot through masses of moderately intelligent enemies with advanced weaponry' principle has simply been milked for too long. Anyone who does like this type of gameplay will certainly be able to get some fun out of it.
With the tool Fraps we measure a roughly 30 second sequence of gameplay in the single player level 'Unintended Consequences'. The benchmark begins as soon as the atmospheric intro video switches control over to the user. Shortly after, the player has to plant a bomb on a truck. As soon as the armed charge is placed we stop recording with Fraps. In the following table the average frame rate is shown.
For the game to run like any dashing first person shooter there needs to be an average of at least 30 fps. The demands of the benchmark sequence are not extremely high or especially low. During the course of the game there will be passages of gameplay that will strain the hardware both more and less. Because of time restraints we have not (yet) had the chance to test the multi-player mode.
As with Battlefield 3, all graphics options can be directly regulated in-game. In the video menu you can not only adjust the brightness and resolution, but also (de)activate the picture color mode and vertical synchronization. In the graphics menu there are 13 options available, wherein 4 graphics quality presets can be used. For our benchmark we will naturally make use of the practical presets.
While the anisotropic filtering is already operating at 2x with the 'Low' preset, the post processing anti aliasing FXAA is first activated on the mid level stage. High value MSAA is only active while on 'Ultra' settings. Unlike Call of Duty, the differences of the settings are limited. Even with minimal graphics quality Medal of Honor still looks good. In contrast, the hardware requirements are relatively high.
We couldn't notice any technical problems, except for AMD's current flagship (the Radeon HD 7970M would often leave the screen black after starting) all models we tested ran without problems. Crashes happened just as seldom as graphics errors. Note: the title requires a DirectX 10.1 or DirectX 11 capable system (affects Windows and the GPU).
Entry level graphics cards are already made to sweat at just minimum settings. The popular processor chip HD Graphics 4000 only manages a rate of just under 30 fps in our benchmark sequence - and that's with a resolution of 1024x768 pixels. Even worse is its predecessor: the old HD Graphics 3000 doesn't once manage to provide smooth gameplay on the monitor with minimum settings (17 fps, Core i7-2630QM).
For normal details and a resolution of 1366x768 pixels you need at least a mid range solution such as the GeForce GT 640M. Higher details are first possible with a GeForce GT 650M. Anyone wanting to enjoy the game at the higher level of 1600x900 or 1920x1080 pixels needs a truly high end model. The computationally intensive Ultra level can be handled by the current front runners. Thanks to the brand new Catalyst 11.2 drivers, the Radeon HD 7920M sits comfortably above the normally equal GeForce GTX 680M (46 vs 41 fps @ FHD respectively).
In comparison to Modern Warfare 3, Warfighter requires significantly more computer power. Without a potent middle class or luxury GPU, gamers will have to settle for minimum or normal quality settings. This is no big deal, since the visuals are not scaled down as much as with other games.
It is a shame that the title's contents fall short of our expectations. The recently benchmarked Dishonored proved impressively that games can be of artistic value and grown up aside from the portrayal of violence. Despite the brutal action, Medal of Honor does seem childish at times. The product falls far short of the 'authentic military experience' that the publisher EA would love to have. The customer receives what is only a standard Hollywood shooter with an average story line.
For the following test devices we give a huge thanks to Schenker Notebooks (mysn.de):
- XMG P502 (Core i7-3610QM, GeForce GTX 660M, GTX 670M, GTX 675M, GTX 680M & Radeon HD 7970M, 8 GB RAM)
- XMG A502 (Core i5-3360M, GeForce GT 650M & HD Graphics 4000, 8 GB RAM)
- Xesia M501 (Core i7-2630QM, GeForce GT 630M & HD Graphics 3000, 8 GB RAM)
GPU drivers of the three platforms: Nvidia 306.97, AMD 12.11 Beta and Intel 126.96.36.19967.