Review – Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond
I’m going to be honest here and say right off the bat that I’m extremely disappointed with Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond. Quality, high-budgeted VR titles are few and far between, and with how amazing Respawn has been lately I was hoping this was going to be another Half-Life: Alyx. A fancy and immersive VR game set in WWII is something that I’d be very much into. Unfortunately, this title continues to shoot itself in the foot every time its about to offer something worthwhile.
I think we’re all fairly familiar with the events of WWII so there isn’t much to explain with the story. You play as a silent OSS hero and are taken around the hot spots of the war. You’ll join the French Resistance, drive a tank, storm Normandy, fly in a bomber plane, duck under tanks as they drive above you in a trench. You know, all the tropes already done in the hundred other WWII games. The problem is that VR should make these things feel way more immersive, but it always falls flat.
It’s not even like the gameplay is bad or poorly done; the VR aspects are for the most part competently implemented. The reload actions, swapping weapons, being able to use your mouth to pull a grenade pin, catching and tossing back a grenade all works great. Respawn included plenty of accessibility and comfort options, but somehow didn’t include a crouch button. If you’re a sitting VR player, you’re going to have some awkward moments trying to use turrets or even taking cover.
There is a moment early in the campaign where you get to plan an ambush on a convoy. You’ll be able to move player pawns around the map to set up their camping locations. This was a cool use of VR capabilities as well as offering something new to other shooters. Unfortunately, this is only featured once. Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond is in such a hurry to throw different gameplay situations at you that it feels like a cut jump between highlights. Moments that should be lingered upon or gameplay ideas that are unique and need to be fleshed out are quickly tossed out. Storming Normandy Beach had no impact and was over within ten minutes.
Even within some of the longer missions, there are plenty of moments where you’ll be locked in place listening to dialogue. It’s like they’re trying their hardest to break up the action instead of letting it flow. This choppy pacing is even more noticeable since majority of levels are linear. Which isn’t a big deal if done well, but here it feels like a simple shooting gallery game. Enemy AI is about a smart as a box of rocks which gives even more feelings of a shooting gallery.
Unfortunately, Respawn can’t even fall back on the visuals to entice you into the next set piece or level. Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond legitimately looks like a PS3/360 game. Environments are fairly static and are hit or miss on what is actually interactive. Character models are stiff with bad animations all around. The actual art design is authentic though offering realistic models of main objects and weapons. Enthusiasts will appreciate the the effort put into the designs.
Sound design is pretty solid when it comes to the weaponry and general audio and sound designs. The weapons have their realistic sound characteristics and pack some punch, as well as blasts coming from grenades. General audio of war is well done from the rumble of tanks to the planes flying overhead. However, where the audio lacks is within the voice work itself and the soundtrack. The voice acting leaves a lot to be desired, but it doesn’t help the characters aren’t likeable anyway. I’m also pretty sure the soundtrack has only one or two songs and its your typical uplifting military tunes.
I was really hoping to be impressed with Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, but it unfortunately actively tried to ruin itself. It’s not poorly made, or glitchy, or unplayable, it’s just unbelievably mediocre. In fact, the best thing about the game is the real life documentary in it that interviews real vets. This aspect was filmed nicely and is a good history lesson, but these are a dime a dozen. I would have also talked about the online multiplayer aspects, but that bit is already pretty much dead. I found only two people playing out of all the times I’ve quick searched matches. You can play with bots, but, good lord, why bother with that terrible AI.
Visuals are a bit of a let down here with character facial models, animations, and general environmental details lacking big time. The weapons have an authentic look though which will please WWII enthusiasts.
The VR interactions are well done, with realistic reloading and handling methods. Tracking is smooth, but the lack of a crouch button makes it very tough with certain turret weapons. Level design is a bit plain and lacks the tension of a war.
Sound design for the most part is well done. Weapons sound realistic and have punch, and the general audio is clean. However, there seems to be only one uplifting military song that is on repeat in most moments.
Fun Factor: 4.5
While there are brief moments of fun, almost all major encounters are short lived, lack intensity, or are broken up frequently by dialogue scenes that lock your character in place. Multiplayer is also barren so there is no replayability here. Unless you like matches full of extremely dumb bots.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond is available now on Oculus Rift, Valve Index, and HTC Vive.
Reviewed on Oculus Rift with an i7-9700k, RTX2070, 16gb RAM.
A copy of Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond was provided by the publisher.