EA has bitten off more than it could chew. The company’s strategy to take on Activision’s FPS beast and attempt to chip away at its market share was a highly ambitious one. Publishing two separate games and releasing them one after another can’t be a trivial effort and, even for a behemoth like EA, things can go wrong.
That’s not really to say that Warfighter did things incorrectly; you certainly get what you see on the box. You are immediately entrenched in a unit full of “Tier 1 Operators”, consisting of individuals paid to ride planes into unpleasant areas and put rifle rounds into unpleasant people. There’s some kind of story in there that talks about some kind of terrorist plot involving highly volatile chemicals used for bomb making. It even sheds some light on the human element of soldiers, with plenty of pale cutscenes showing wives breaking down in tears.
The problem with Warfighter, like so many other critics have noted after the lengthy review embargo, is that the ideas presented here have been done so many times before, and they don’t get better with age. From all the Arabic names, to the mounted vehicle sections, right up to the slow-motion room breaching – there are only so many ways this beast can be dressed up. Some elements have been changed – ammunition crates have been replaced with retrieving ammunition from team mates, and you can choose your preferred method of entering a room, whether it be breaking off the lock with a tomahawk or placing a sheet of explosives onto the door.
My experiences with the multiplayer left a weird impression on me. The gameplay mode I played was presented in short one minute rounds, designed to be fast paced and to hold the player’s attention. The sports-like background commentary giving round by round updates was a stark contrast to the sombre tones of the single player campaign; it felt awkward, tasteless and (for a game about honouring the fallen dead) downright disrespectful.
It is, however, a nicely presented product. Cutscenes are rendered rather well, and the graphics look respectable, although Frostbite 2 doesn’t let you destroy as many things as you would normally like to. The peeking system, once you get used to it, is also quite useful, and the shooting mechanics have a hint of Battlefield‘s restraint as opposed to CoD‘s gung-ho trigger hugging. There is plenty of spectacle, explosions and fierce firefights to play through in the campaign. If this game were presented several years ago, it would’ve been an impressive release.
If Warfighter were trying to be anything but an answer to the heavyweights that are already on the market, we might have something worth writing about. Instead, we have games like this that are still trying to appeal to the tendencies of aggressive young men, set to the soundtrack of angst rock and reminding us that, as always, freedom isn’t free.
If you don’t take your games too seriously, you may find some enjoyment in the single player campaign (for as long as it lasts). Otherwise there is very little to convince you, as a gamer and a consumer, that you should devote your time to something like this.