Electronic Arts announced tonight that it will ship Medal of Honor Warfighter, the next installment in its modern combat game series, this fall.
The title is the sequel to the 2010 reboot of the franchise, dubbed Medal of Honor. Along with the Battlefield series, the Medal of Honor games are feeding the voracious appetite that fans have for modern combat first-person shooter games, which have become a multibillion dollar-market led by Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty series.
Patrick Soderlund (pictured), head of the EA Games label and longtime leader at EA’s DICE studio in Sweden, said in an interview with VentureBeat that the new game isn’t aimed solely at topping Call of Duty from its perch.
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“I don’t look at it that way,” he said. “We are in the market to make the best possible game.”
EA’s combat games lagged in the past, but they have shown steady improvement since Battlefield Bad Company 2. Battlefield 3, which launched last fall, was an improvement on the previous year’s Medal of Honor (though there were a lot of flaws pointed out by critics) and it was a commercial success with 12 million units sold, more than any other previous EA modern combat game. Still, EA, had some troubles with server issues for Battlefield 3 and critics favored Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, which is believed to have outsold Battlefield 3 by millions of units.
With Medal of Honor Warfighter, EA is going to get serious again and apply the learnings from the past, Soderlund said. EA took, for instance, what it learned from the Battlefield multiplayer launch and applied that to the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic, he said.
Karl Magnus Troedsson, general manager of DICE, said on stage at the EA event at the Game Developers Conference that Battlefield games were “general war,” or the hammer, while Medal of Honor was more like “the scalpel.” Medal of Honor games involve real-world scenarios like hostage rescues in the Phillippines or the Somalia coast.
Greg Goodrich, executive producer of the Warfighter game, said that former professional soldiers are helping to craft the latest game about “Tier One” operatives who, in the last game, fought Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The Tier One soldiers are the best of the best in the American military.
This time, the battle will take place across the globe. It will involve “Tier One” elite soldiers from 12 organizations in 10 countries, including the British SAS, the German KFK and the Polish elite soldiers.
“We’re doing this because believe it or not, kids in Poland don’t grow up dreaming they will become U.S. Navy Seals,” Goodrich said.
The goal is to make it as realistic as “the headlines on CNN.” It is also about making the game authentic in terms of replicating the gear, the weapons, and the behavior of soldiers in intense combat. Goodrich said that two dozen members of the U.S. Special Forces are helping to design the game, and two of those members came out on stage to offer their endorsement of the game’s authenticity.
“They were ghosts, the silent warriors who defend freedom around the globe,” Goodrich said as he welcomed soldiers named Kevin and Tyler on the stage.
Kevin said the game would “tell a story” about their fellow warfighters and the battles they went through around the world.
EA showed off a hostage-rescue mission in Isabela City in the Philippines. In the scenario, a team of Tier One soldiers crept up to a big building in a rain-soaked area. They blew open a door and immediately came under withering fire from several directions. The player takes aim at the threats one by one and takes them out, firing through smoke, flying building fragments, and explosions. The team, working with Filipino special forces, clears the building room by room, outflanking when they can.
They toss flash bang grenades and burst into rooms in slow motion, taking out the terrorists before they can kill the hostages. They escort the hostages out into speed boats waiting in the rain. The boats speed off and terrorists in buildings alongside the river bank try to intercept them. The player fires a heavy-caliber machine gun, tearing up the buildings and the terrorists at the same time. When you finally escape, you sigh with relief.
Goodrich said that the Medal of Honor Warfighter game will use the Frostbite 2 engine, which delivers cool 3D graphics, high-end audio, and destructible environments.
“It is the biggest and most ambitious Medal of Honor game in the history of our franchise,” Goodrich said. “Without this engine and the unprecedented support of the special forces community, this game could not be made.”
[Photo credit: Dean Takahashi]