EA’s Secret Weapon: Medal of Honor Esports?

Could Medal of Honor be EA’s secret weapon? Why tailoring the next game towards esports would be the best move for the franchise. 

Medal of Honor has came a long way since its initial release in October of 1999. The first-person shooter gave us a lot of memories during the PlayStation One era incorporating a lot of new features that were never before seen in a military FPS. Such as disguising as an officer in order to manipulate the enemies and showing your passport. But now things are different, the FPS has since been forgotten and has fallen from grace. Let’s take a look at the franchise’s history, why it should make a comeback and how it could benefit EA?

Classic Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault medal_of_honor_-_allied_assault_coverart

In 2002, Allied Assault became the first game in the franchise to come to the PC platform. Equally the success of the previous titles continued, although this time it not only had an excellent single-player campaign but good multiplayer game play. Medal of Honor: AA’s multiplayer excelled the game to higher heights. Often considered to be one of the best PC online shooters of all time, Allied Assault brought refined arcade-like shooting that implemented realistic weapons from the second World War. In addition to this the sounds in the game were amazing for it’s time, every sound effect from each player was prominent when in the vicinity. MoH was a huge hit, especially after it became the Medal of Honor Allied Assault: War Chest. The War Chest version included two additional expansion packs called Allied Assault Spearhead and Breakthrough, jam-packed with more content and giving gamers more value. However a downfall was the fact it depended upon GameSpy ( matchmaking middle-ware) in order for players to gain access to their online servers. Although GameSpy shutdown the game’s servers in early 2014, the game is played online to this present day by other means.

Medal of Honor: Vanguard and Medal of Honor: Airborne

Medal of Honor: Vanguard was the tenth game to join the franchise. Despite being limited to the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii platforms the title was heavily criticized. The World War 2 shooter received bad review scores all round, with bad enemy AI, an outdated graphics engine and no online play. Early 2007 was a point in time DICE (known then as EA Los Angeles) would rather forget. moh_airborne_cover_pc_dvdLater that year, Medal of Honor: Airborne released with sigh of relief after the shocker that was Medal of Honor: Vanguard.

Airborne was a much more polished game featuring a modified Unreal 3 engine and an enemy AI built from the ground up. The first-person shooter performed better than its predecessor in all aspects, including dedicated servers on PC, smoother gun mechanics and a fresh new engine. Regardless of the vast improvements, it was never going to be difficult to beat it’s fellow 2007 companion in MoH: Vanguard as it catered to its lowest common denominator in the Nintendo Wii. Although Airborne had its fair share of glitches, it is considered as the “last good Medal of Honor title”.

Medal of Honor 2010 – Present

2010 was a tough year for the Medal of Honor franchise. At this point first-person shooters were the most dominant genre in online multiplayer in the western world. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 began to make waves in console multiplayer. Console gamers realized the potential Battlefield had as a franchise.
But that was only if they could stray away from the enjoyment that the Call of Duty franchise was bringing. Medal of Honor 2010 had both Modern Warfare titles to compete with as well as Call of Duty: Black Ops on the way.

medal_of_honor_2010_box_artTogether with Medal of Honor: Airborne, the 2010 title received similar reviews.
Regardless of the relatively equal review scores to Airborne, it was not up to standard in comparison to other offerings. Although Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was not first title to center around modern warfare, it was still new and exciting to a lot of gamers.
They’d introduced new features, perks and customization. It was refreshing to use a modern arsenal rather than the stale WW2 weapon set gamers were accustomed to for more than a decade. Despite Medal of Honor 2010’s up-to-date graphics the base game remained the same arcade style. Additionally it failed to have a clear identity in the FPS space. Although the game play was solid, it lacked innovation and therefore was another generic shooter on the market. 2010 became the year that was imperative to Medal of Honor’s future success and should have solidified its place in the FPS world, but it failed to do so.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter

In 2012 EA released Medal of Honor: Warfighter, the latest (and likely last) addition to the franchise. Although the visuals were on par if not prettier than it’s competitors. Medal of Honor once again could not make up for its lack of innovation and this time glitches and other technical issues. The game was a huge failure, maps were poorly designed, the enemy AI was broken and story lacked any meaningful plot. Warfighter received the worst reviews scores in Medal of Honor history in addition to abysmal sales.

Where can EA go from here?

EA spoke out about Warfighter’s failure saying as a whole they should have done more for it. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3 shooting to fame didn’t help Medal of Honor either. In the end EA decided to focus on Battlefield as it had its own established identity, clearly different from other FPS games on the market. It’s a formula that is currently working for them from a casual gamers’ perspective, the Battlefield franchise sells well.

“What we think right now is that, for the next couple years, we can just have one great thing in that space. So we’re choosing for it to be Battlefield.”
– Rich Hilleman (EA Chief Creative Director speaking in 2013)

Despite the internal issues during the development of Medal of Honor: Warfighter. The franchise is still an intellectual property owned by EA, that they can bring out of the woodwork at any time. In a world where esports is growing, especially in the shooter genre, the next couple of years would be a good time to rejuvenate the franchise.

A new and free-to-play threat to CounterStrike: Global Offensive anyone?

Starting a fresh would be best and they have various options. Such as aiming to compete with Rainbow Six Siege, only on a bigger scale. Or threatening CounterStrike: Global Offensive with a free-to-play model, better visuals, but on a more bare bones scale in comparison to what the developers at DICE are capable of.

There are a lot more routes they can take with the franchise. More gamers play competitive shooters now more than ever. While Battlefield 4 put up mildly okay esports viewership numbers, a close quarters Medal of Honor esports orientated title could be a huge hit. Scaling the game down from a AAA title and placing emphasis on core gun mechanics, map design and competitive modes could be greatly beneficial. For EA this would be a small investment into a recognised franchise. An extra card they can pull and a secret weapon, if used and executed correctly.