Standing in a secluded demo area for Medal of Honor: Warfighter, I watched a briefing reel that explained the purpose of the game and what separates it from the countless other military shooters. Phrases such as "respect for the soldiers" and "extreme realism" hung in the air like hopeful promises, and these ideas stayed in my mind as I watched a detailed breakdown of the various weapons and soldier classes contained in Warfighter. Sadly, once I watched players compete in a multiplayer match, I could see that those ideas were little more than marketing speak. Though so many other military shooters cause this deflating feeling in me, listening to insincere claims about Warfighter added to my growing frustration.
There is a severe disconnect in military shooters between the painstakingly lifelike weapons, environments, and all of the army-approved ancillary details and the actual combat. While I was watching Warfighter, one player was shot multiple times in the back by an enemy attacker, quickly turned around to face his assailant, and struck him dead with a few well-placed shots to the head. Kneeling behind a pillar, the victorious player's screen slowly shifted from a red-streaked mess to a clear view as he returned to full health. Fully healed, he marched off to find another player to kill. Obviously, Warfighter is hardly the first military shooter that portrays war in this manner, and it won't be the last, and that trend is scary.
This is a common occurrence that looks downright mundane spelled out, but the fact that it's expected is disconcerting. Soldiers cannot, in fact, take multiple bullets to the back, shrug them off like they're mosquito bites, kill whoever had the gall to fire in the first place, and then return to 100 percent health, all in less than 10 seconds. And this scenario is so utterly preposterous that it negates everything we're told the game is striving for.
By focusing on instant satisfaction and extreme accessibility, they turn real battles into a virtual fantasyland where no harm is lasting and no danger exists.Developers continually talk about how much respect they have for real-life soldiers, but you'd be hard-pressed to find evidence of that claim in their games. Warfighter is just joining a growing list of games that include Battlefield, Call of Duty, Homefront, and too many more to list. Getting shot hardly matters in these games. Movement isn't hindered in the slightest even though a bullet is lodged in your leg. Aiming is just as steady even though your arm is shredded by shrapnel. The only hint that you've been wounded is a slightly obscured view, but that hardly communicates the horrible pain and life-threatening conditions.
One of the "innovative" features in Warfighter is the ability to team up with another character so that you can always see an outline of them, even when they're offscreen, and appear behind them when you respawn. This showcases the camaraderie that soldiers develop on the battlefield but also highlights how poorly death is handled. Infinite lives is the norm in military shooters. If you get lackadaisical on the battlefield and find a knife lodged in your back, you reappear moments later at full health, as if nothing bad had happened.
When I asked a developer from Danger Close who was giving the demonstration about this conflicting message, he explained that these decisions were implemented because the game focused on fast competitive play. That's a plausible answer, but the marketing speak from the development team doesn't reflect that this game isn't meant to be taken seriously. You can't say that you have respect for the soldiers only to trivialize their sacrifices on the battlefield by making things such as death slight roadblocks on the road to success.
Because I was told that regenerating health and the like existed for competitive play, I asked if lives would be handled with more care in the single-player campaign. Sadly, it doesn't seem like that's the case, either. When you die, you respawn at the nearest checkpoint. Regenerating health ensures you won't need to carefully consider every move you make. Instead, you can run into battle, absorb a few rounds, and then duck behind cover like nothing happened.
This doesn't resemble real-life battles at all, and I find this very upsetting. Military games have turned war into a silly good time, and yet they hide behind their realistic claims as if they're doing justice to the armed forces. In reality, they're exploiting the people who give their lives for a cause they believe in. By focusing on instant satisfaction and extreme accessibility, they turn real battles into a virtual fantasyland where no harm is lasting and no danger exists.
In military games like Warfighter, that preach how much they respect troops and how realistic they are, I find it sickening and shameful that health is treated so unrealistically. Making a quick buck on the backs of soldiers instead of educating consumers of the horrible truths of the battlefield trivializes the very things these development teams say they value.