Full disclosure: I’m an old-school Medal of Honor fan, so when I heard Respawn Entertainment was bringing it back – and in VR no less – it was a gaming dream come true for me. But the truth is it’s been 8 years since the gaming world has seen a Medal of Honor title and even longer since we’ve seen a good one. But if anyone could give us a good Medal of Honor it would be the developer of TitanFall, Apex Legend, and part of the team behind the legendary Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. In the days leading up to release, however, we were peppered with stories about the game’s historically massive install size and borderline ridiculous minimum specs. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have me worried. After blasting through the campaign and running around the multiplayer for a full day, I can say most of my worries were justified, and yet I still found plenty to love.
The campaign manages to come in at a surprising ten plus hours. You wouldn’t have guessed it from the pace of the first few missions. Some of the very first “scenes” are comically short, featuring an awkward and very flat game-ish 2-D Victory sign at the end. Thankfully the load screen that follows every one of these ‘victory’ signs is short, but EVERY one of these is followed by a load screen and there are over fifty of them. To be fair, these don’t make the game bad, and these levels or scenes aren’t bad, they are just regular video game levels that someone decided to cut into pieces. Maybe this was to keep the new VR players comfortable. I don’t know if it worked, but it definitely threw off the pace of the game. Especially at the beginning. It gave me an early impression that the game was going to be shallow when that isn’t the case at all. In fact, I grew to care about each of the small cast of characters that make up your small crew. The story isn’t groundbreaking, but that isn’t a surprise to anyone, and if it is, wow. But it wasn’t bad and there are actually some real moments in it. These moments are surrounded by plenty of cheesy dialogue and more genre tropes than you can shoot a Thompson at, but some tropes work. If you don’t believe me, ask a romance writer what happens if the girl doesn’t end up with the guy at the end.
But the story isn’t what you play these games for. It sure isn’t what I play them for. I play them because it’s fun to shoot fake bad guys, especially Nazis, and especially in VR. And I’ve always wanted to experience some of those epic, over the top action scenes inside a headset. And Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond handles both of these in spades. There isn’t a ton of guns but they feel and sound great. This is Respawn, so that should come as no surprise. The reload sequence for each weapon gives you that level of real-world immersion that makes VR so cool, but it streamlines the action a little bit. A button will eject the spent mag and you simply lower your free hand in the general vicinity of your belt to grab a fresh one. Slam it home and pull back the slide or bolt to charge the next round. It’s a nice mix of Onward’s realism and Population: One’s accessibility. Each weapon was fun to use, with my personal favorites being the M1 Garand, the repeater, and the pump-action shotgun. The sniper scopes are the lone disappointment as far as the weapons go. The entires screen goes dark as soon as you lift the gun close to your head. Although removing your trigger finger far enough from the trigger brings back your full view. This allows you to use your trigger hand to slide the bolt back to chamber a new round while keeping the rifle in the firing position and maintaining a full view of the battlefield.
The weapons look and sound great, which is an obvious must in a first-person shooter, but my absolute favorite part of the game is the amazing action set pieces. They are big, exciting, loud, and basically everything I wanted them to be. The first of many of these scenes comes very early in the game. You and your ragtag team are set to derail a train. Your bomb expert places a charge on tracks and you and the rest of the team want to move back to a safer position. But your “expert” insists his math checks out and you’re all safe hiding behind a massive boulder jutting out of the ground. Safe to say, his math did not check out and the train comes at you so loud and fast that I literally wanted to duck for cover. My whole house heard me scream out in excitement, but I couldn’t hear anything aside from the deafening sound of a train crashing over and all around me. That was just the first (and not nearly the best) of what was to come. If you’re a veteran of the genre, you’ll no doubt have seen most of these set pieces before, but never in VR and they really delivered.
When you’re not racing through the darkness in a motorcycle sidecar, or piloting the guns of a giant drop ship, or swimming to safety after your ship sinks, you’re hiding behind cover and shooting one nazi after another, slowly advancing when you can. Sound familiar? Of course, it does. That is every FPS ever, for the most part. To this point, I think Respawn made a concerted effort to make an impressive amount of unique locales. Whether you’re sweeping an enemy minefield, clearing an enemy bunker, a German train, or storming Omaha Beach, almost every scene offered something new to look at. Plus the surprisingly aggressive AI also played their part to keeps things fresh. They were always pushing forward and were usually deadly accurate on the normal difficulty. I remember at one point standing at the top of a staircase, just out of sight of some german soldiers in the room below. I grabbed a grenade from my chest, pulled the pin with my teeth, and tossed it down the stairs. I watched and waited with morbid excitement for the explosion to clear the room. Instead, I saw a young soldier dive on top of the grenade, sacrificing himself to save the other soldiers in the room. I’m also pretty sure I saw one of them kick a grenade back in my general direction later in the game. Despite the enemy’s tenacity, you can take a fair amount of damage before dying. Plus, you can heal yourself by jamming a syringe into your chest.
When the missions don’t work, it’s usually due to the biggest fault I’ve found with the latest edition of Medal of Honor. The physical interactions are a mess and the most obvious evidence that this is Respawn’s first VR game. Trying to interact with objects in the world is extremely inaccurate. If there are two things on a table you want to grab, count on picking up the thing you don’t want. There is one section where you and your cohort sneak into a German base in disguise. After a quick exchange with a high-ranking German official, you’ll need to grab something off of the desk and bash him in the face. When he’s out cold, you’ll scribble a code from his desk on your hand that you’ll need to input later. When it comes time to input the code into a panel, it simply refused to work, despite me carefully and slowly punching in the code over and over. I was using my index finger to press the 3 digits but apparently, the palm of my hand was getting in the way, although there was no visible or tactile information relayed to me allowing me to adjust. Once I finally figured out the problem, I had to turn my hand in an awkward position to perform the task. This was made even more strange due to the fact that there was a playable piano earlier in the game that was extremely accurate and easy to play. Strange.
After playing games like Half-Life: Alyx and The Walking Dead: Saint’s and Sinners, their excellent use of physics-based gameplay raised the bar to heights that Medal of Honor doesn’t reach. In fact, I don’t think they even tried. To be fair, it seems Respawn Entertainment put its focus towards creating much larger environments than those two games and big Hollywood style set pieces. But hopefully, the days of your virtual hand passing through objects will soon be over.
The multiplayer could have been fun, and probably is for players with more powerful computers. But for my system, it was too choppy when the match was full of other players, even set to medium. The graphical hit the game takes on low was a bridge too far for me. I tried each of the game modes and most of them felt very similar. The action was fast and furious, and I loved most of the maps, but with no sidearms and zero progression, it still managed to feel shallow. I actually preferred the horde mode here, which is not usually my thing.
As far as comfort options go, there is no teleportation available. But even on my underpowered rig, it ran smooth enough that I never suffered any motion sickness. Unfortunately, the game is click turning only, but hopefully, they will patch in smooth turning soon. In addition to the multiplayer and horde mode, there is also a fantastic documentary series that features stories told by WW2 veterans, and some awesome 360-degree videos. It did feel weird that you have to unlock it by playing through the campaign, plus I would have rather watched it on my TV.
Despite a deep campaign that I enjoyed and some big-budget action pieces that I absolutely loved, it’s hard to recommend Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond at $60, especially if your pc doesn’t meet the games overly high recommended specs. There are a ton of moments here that I’m sure every VR shooter fan would enjoy, it’s just too bad that they couldn’t get it running on more systems.
Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond Review
Overall - Very Good - 7/10
Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond is a long tour through Europe that uses some exhilarating action sequences and solid shooting to keep an otherwise average campaign from dragging. Despite a campaign that features some of my personal VR gaming highs, the uneven pace, and the lack of physics-based interaction makes it feel outdated. Adding multiplayer and a horde mode to a ten-hour campaign offers a decent bang for your buck, even at $60.
- The ten-hour campaign packs in a lot of fun
- The addition of full multiplayer with bots and a horde mode is more content then VR gamers are used to
- The giant 2-D placards after each mission and the flat square menus make it feel like a port of an old flat game
- The high minimum specs needed to run the game will keep many players away
- The lack of decent physics-based gameplay stands out for all of the wrong reasons
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game bought at the expense of the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using Oculus Quest 2 via Oculus Link on PC.
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