Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond releases this week across the Oculus PC Store and SteamVR for PC VR headsets. We can’t disclose our verdict on the game as a whole just yet, but the final preview embargo has now lifted so we can talk about our early impressions and publish thoughts on multiplayer.
In addition to Above and Beyond’s single-player campaign, you can master the distinctive handling of a host of WWII weapons and test yourself against opponents in five multiplayer modes on sites across Europe.
Charge into history when Above and Beyond launches Dec 11. pic.twitter.com/RO3z21h5Cm
— Medal of Honor (@medalofhonor) December 2, 2020
Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond Multiplayer Impressions
Naturally, these impressions come with a lot of caveats. Since the game isn’t live yet these multiplayer impressions are based on specifically scheduled sessions with producers, developers, QA testers, and fellow members of the gaming press to run through the various game modes on several maps. I also supplemented that time by playing several rounds of each game mode against CPU opponents as well.
The issue here is that not only were my teammates and enemies not your typical gamers that are learning the game for the first time but also servers were relatively stable. I had issues connecting at first, but eventually, it worked itself out.
Game Modes Impressions
There are five game modes between Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Blast Radius, Mad Bomber, and Domination. The first four of those listed are all basically just some variation on deathmatch with a twist of some kind, so the variety isn’t actually as great as it seems on first glance.
For example, Mad Bomber is very similar to Deathmatch other than the fact that each player also has a timed explosive they can plant wherever they want. You get bonus points for explosive kills and disarming other explosives. In the end, it boils down to just being Deathmatch with a few sporadic extra kills here and there.
It’s really a shame that a WWII-era shooter is launching without a Capture the Flag mode or something that really takes advantage of the unique advantages VR presents. Something that incorporates some vehicles in some way would have been awesome, or at the very least another objective-based mode instead of four variations off of Deathmatch.
The weapon selection is also shallow in the same way. There are only eight primary guns to pick from and weapons like the MP40 and M1A1 feel very similar in practice and two of the options are literally the exact same gun, except one of the options has a scope and the other doesn’t. Since there are zero sidearms in multiplayer and no progression system to speak of it just left a lot to be desired for me in terms of depth and options.
Luckily the ten large, spacious maps are fantastic. It’s extremely evident that this is a studio that has years and years of experience designing online multiplayer shooters so the map design philosophies really carry across well into a made-for-VR title like this. I feel like all-too-often VR shooter maps lack verticality and they all kind of feel the same, but that’s not the case here. There’s a snowy map with a light hazy fog effect in the air which pairs well with the stark white landscape — it’s a great juxtaposition for the ruined suburban church with exploded walls and destroyed interiors.
Overall ten entirely unique maps is a really great launching off point for this type of shooter and should keep things fresh for a while across all of the game modes.
Overall, I had a lot of fun playing multiplayer. In many ways it feels true to the tone and pacing of the original Medal of Honor games, specifically in terms of the fast-paced structure that focuses on delivering fun thrills without much complexity or depth. After a few hours it left me yearning for more in some ways, but it does scratch a certain itch that nothing on the market really does right now — not even Onward, Pavlov, Contractors, or any others that I’ve tried — due in large part to the nostalgia I feel for the brand and the setting.
The biggest hindrance overall is the lack of any sense of overarching progression. The fact that EA and Respawn have managed to capture that old-school feeling in the moment-to-moment gameplay and base WWII setting is a great achievement, but I also fear they may have turned the clock back in other ways too much as well. You don’t have a rank that levels up, there are no unlockables at all besides character skins — which are earned via campaign progress — and every gun is available from the start with zero changes possible. You can’t tweak your loadout or even change weapon skins.
As much as I enjoy the gameplay on a surface level, it doesn’t seem to go very far beyond the window dressing from what I’ve seen so far.
Check out more of our Medal of Honor coverage here.