The very concept of Medal of Honor VR multiplayer is an interesting one. On one hand, the first-person shooter genre is nearly inseparable from competitive multiplayer at this point, especially when it comes to a franchise like Medal of Honor. On the other hand, VR is also something that has never been done in the series and requires quite a different approach to how interactivity works. That said, Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts took it upon themselves to ensure that the upcoming Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond will feature a fully fleshed out competitive multiplayer experience. With that in mind, I took the mode for a run and had a look at a few of the different match styles Above and Beyond will have on offer when the game launches.
Fighting the fight like never before
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
For those who may have missed it, Respawn Entertainment went deep into what is featured in Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond’s multiplayer earlier in December, and for my hands-on time, much of that content was present here. There are five multiplayer modes on offer: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Domination, Mad Bomber, and Blast Radius. Moreover, much of the arsenal you can use in the main game was present here in preset loadouts mixed of a primary weapon, health syringes, and grenades as you battle against other players across various maps also inspired by missions in the game.
Of course, we have to start by talking a little bit about the core experience of Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, and especially the VR shooting mechanics and their translation to multiplayer. In Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, once you’ve selected a primary shooting hand, your main weapon will default to that shoulder. As such, when you reach over that shoulder and engage a grab, you’ll pull out your weapon with your finger on the trigger in that hand. Your off-hand will pretty much always default to holding the weapon’s foregrip for better aim, helping with reloading and cocking, or, in the case of the shotgun, pump-action reloading.
One of the most interesting points of Above and Beyond is the methodology behind hip fire and aiming down the sights. Each weapon has a true-to-form sighting system you can use to line up your shots quite realistically, but gripping the weapon in both hands steadies it whether you’re hip firing or aiming carefully. In this way, sweeping an area of a spray of Tommy Gun bullets or pointing in the general direction of a foe with a shotgun and firing from the hip feels efficient and right for the strengths of those weapons where using the sights on an M1 Garand or Kar98k also feels good. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of aiming can be found in scoped weapons where lifting the gun up to your face blacks out the world around you into a tunnel vision view to better aid in looking down the scope. It’s jarring at first, but once you get used to it, it also feels good and engaging as you carefully line up shots.
Another of the more interesting mechanics is the handling of grenades. Sitting on your chest, these explosives can be lobbed with however much kinetic force you put into them. Where FPS games have almost always made grenade throws a standardized force, Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond allows you to consider how much oomph you want to put into a throw, whether it’s a full chuck into the enemy’s cover from your own or gently tossed around a corner into a room you want to breach. Funny enough, you can pull the pin on a grenade with your second hand or pull it up to your face to simulate tugging the pin loose with your teeth so you can keep your gun in one hand. It’s one of those touches I can’t imagine working without VR, but it makes the grenades that much more interesting to use in all situations.
The overall experience of battle
During my early session, I was able to play Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Mad Bomber. I’ve already teased the fact that, even just rudimentarily, handling the weapons, running around environments, and trying to outmaneuver and outshoot rival players in Above and Beyond is just so much more intense on a base level than when all of that action is simply confined to a controller and some joysticks. A part of that extends to some of the game modes as well.
Mad Bomber was an easy standout for me as the prime example of how a VR FPS multiplayer game ought to play. In this special type of free-for-all, every player comes equipped with a time bomb in addition to their regular loadout. The point is to find a place in the battlefield to plant your bomb and protect it until it goes off. You can get points by killing other players in normal gunfire fashion and protecting it long enough to go off, but the most points come from if your time bomb explodes and takes out other players along with it. You can also get points by locating and disarming the bombs of other players.
The bomb is one-handed and can be stuck to nearly any surface, which creates very unique opportunities in VR. Mad Bomber makes for a very interesting game of hide and seek. You can stick the bomb behind doorways, between objects on bookshelves, amid tools on a workshop bench, and so much more. You’ll know if you’re near an enemy’s bomb because of the increasingly loud ticking sound it makes, and all of these elements together make for a very fun and intense game that I’m not so sure could work without the interactivity of having both your hands available in real-time and being able to interact directly with various surfaces in the environment. There’s also unique opportunities like holding your bomb in one hand while keeping your gun in the other hand in case you need to pepper a foe with bullets while you’re figuring out a good hiding place. We’ve seen plenty of Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Domination in other shooters, but it’s hard for me to believe Mad Bomber would be as riveting and creative in a non-VR setting.
One thing I will say about Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond’s VR multiplayer is that it may not be something everyone can get into just because of how fast-paced it remains at all times. Don’t get me wrong. Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond goes out of its way to present players with accessibility and comfort options like the remove of screen shake and intense damage indicators, tunneling vision, snap turning, and more. That said, blink movement isn’t present here, perhaps one of the most widespread accessibility/comfort options in most VR games. Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond must be played in continuous motion, and I’m not sure it could or should be played another way from a functional standpoint. If you were shooting at a foe and they could suddenly blink out of your line of sight with a button press, that seems like it would be both janky and unfair. Those looking for the type of comfort found in blink movement won’t find it here.
Earning your medals
My early impressions of Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond left me feeling that it’s unlike pretty much any first-person shooter multiplayer I’ve ever experienced. VR didn’t just feel like a gimmick here. It’s thoughtfully implemented throughout the core gameplay mechanics of shooting and equipment interactivity, as well as in the very designs of certain game modes. Whether I was moving in close to sweep a foe’s midsection with an M1A1 submachinegun or taking careful aim with the M1 Garand, it felt right. Mad Bomber made me explore the maps Above and Beyond had on offer that much more to find good hiding spots for my bombs and discover those of my enemies. Comfort takes a hit to keep this particular type of VR multiplayer moving without issue, but Above and Beyond also does well in implementing ideas that make its competitive arena engaging, and it will be interesting to see how players take to it when EA and Respawn Entertainment finally launch the game on December 11, 2020.
These multiplayer impressions are based on an early Oculus edition of the game played on PC. Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond launches on December 11, 2020 on SteamVR and the Oculus store.