A Look at Authenticity in Games: Medal of Honor: Warfighter

September 10, 2012

In an age of incredible graphical rendering, and access to near unlimited resources, the world of interactive entertainment is very different to what it was so long ago, as games strive to look and play more ‘realistic’ than ever. Racing games are programmed to the very same specifications as their comparative vehicles. Trade and construction sims adopt real-world economic fluctuations. As for the military sub genre, every weapon, location, mission and tactic is influenced by the various armies and conflicts throughout the world. History is important.

That’s exactly what EA and Danger Close are trying to do with their upcoming Medal of Honor: Warfighter. Sequel to 2010’s Medal of Honor, which saw the traditional World War II series plant its feet firmly in modern conflict, Warfighter again follows Tier 1 operators through dangerous war zones. And as anybody who is savvy with their military lingo will know (or anybody who played Medal of Honor for that matter), Tier 1 operatives are not to be trifled with.

Perhaps better known as Special Operations soldiers, Tier 1 operatives generally get down and dirty with the worst of the worst. Often stuck behind enemy lines, crawling through a foot of murky swamp for days on end, these soldiers embark on missions others would deem too difficult or flat out impossible. And often they’re right, as if something goes wrong there’s little chance to call in back-up. Instead, Tier 1 soldiers are trained to deal with the most extreme circumstances, from the weather and terrain to conflict itself, with the training also accounting for unexpected changes and surprises in any of these variables.

Curiously, public documentation of real Tier 1 operations is hard to come by. In fact, around the world many Special Operations groups are never publicly recognised by the government. We know they exist, they know we know they exist, but their missions are kept a tightly guarded secret, and the identity of highly trained Tier 1 soldiers left anonymous. If operative training isn’t paramount to Tier 1 operations, then secrecy most definitely is.

You can imagine then the difficulty in making a video game about Tier 1 operations when such specific information is so hard to find. Luckily for EA and Danger Close, a good few military contacts are proving useful, ensuring military personnel experienced in special, secretive operations are on-hand to advise the development team on what does and does not work in the world of Tier 1 soldiers. Those ‘in the know‘ are influencing the usual military game stuff, like weapons and equipment, to more interesting elements like the story itself. Did you know Warfighter‘s conflicts are inspired by real world Tier 1 operative missions? Well, now you do. Danger Close has painstakingly recreated a Tier 1 ‘experience’, ensuring even a simple act as breaching a door works exactly as how the real guys do it.

Though we’re certain the team’s military resources run deep (and secretive, as all Tier 1 business should), one lucky soldier helping them out is none other than an Australian Special Forces veteran. You won’t learn his name, not in this article or anywhere else, but his codename is “Dog”. A twenty eight year old special forces sniper, Dog has seen all manner of conflict in both Afghanistan and East Timor, from too-close-for-comfort encounters, to long distance fights against targets who didn’t even know he was there.

EA has kindly provided us a video of an interview with Dog, where he waxes lyrical on everything from the psychological impact of taking a life with one sniper round from a 1.5km away, and the moral conundrums of a soldier, to the downside of having to take a piss while you’re cramped in position for several hours looking through a scope. Check it out below to see where some of Medal of Honor: Warfighter‘s inspiration is coming from.

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In most cases ‘authenticity’ in video games goes out the window once you step from a tightly orchestrated single player into a frantic multiplayer, but that’s not quite case with Medal of Honor: Warfighter. The various conflict zones from the single player make their way across to the multiplayer, providing realistic backdrops to the player-versus-player battles, again inspired by real world conflicts.

Even something a simple as the playable factions is directly inspired by authentic military units. Ten countries and associated military are ‘represented’ in Warfighter. Western powers like the United States arrive with their counter-terrorism unit SFOD-D, the British with their iconic SAS, and of course Australia with our SASR. A handful of usually unsung nations in modern shooters make an appearance too, including South Korea’s Navy Seal inspired UDT unit, Poland’s multi-specialised GROM, and the Swedish SOG, a unit with a classified operative count. All of these, and more, are real military units from around the world, included in the game as part of the developer’s desire to respect the various Tier 1 operatives from multiple nations.

Danger Close has worked hand-in-hand with legitimate weapon manufacturers to ensure the above operatives are equipped with the appropriate weapons, as well as various stock, scope and other under-slung goodies unlocked through a levelling system. Equipment, too. Military grade bi-pod mounts and combat drones will be available for players to experience without having to foot the billion dollar bill when this stuff inevitably gets blown up. The joys of video games.

Lastly, to appease the most anal military fans, Warfighter will feature a hardcore ‘Real Ops’ mode. When enabled, Real Ops disables all that useful, comforting HUD information like health, ammo, radar and such in favour of sending the player in blind, relying on their senses and skill to know when they’re out of rounds and where the enemy is lurking. Naturally this includes alterations to damage variables too. You’ll die fast, so shoot straight, and preferably before the other person sees you.

Covering both the single player and multiplayer modes of Medal of Honor: Warfighter with life-like authenticity to the military content appears to be Danger Close’s main goal, and so far they’re doing a pretty solid job of selling the idea. We’ll find out whether or not they’ve hit their target when Medal of Honor: Warfighter launches on 25th October for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

This is a sponsored post but opinions are my own.