In Medal of Honor Above and Beyond, I enjoyed shooting VR Nazis.
Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond has you shooting Nazis, hurling books, and reloading like a clown.The makers of Titanfall and Apex Legends are responsible for the upcoming Medal of Honor game, which is an Oculus Rift exclusive (opens in new tab). The developers of fast, fluid, and futuristic shooting games, Respawn Entertainment, are returning to a 20-year-old series about a 70-year-old conflict for their upcoming project(opens in new tab), which was created exclusively for a platform that is still having difficulty breaking through to mainstream audiences. It helps that important team members, like game director Peter Hirschmann, worked on the original Medal of Honor games. It also helps that, despite the game still being in pre-alpha, they allowed me to play a few missions.
I began on a firing range that was intended to acquaint me with crucial infantry techniques like arming weapons, using them, and safely (for me) throwing hand grenades. This is not merely set decoration. The importance of getting to know your guns—as well as the Germans’ guns, in case you run out of ammo or simply prefer them—was immediately apparent.
I’ve known for a while that American soldiers during the war preferred the semi-automatic Garand rifle because it was simple to use. As I learned from Roger Mudd’s History Channel specials, when the rifle’s ammunition ran out, the clip would automatically eject with a pinging sound, leaving the slot open for the soldiers to jam another round into. On a factual level, I was aware of everything. I began to feel that appreciation for myself as I played around on that firing range and later engaged in a (virtually) real-life battle with German soldiers.
Hirschmann tells me, “We’ve spent years, literally years, refining it. “Each weapon is slightly unique. Whether you have to pull the bolt each time or ram a cartridge into the bottom, it shapes those personalities. One of the best aspects, in my opinion, is how it tells the tale of the Garand and explains why that weapon was so crucial to the Allied cause.”
The game Medal of Honor: Above & Beyond lacks a reload button. When your gun runs out of ammunition, you must remove the empty magazine, dump it, reach down to your hip, take a brand-new magazine, put it in your gun, and then charge the weapon by pushing back its bolt or bolt equivalent. There are several phases involved in doing an essential task. The physical exertion involved in shooting lead at wooden targets is enjoyable. However, when your opponents are shooting back, it can be stressful, and you really value anything that makes the process go faster – even more so than you would a built-in reload animation. Three seconds less.
“Because you can’t disassemble and clean the components of the weapons, it is once again not about fetishizing them. Learning the personality, strengths, and weaknesses is all there is to it “Hirschmann keeps going. “The Germans will respond when the clip pops out of the Garand while you’re using it and you insert a new one, according to the AI. We have a complete logic queue for when they hear that “ping!” because we know they’ll become hostile and start moving once they realise you’re reloading. which occurred to Allied soldiers during the conflict after the Germans realised what was happening.”
Getting my bearings
Movement is controlled by analogue sticks in Medal of Honor: Above & Beyond. Although you can move by stepping around your actual surroundings, the levels are all sufficiently large for you to spend most of your time pressing forward in order to, well, press forward. Although it made hiding behind cover feel physically more taxing than just sprinting at the Nazis’ full pace, it felt appropriate for a gun game. In an otherwise immersive experience, remembering which parts you perform with your controller and which parts with your actual body might be unsettling, but I’m confident I’d get the hang of it with enough practise.
Speaking of immersion, the first time I walked about in-game, I did feel a little queasy. Everything else was good, as is common for my experience with most VR, and that went away quite quickly. If you have more motion sickness or other issues, you should contact the nurse’s office early in the game. She will assist you choose from a variety of comfort measures, including screen tunnelling.
I immediately advanced from the firing range to a mission deep within Nazi-occupied France when I rejoined the war effort. I had to signal the surrounding French resistance fighters that it was time to break free from captivity and begin killing some Nazis while I was posing as a German soldier. According to the pre-mission briefing, I would achieve this by using the power of music to play a certain song as a signal. I had to get to the owners’ house, which was upstairs, to pick the right Nazi-killing song. I was in a bookstore.
I leisurely looked around the shop. Most of the books and other trinkets that were laying around could be picked up and examined, which instantly brought to mind Bethesda-style pranks. I took a book from a table and nonchalantly threw it out the window as I made my way upstairs. As you can see, if I had paid attention during my OSS training, I would have known that this is precisely the sort of behaviour that German soldiers seek for in a double agent. I blew my cover and botched the objective. I retraced my steps and made the decision to take my responsibilities as the liberator of the French people more seriously. I discovered the ideal tune through a series of secret agent-like events, including a piano that revealed a hidden door when I touched the proper notes with my extended finger. Because music fans in the 1940s had no choice but to be hipster audiophiles, music was only played on vinyl.
I threw that record like it was hot with a phonograph facing out the second-floor window. When the Germans discovered that I was engaging in some resistance pranks, things really heated up. It was OK that my cover had been discovered since it was now time to start shooting and all of my practise at the range had paid off. Kind of. For example, I was able to position my bullets well enough to kill some troops who were on the street. The resistance really needed a shaky and halting performance from a firearm-centric contortionist at this desperate time, but I kept forgetting that it made more sense to pull back the bolt (or, again, the bolt equivalent) with my right hand rather than awkwardly reaching over the top of the weapon and charging it with my left hand, upside down.
A history of historical shooters
I was able to put my disembodied hands together for long enough to sweep through the streets and eventually come across Manon, the main character from Medal of Honor: Underground. It was encouraging to see this clear reference to the series’ heyday given that Medal of Honor has more than a dozen games, including those subpar modern era reboots. One mission even requires you to work with Manon and the protagonists from the original Medal of Honor and Medal of Honor: Allied Assault to sabotage the German-controlled heavy water production facility in Norway. This mission is known internally at Respawn as “Medal of Honor: All Stars.”
Hirschmann claims that returning to that fictitious past was alluring for him and his team. It was thrilling to bring back well-liked video game characters after a long absence, but it was also an opportunity to tell the real-life tales that gave them their inspiration. The Gallery feature from the first Medal of Honor games, which bookended many of its missions with quick mini-documentaries on their real-world inspiration, is brought back in Above and Beyond.
“The unfortunate fact is that, if I may use that term, the greatest generation is reaching the end of their days. The newest war veteran is in his nineties. Again, we spoke with both men and women who had been in the military. It’s a tremendous honour for us to have this chance to interview them while travelling around Europe and the United States, to include their tales into the game, and to draw inspiration from them once more. We’re quite happy to be able to share their tales with players.”
In 2020, you’ll be able to play the remaining Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond levels on PC and see those short films in virtual reality. Due to Facebook’s funding of its development, it will only be available on the Oculus Rift and is likely to stay that way forever. It features more than 50 levels and will supposedly go well beyond the 10- to 12-hours of playing that Respawn was legally required to provide, so plan to spend a substantial lot of time with the headset on and Oculus Touch controllers in hand. Hirschmann laughed.
I am one of the people Oculus is trying to get onto its platform with a new generation of high-end VR games because I don’t own a Rift at home. Regrettably, most of it will likely rely on whether or not I ever get around to constructing a new computer that could run these games without setting my house on fire. This is unfortunate for Respawn and its fellow Rift-exclusive devs. I’ll say this, though. I am officially prepared to kill virtual Nazis once more, despite having long since shelved Medal of Honor and the idea of World War 2 shooters into the dingy Video Games of Yore folder (sorry, Call of Duty: WW2.