There was a lot of hype for Medal of Honor Above and Beyond VR gameplay. World War 2 action from a AAA studio with scripted single player story FTW. Unfortunately, the release was not so kind to the game.
Bugs and performance issues pushed the reviews into poor and mixed territory. Some weird design decisions and performance issues kept it from being labeled a great game. Patches were released to improve the game, but there was a still a lot of negativity.
There were several complaints about things that broke immersion, but I decided to judge it myself, after some recent positive reviews. I gave the game a chance.
A Lot of Fading to Black
I ran into issues right away, but spoiler alert, it got better (like putting a smile on my face at several points).
First off, the worst part of the game is how it breaks the flow at strange times. There are several talks with NPCs where you can’t move, but that’s not the strange part. What is strange is that it fades to black before letting you start moving.
It’s a combination that happens a lot, at least so far. Talked to NPCs, then fade to black and move around or fight, then fade to back to talk to NPCs again. Breaking up the scenes like that gets a bit annoying.
The longer scene loading is also frequent. It break immersion when you have to stare at a black screen with white text explaining the next scene, or the Medal of Honor VR logo just hangs in front of you.
A quick example from the very beginning, I was on a boat with my squad. We were waiting for a signal from the French Resistance, which came in the form of a lighthouse explosion.
The game faded to black, then I was instantly in front of a house near the lighthouse. It basically skipped past the whole traveling to and up the beach. I did some fighting in that house, then it faded to black again. It was then fast forward to me on the back of a truck with the resistance fighters.
It was a bit jarring to skip around that quickly. This happens later in the game, but there were more scenes that flowed together better. That included scenes where the NPCs would talk and fight with me before moving to the next location with no fade to black.
If they could reduce most of this fade to black stuff, the game would be much better for it.
Guns and Items are Weird, but Good
Holsters and Not Holstering
Weapons are holstered to several locations on the body, which is good. That includes over each shoulder, waist for pistols, left chest for grenades and right side of the chest for special pickups (like TNT).
You can grab from each location to switch weapons, but you don’t physically holster them. In order to holster a weapon, I just let go of it and it floated to its designated spot.
It’s weird and not very immersive, but actually works out in the middle of the action. Other VR games allow you to physically holster (like Boneworks or TWD Saints and Sinners), but it sometimes leads to accidentally dropping of guns.
Medal of Honor VR Reloading and Shooting
Reloading and chambering rounds is realistic, except for some weapons like the combat shotgun. Reloading happens automatically for that gun, but again, it actually is welcome in the heat of battle.
Aiming and shooting are pretty well done. It’s definitely fun to shoot at Nazis in the game. The sniper scope is definitely a let down. It’s a 2D full screen display with the reticle blacked out. Anyone that played Fallout 4 VR will be familiar with this lazy style of scope.
Manning machines guns or using grenade launchers were very satisfying. They both seemed to pack the correct amount of punch. Reloading those is like half realistic half quick version.
Using Medal of Honor VR Items
Grenades require pulling the pin with the other hand or with my teeth (by bringing it to my face). Throwing is decent enough (that’s always a bit weird in VR). The knives throwing style and cleavers also feel right in VR.
Later, I used a flashlight to find mines above ground and later a mine detector. The detector is the headphone style I used to hear the beep as I waved the wand near mines. It was a nice touch.
Some items can be picked up and used as weapons, but it’s strange what you can’t pickup. For example, some cups you can while other you can’t, but why? It is fun when you get a combo of a pot, knives and a tea kettle going at Nazi heads.
Syringes also attach themselves to the non-dominant wrist. I could grab one and inject into my chest to heal.
Medal of Honor VR Graphics
Performance requires some tweaking to avoid too many stutters, but the game looks great. Models of everyday items are pretty accurate and the interiors of buildings are detailed.
Gestapo headquarters gave me an Indiana Jones The Last Crusade vibe. Even the inside of elevators are quite detailed. My favorite was the detailed train car interiors and doors (the moving one, not the crashed one).
Faces of NPCs range from good to a bit cartoony. A little like the Walking Dead Saints and Sinners style. It does seem the scaling was a wee bit off with heads and heights seeming on the bigger side.
If I remember correctly, I have my SS (Super Sampling) set to 150% and my AA options turned to MSAA Low. Everything else is high. I did run into some ghosting due to motion smoothing in some of the faster scenes, but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I was expecting.
Story and Immersion
Immersion is Half in and Half Out
If at all possible, it’s best to play this game before Half Life Alyx. That game spoiled most games with all the possible interactions with the environment. In Medal of Honor, it’s a 50/50 type situation.
I was able to pickup half of the objects in the environment, while the other object were seemingly bolted to position. My hand would move through many things with ease like I was a ghost. Any hat you find can be put on the head, so there is that.
The same happens with NPCs, and what’s worse is they are bullet sponges. I shot at and exploded grenades on NPCs with zero reaction from them. I expected some type of reaction. Even preventing me from shooting at them at all is better.
These Medal of Honor VR half immersed moments break the immersion in annoying ways, but the scripted moment often outweigh that all with a fun factor. I’m talking smile on the face, laughing like an idiot, fun at times.
The early game includes a lot of tutorials shoehorned into the story. It’s a yawn and likely why so many people request refunds, then submitted negative reviews. For people like me, fighting Nazis in the Gestapo Headquarters mission is where things really take off.
Some of the Great VR Story Moments
There were many moments in my playthrough that stuck out in my head.
- Grabbing the BAR (machine gun) to mow down Nazis for the first time was a treat
- Standing at the side of windows, while bullets flew by and NPCs were firing by my side
- Fighting Nazi’s in the beautifully detailed corridors of Gestapo HQ with Juliette at my side.
- Using TNT and a lighter to blow open a safe, then using that same lighter to burn a list on paper
- Punching a Nazi collaborator in the face is perfect in Medal of Honor VR
- Using the piano key code to open the secret entrance to an attic workshop
- Manning the different stations on the highly detailed bomber aircraft: tail gunner, waist gunner, dorsal gunner, bomb bay doors and bomber sight.
- Parachuting out of the bomber and getting caught in a tree
- Fighting Nazis while caught in the tree before using a knife to cut myself down
- Walking into a Nazi fort holding a box of papers while disguised, before knocking out the commandant with a bust sculpture
- Using that dead Nazi’s pen to write down his code on my hand
- Using that code to type into a train control board before catching a submachine gun thrown to me by Sarge to mow down more Nazis
- Pushing a train cart as rolling cover was a joy
- Escaping with Sarge on a motorcycle with a side car and using the machine gun to mow down Nazis
- Fighting my way through the cars of a moving train, catching the officers in the bar by surprise
It’s moments like these that make the game worth the price of admission. They are fun and put a smile on my face, despite some of the games weaknesses. I would say it would be much better placed at $40, but I’m only on the 2nd mission.
I wanted to support EA’s VR efforts and Oculus for releasing the game for SteamVR, so I’m glad it is actually good. I’m looking forward to playing Above and Beyond again.