The wait is almost over for the last major virtual reality (VR) first-person shooter of 2020, Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond. When Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment first teased plans to enter VR in 2017 everyone knew it would likely be something special, and big in scope. After an eight-year hiatus, the franchise is returning to it WWII routes with an epic solo campaign, multiplayer and a historical feature called ‘The Gallery’. Leading up to the launch this week, it’s time to look at the early stages of the campaign and what the multiplayer is going to offer.
After a promising early preview during 2019’s Oculus Connect (now Facebook Connect) event and with the studio releasing a raft of information including plenty of trailers, Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond has the sort of production you’d expect. Right from the outset, Respawn has noticeably ensured the title encompasses the VR qualities all fans would come to expect, the prologue smoothly introduces the mechanics whilst the main hub area isn’t a mass of 2D screens, you’ve got your own desk where you can select missions and more.
The campaign sees you as a normal soldier who’s recruited into the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) – a precursor to the CIA – tasked with leading small infiltration missions in collaboration with the French resistance. This means no massive open warfare (to begin with) involving tanks and artillery, rather small insurgency operations, sabotaging convoys and fighting through small European villages. With short, sharp skirmishes you don’t have bulky inventories to worry about in the field, everything is located on your body, a system becoming fairly common in VR FPS’.
Most of it is fairly realistic, pistols are on your hip whilst your main secondary weapon like a sub-machine gun is over your right shoulder. Over the left tends to be the longer-range weapons but you can’t swap them, each weapon class has a particular shoulder which did seem a little restrictive. Grenades go on your chest. The slightly more gamified mechanic is the health regeneration, where you can pick up health syringes to jab into your chest. These are stored on the wrist (max of 3) which would be dangerous in reality as all the needles are pointing inwards. That aside, all the interactions are as you’d hope, grenade pins can be pulled with your teeth, each gun has its own manual reload system to learn – 2-stages, not that difficult – and can be steadied with your other hand.
All of that is gone through in the prologue’s firing range which you can spend as much time in before progressing to the main missions. There are six main chapters which are split down into a selection of small bite-sized levels, so you can take regular breaks which should be good for newer VR players who may not want to spend long durations in VR.
Those that do can delve into multiplayer, which is where most of you will likely spend a lot of time. One of the last aspects of Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond to be detailed, from what VRFocus has seen so far there’s plenty to like. There are five modes – Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Domination, Mad Bomber and Blast Radius – across 10 maps, with each match consisting of 12 players and AI bots if there aren’t enough human players at the time.
Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are your standard fair, working exactly as you expect. It’s the other modes where Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond really begins to shine – with Mad Bomber being a particular favourite. Domination may not be an original mode, taking and holding a location to gain points, yet when you’re trying to hunker down in a bombed-out church that sense of immersion in the battlefields of Europe is certainly noticeable. Blast Radius kicks the tempo up a notch as an explosive King of the Hill mode. Normal free-for-all gameplay suddenly changes when a Blast Radius zone suddenly appears, get inside it and every kill you get provides 5X points. Even better, it’s the only place Panzerfaust rockets spawn, great for multi-kills if you know what you’re doing.
However, for equal amounts of shear fun and panic, Mad Bomber is not to be missed. Every player has a timed charge attached to their chest, which can then be placed around the map for a crafty kill. Timers last for 30 seconds so if an opponent spots the charge they can disarm it for points, whilst bomb kills net you extra points. It’s the only multiplayer mode where you can be evil and creative, hiding your bomb in the bushes or on the inside of a barrel. Maps like the Winery – compact with lots of environmental objects – ideally suit this gameplay as 12 players cunningly hiding ticking bombs everywhere can easily distract you, making for an easy target.
Unlike the normal console/PC market which is inundated with WWII videogames, VR hasn’t seen the same deluge giving Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond free run to stake a decisive claim. And it’s very likely to do so as Respawn Entertainment is pulling out all the stops for this one, ensuring there’s plenty of content and everything handles as it should. It’s not going to be an easy videogame to run – recommend specs include 16GB RAM and an RTX 2080 GPU – yet if you were considering an upgrade, Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond may just warrant it. VRFocus’ full review will come later in the week.