Medal of Honor is back in a way you probably didn’t expect. Respawn, is bringing Medal of Honor back from the dead in VR form as Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond.
Medal of Honor is a first-person shooter video game, developed in 1999 by DreamWorks Interactive and published by Electronic Arts for PlayStation. It is the first installment in the Medal of Honor video game series. The story was created by film director and producer Steven Spielberg in the lead up to the release of 1998’s Oscar-winning Saving Private Ryan.
Spielberg was famously inspired to reach out to initial developer studio DreamWorks Interactive after watching his son play N64 Rare classic Goldeneye 007. Spielberg went on to craft the narrative of the first three Medal of Honor titles. Dreamworks Interactive eventually became EA Los Angeles and then Danger Close Games before shutting down after EA paused Medal of Honor development following a string of controversies related to Warfighter.
Respawn Entertainment, creator of Apex Legends, Titanfall, and the upcoming Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, is directing its concentration to one of newish parent company EA’s veteran properties. Now, one of the most esteemed first-person shooter studios in the industry, Respawn, is bringing Medal of Honor back from the dead in VR form. The project is under game director Peter Hirschmann, who was a producer at Dreamworks Interactive on the original game. Hirschmann says he and a number of other Medal of Honor veterans are on the team and have been tasked with keeping the spirit of the series intact as it moves to an entirely new platform.
But since 1999 it’s the first time that Medal of Honor video game series has a VR game Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond that’s exclusive to Oculus Rift.
In partnership with Oculus VR, the studio today revealed Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, onstage by Mike Verdu, the head of VR and AR content at Facebook, at the Oculus Connect developer conference in San Jose, California. Its release date is not confirmed yet but it will be in 2020. The Oculus partnership was first announced in 2017, just prior to EA’s acquisition of Respawn. However, given EA’s ownership of the Medal of Honor franchise, that deal opened doors for Respawn and the Facebook-owned VR platform to tackle the historic battlefields of Nazi Germany with the Medal of Honor name attached.
And that’s what makes Above and Beyond’s live-action documentary-style B-side such a confusing complement. As was a tradition in the early Medal of Honor games, Above and Beyond includes real-world unlockable WWII content. But where it might’ve been a photograph scanned into a bonus menu in the old games, here Respawn has laudably gone much further. The studio tracked down a number of surviving WWII veterans – all of which are in their 90’s today – and didn’t just interview them about their military service, but they went so far as to fly them back to Europe and to the exact place where their most memorable war moment took place.
“A trailer for the title shown off at Oculus Connect shows off first-person VR gameplay that looks quite realistic, with two-handed reloading of classic WWII firearms and claustrophobic close-quarters combat.”
The Gameplay of Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond
Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond is a World War II first-person shooter. The new Medal of Honor takes place over three Acts made up of many missions each, and the Respawn team says the campaign lasts 10-12 hours – a lot by VR standards. The missions are inspired by World War II events, but they’re not direct recreations of them. Game director Peter Hirschmann emphasized that Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond is meant to be a fun video game first, rather than a simulation or direct historical recreation.
The game is organized by 50 missions, and each one has a simple objective and a series of open-ended enemy encounters that can be approached from a number of different angles and with an assortment of various weapons. And every action you take involves some type of physical action. You can’t reload with a button; you have to grab a magazine from your belt and reload it in. Grenades must be taken from the belt on your chest, then light it and physically thrown.
This may sound tedious, but in the heat of combat, it has an exhilarating effect that makes a convincing case for taking these historic and video game-friendly backdrops and putting them in VR. Above and Beyond will feature some Medal of Honor favorites, like the storming of the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, and plenty of covert operations behind enemy lines with the French resistance. In that sense, it will be familiar to long-time fans, or really anyone who’s ever played a historic 20th-century war game. But in VR, it takes on a new life.
“Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond does have the benefit of pushing you ever-closer to the sensation of actually being present on the frontlines of history. It feels like you’re back in World War II-era Europe. You will not experience it on a flat-screen rather than you’re experiencing history with your own eyes.”
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