Gamers take on Taliban in ‘Medal of Honor’

Midpoint in the Afghanistan war game “Medal of Honor,” you use a sniper rifle to shoot an al-Qaida guy in the head as he stands 911 meters away.

Did you catch that 9-11 reference?

That al-Qaida guy’s head explodes like the Death Star. Tell me this game doesn’t have vengeance on its mind.

The plot is simple. You portray several U.S. soldiers in various battles of the Afghanistan guerrilla war.

This reboot of the “Medal of Honor” series is sometimes tough for the sheer numbers of enemy soldiers who come after you. But often, you just take your time. You hide behind rocks. You shoot as many Taliban guys in the head as possible.

Attention to visual detail is excellent. The action begins with you and a comrade riding up the street in a van as goats wander about. Those goats look real enough to milk.

Since this war is so guerrilla, battles are one messy cluster after another. You and a handful of fellow soldiers infiltrate snowy villages and desert towns. You get ambushed. You fly helicopters. Everything is intense.

My favorite section chronicles the duo of Deuce and Dusty as they aim sniper rifles at al-Qaida in snowy mountains. The game makers should consider a whole spinoff game based on that level.

Gritty, nasty firefights light up caves, streets, shoddy houses and mountain cliffs. You are armed with weapons worthy of U.S. soldiers — stellar sniper rifles, plus machine guns, shotguns and rifles.

In some ways, “Medal of Honor” may feel more realistic since (as Electronic Arts says) they asked the most elite soldiers in the war for advice and guidance.

But in other ways, it’s just another war shooter where you hide behind cover and pick off Taliban who just stand in open ground, waiting to be killed.

It’s a short offline game for a hard-core player (I wrapped the solo mission in six hours), but it should give casual gamers trouble finishing. The online multiplayer modes could be played for weeks or a few months, although I have had at least minimal trouble with joining games, crappy starter weapons, spawn killing and screen freezes.

Oh, yes. For some reason, a small brouhaha started weeks ago when a war leader attacked the game — without playing it — saying it lets gamers portray the Taliban. The media jumped all over this.

But you can’t play as the Taliban in the game’s solo mission. However, the online multiplayer comes with the usual team death match-type modes. In those modes, you play on a team dressed as one army or another, either U.S. or Taliban.

Those online outfits are what we call “skins.” They are contextually meaningless, plotless and will not let you feel like you’re actually portraying anything Taliban (unless perhaps you’ve never played an online game before).

Meanwhile, during offline battles, you stab al-Qaida enemies in the face. And you sneak up behind one sap and bloodily slice his throat. Does that sound sympathetic to the enemy?

(“Medal of Honor” by EA retails for $60 for PS 3, Xbox 360 and PC — Plays entertaining, online and offline, though a bit short offline. Looks great. Challenging. Rated “M” for blood, strong language, violence. Three and one-half stars out of four.)

Contact Doug Elfman at He blogs at

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