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Why Call Of Duty's crown is under threat

Opinion: Early signs suggest EA's Medal Of Honor could become 2010's No.1 FPS, says Tim Ingham...

Lest we forget - before Call Of Duty became the record-bazookering colossus it is today, its creators fought incredibly hard to win the hearts and minds of gamers.

Forget the megabucks marketing enjoyed by Activision's flagship IP in 2010: It was hard-fought critical acclaim and word of mouth that propelled Infinity Ward's Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare into the stratosphere - laying the tracks for World At War and MW2 to cement the franchise's reputation as an unstoppable Leviathan of gaming.

COD4, then, still stands as an industry-changing classic. But what was it that made IW's game stick out so conspicuously back in 2007 - in a market with its fair share of brilliant FPS titles?

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The fact IW went back to the drawing board; reset the franchise and implemented a bundle of never-before-seen tricks that now define the genre.

It's a fillip EA has learnt from: And the reason Medal Of Honor is the biggest threat to COD's dominance of the market in over three years.

I won't lie to you. When CVG walked into EA's Guildford offices last month to witness MoH for the first time, our expectations weren't sky high. We forecast a COD knock-off - a Medal Of Honor: Modern Warfare, if you will. What we got instead promises to be the most exciting FPS of the year. And yes, that includes COD 7 - Vietnam or no Vietnam.

Medal Of Honor is a world away from the Hollywood-ised, Michael Bay-aping popcorn drama of Infinity Ward's recent output. It's about as gritty, tricky and suspenseful as a war-based FPS gets.

We witness a 15-minutes slice of playthrough of an early campaign level, and our expectations are dumped on their unimaginative coccyx from the off.

We take the role of a Tier-One operator on the side of an Afghanistan mountain. The 'elite of the elite' (of course), the Tier-One unit makes up less than 0.01 per cent of the real life US military, according to EA LA - and include some of the sharpest minds (and hands, and feet) in world conflict. So sharp, in fact, EA defines the areas of the game in which they star the 'scalpel'.

As much about espionage and research as they are killing machines, these are the dangerous guys who grow beards and live in caves for months; just to infiltrate the terror cells of really dangerous guys who grow beards and live in caves. We'd tell you not to mess with them - if you could tell who they were.

We're informed that the story we're watching is fictional - but has been sculpted with insights from real-life Tier One. It shows. 'Young, dumb and full of guns' this ain't.

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Like the soldiers that inspire it, Medal Of Honor is all about accuracy. The night patrol we join sees our main man slowly advancing in enemy territory, but the first action we take is one of resistance - remaining in cover as flashlight-carrying enemies pass by.

We continue to sneak up the mountain with fellow Tier-Oners Voodoo, Preacher and Rabbit. Despite the the naturally sparse landscape, EA still manages to knock-out with the visuals.

A mist so dewy you can almost feel it in your eyebrows sweeps across the sandy floor, whilst a hint of sunblindness clangs into vision as daylight pokes its head through. As we increase in altitude, so the snow around us becomes more conspicuous.

Make no mistake: MW2-comparable megabucks have been sunk into this game - and EA reckons the pre-Alpha code we see is only at 60 per cent graphically. If it hits 100% exponentially, it'll be a better-looking game than MW2. There, I said it.

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