Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, the next big Oculus Studios title, launches in just a few days. We’ve spent several hours with the campaign and multiplayer components of the game ahead of launch and are here to share our initial impressions.

As both an Oculus Studios title and a game developed by Respawn Entertainment—known for Titanfall, Apex Legends, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order—anticipation for the game is understandably high for what has been pitched as a significant VR production by a AAA studio.

Despite the years of production and AAA pedigree, however, several hours of Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond have so far left me with a feeling that the game is poorly paced, lacking in mechanical polish, and not quite capitalizing on the unique potential of VR.

Campaign

Image courtesy Oculus

I still have a large portion of the game to complete—and my preview here is only allowed to cover the first two (of six total) missions—so my thoughts could well change in the later stages, but the game’s opening hasn’t left a strong impression.

While the game is supposed to be an action-packed and somewhat authentic WWII adventure, Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond feels like it isn’t sure what kind of tone it’s aiming for. If an intense adventure is the goal, the cheesy, stilted dialogue and often poorly animated characters are seriously detracting from being lost in that fantasy.

The game’s choppy pacing hasn’t helped either. The opening missions of the game feel like vignettes the player is dragged through that amount to little more than brief shooting galleries where every enemy is dispatched with the same simple point-and-shoot strategy no matter which gun you’re using. The environments have so far felt more like backgrounds than unique arenas.

While there’s a few interesting touches to the weapons—like the lever-action rifle which is cocked with a satisfying gesture—the system by which the player interacts with weapons and objects often impacts immersion and makes for janky moments in gameplay.

One core issue is how item selection and gripping is handled. Rather than grabbing the item closest to your hand, the game sometimes seems to have a mind of its own when it comes to object selection.

After struggling to understand exactly how the object selection worked, I found an option which turns on a visual indicator that draws faint lines out of your hands to show where you’re actually ‘pointing’. While this made it easier to understand how the game was making its choice, it didn’t make things much more intuitive, and I continued to often grab the wrong thing at the wrong time. This was especially annoying when trying to grab a grenade from my chest but my hand would inexplicably grab the handle of my gun even though it was much further away.

Weapons strike a reasonably good balance of interesting reloading interactions while being quick and easy enough to keep combat moving quickly. But weapons follow different rules than ‘normal’ objects in the game, and can only be held in the hand assigned in the settings. This leads to funky moments where you might like to pull a gun out with your off-hand to quickly use it, but instead your hand automatically grabs the grip (instead of trigger/handle) and it can’t be fired until your primary hand plugs into its assigned slot on the trigger.

The way that the position of your hands influences the position of the weapons is inconsistent and strange at times, like with the sawed-off shotgun which is fully controlled by the position of your main-hand, even when you’re holding the weapon with both hands.

The result of these sorts of unpolished interactions is that Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond feels—at least this far into the game—like it’s stuck in the 2017 era of VR gameplay. It doesn’t feel like it’s backed by an understanding of the best VR interaction and gameplay practices that have been evolving over the last few years, nor does it feel like it’s showcasing many unique ideas of its own.

Image courtesy Respawn Entertainment

Again, my preview is limited to the game’s opening missions, and I still have more of the game to complete before our full review which will be published soon. So it’s possible that there will be something entirely unexpected that really changes the feel of the game, but this is where my impressions stand for now.

Multiplayer

Image courtesy Respawn Entertainment

Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond’s multiplayer brings a Call of Duty level of speed, finesse, and occasional frustration to VR.

Call of Duty is known for its frenetic pace and low ‘time-to-kill’, where individual gunfights are frequently decided by who saw who first. Above and Beyond feels in that very same vein.

While this can bring a sense of totally trouncing your opponents by killing them before they even have a chance to shoot, it also means you’ll often be on the receiving end—dying before you have a chance to react, which is no more fun in VR than it is outside of VR.

This is not helped by the fact that the game’s lever-action rifle is a one-hit kill which seems ripe for terrorizing players who won’t even get the benefit of hearing incoming fire before it’s too late.

The objective-based game modes bring much needed order to Above and Beyond’s battlefield, which helps somewhat alleviate the ‘I saw you first so I win’ issue. Objectives being in static locations make it clearer where enemies might be coming from, so you’re less likely to get caught off guard than in the deathmatch modes where someone might have spawned just around the corner from you.

There is some fun to be had in Above and Beyond’s multiplayer if you like the run-and-gun gameplay. Fights aren’t particularly dynamic—as players are all just running and strafing around with joysticks with no free-climbing, vaulting, or other map interactivity—but at least the shooting feels tight and straight forward.

Image courtesy Respawn Entertainment

Above and Beyond brings at least one unique idea to multiplayer in the form of the ‘Mad Bomber’ game mode.

In this free-for-all mode, all players spawn with a timed explosive which they can hide pretty much anywhere on the map—on ceilings, under a table, behind a bookshelf, etc.

Once planted, the bomb starts ticking and will eventually explode and kill anyone nearby. The fun part is that other players can disarm your explosive for extra points if they can find it in time (by listening to where the ticking sound is coming from), otherwise you’ll get points when your bomb explodes (and extra points if it kills anyone when it goes off).

The mode plays out like a series of miniature hide-and-seek moments and opens the door to creative strategies. While you could, of course, find an obscure corner of the map to hide your bomb and wait for it to explode, it might be better to hide it in a high-traffic area of the map to use as a trap to lure unsuspecting players into your sights.

This is not only interesting because of the strategies that emerge from the hide-and-seek bomb mechanic, but especially because it takes advantage of VR both in the way you can intricately place the bomb almost anywhere you want, and how positional audio is used during your frantic search for an enemy’s bomb.

When it comes to weapons in multiplayer, the game offers minimal loadout options. You’ll get to pick one primary weapon plus your choice of extra grenades or extra syringes. You can also pick up an extra primary weapon from a downed opponent. Loadouts can be changed between deaths.

There’s a scoped sniper-rifle among the primary weapons, but it feels largely unusable due to a poorly implemented face-scope which blacks out your non-dominant eye and all peripheral vision. The face-scope seems to want to aggressively attach to your face if the gun comes anywhere close, which prevents holding the weapon in a ‘ready’ position to quickly acquire targets. The image through the scope not only lags significantly as you move the gun about, but also seems to blow out the image contrast in certain occasions, making it difficult to see your target.

Outside of the Mad Bomber mode, the low TTK and not particularly dynamic gunfights make it difficult to say if Above and Beyond’s multiplayer will feel fresh, fun, and replayable in the long term but I’d say there’s at least a shot of the game finding a core following which enjoys the run and gun approach.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Joseph

    “the game is poorly paced, lacking in mechanical polish, and not capitalizing on the unique potential of VR”.
    “it’s stuck in the 2017 era of VR gameplay”
    Tough review,

    • Ad

      To be fair, Alyx was also stuck back then, but Valve were masters of the craft and iterated endlessly.

      • Rogan Simanjuntak

        I’m not into VR. But, can you tell me exactly what other game that is not stuck in 2017 era? except bonework because i heard about it before.

        • Ad

          Alyx was made with 2017 design principles, the gunplay was very bad, the game refused to move the player at all, there were few to no physics puzzles, no melee, and smooth locomotion was added in the last few weeks and is at a set slow speed. It’s still a great game but to be fair to other devs, they’ve made great strides on a lot of core aspects of VR design.

          • Rogan Simanjuntak

            is gunplay really that bad? because i’ve heard somewhere valve choose single hand weapon because dual hand doesn’t feel great enough.
            Tbf, i dont know a lot about game development. But, i think valve have so many constraint while developing alyx and don’t want to experiment a lot to test the water.

          • Ad

            They wanted you to be able to do things while shooting, but the part of the trailer where you do that was cut. They did it for beginners. Gunplay is hit scan though, which means bullets are instant and either hit or don’t, and Alyx’s recoil pushes the gun down instead of up.

          • wotever99ninynine

            Yeah, as I lover of 2 handed weapons in vr, half life alyx was a massive let down.

        • No Spam

          Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners and Blade and Sorcery are two that people usually hold up as excellent examples of modern VR design (Walking Dead) and melee combat done right (B&S).

        • Lulu Vi Britannia

          Population:One,
          both The Walking Dead games,
          Lone Echo (ironically, that one was released in 2017, but it was so far ahead from the competition!),
          Echo:Arena,
          Asgard Wrath,
          Stormland,
          Rec Room,
          Shadow Legend VR (NOT the game you think, lol),

          And many others, but I’m not listing everything, lol. Feel free to ask for recommendations if you’re interested in VR!

        • wotever99ninynine

          Onward v1. 7, pavlov. Boneworks (sort of) racing Sims, flights Sims etc etc

  • TechPassion

    I was looking for conclusion if its worth it or not.

    • MeowMix

      ….Preview….

      !!!!!!!!!

  • Ad

    I’ve very glad Pavlov has that amazing World War II update soon.

    • Andrew McEvoy

      Oh really? Do tell!

    • ViRGiN

      I’ve very glad Pavlov has that amazing World War II update soon. – people back in 2018

      • mbucc9000

        AHAHAH
        SO TRUE

    • It doesn’t look anywhere on the same level as what I’m seeing in Above and Beyond.

      • Ad

        Really? It’s less stylized, the maps are bigger, it has double the guns with more realism, and has multi user tanks and deep mod support.

      • vrguywhoplaysvr

        has lobbies of up to 40 people on a utah Beach, soon to be enterable 3person tanks, leaderboads, competitive league,TTT, zombies (horde and pvp), basicaly Gmod. Im afraid above and beyond falls short (pun intended) but i support any titles expanding the market, causing hype, and new devs pushing the envelope even if it looks like a wii game

  • Adrian Meredith

    So it plays as bad as it looks. It was clear from the outset that this project was very much being done by the B team. Even the main trailers show off very Janky animation. Real shame as it really sounds like it could have been a AAA game

  • 3872Orcs

    Well that doesn’t look too good.. Looks like I’ll be waiting for some updates before I buy this game.

  • Hmmm, I’m starting to worry about this game now.

    But, it doesn’t matter now anyway, because the specs and requirements they released are so f’n absurd that I can’t even play the game.

    It requires over 300GB to start the install and then nearly 180GB free space for the actual game, and a graphics card that is waaay beyond my GeFore GTX 1060 for even the minimum spec!

    This means I literally can’t even download it, never mind play it? And I actually think this might be the case for a huge chunk of their once potential customers. I simply don’t have that much spare space, on either of my drives.

    How in the living Christ did they manage to get things so wrong here?

    • Sven Viking

      Yeah, assuming an RTX 2080 really is the minimum spec, not the recommended spec misreported, they’re going to have a bad time.

      • knyt0

        2080 is recommended spec, not minimum

  • wheeler

    The low TTK actually sounds good to me (just my personal preference) but the interactions definitely sound lacking. Interactions are what make or break VR IMO. I’ll be picking it up on Steam anyway just for the classic MOH vibes. And in general we’re kind of spoiled by this kind of content coming to VR at all with such a small market. Thanks for the honest, no hype impressions

  • Oh, I wasn’t expecting this negative review…

    • Sven Viking

      Preview, but, yeah.

  • Lulu Vi Britannia

    FFS, ARE THEY FREAKING SERIOUS?! “Cutting edge”, they say. “Pushing the boundaries”, they say. EVERY OTHER VRFPS is done better than this!!!!

  • johnny

    Watch the gameplay videos on reddit.. if you look closely you see the lack of polish.. look how he can’t pick up stuff and how buggy it is..
    The interaction looks very buggy and clunky.. for example here in this video
    https://streamable.com/avi890
    at 0:55 look closely how he picks up objects.. it’s very buggy and not how it suppose to be, some items just teleport to his hands while he tries to pick other stuff.. it’s hilarious. after so many time in development I expected more polish to this game

    • Genuinely, I think that gameplay clip looked more fun than almost any fps I’ve seen in regular times. It had proper sandbox gameplay, rather than just being all visuals spectacle but little else. The issues with a some bugs and lack of polish can and likely all will be ironed out in a game like this via future patches, but with games that don’t understand that core stuff in the first place, games that think all that really matters is surface-level visuals and story is paramount, you’re not very likely to get the core stuff at any point in the future because they don’t even realize that core stuff is missing in the first place. This game to me looks like it actually has the right kind of foundation to build upon, one that gets the true core stuff right. Leveling up, collecting skins, opening loot-crates, going through an interesting story but not having much option to do anything outside of that, using gimmicky “realism” and overly-simulationay style input for controls and interaction that doesn’t genuinely feel fun and satisfying, etc, these are not the core things that truly matter to actually have a genuinely fun and reward and enriching experience. Those are all things just built around gambling-influenced addiction-based mechanics that ultimately very hollow and unrewarding in the long run. But, yes they do need to fix and polish some of the controls and stuff that aren’t quite flawless in their consistency and accuracy and the like yet.

    • Sven Viking

      You’d think the most glaring pickup issue should be extremely easy to fix in theory — just don’t make use of telekinesis if a grabbable object is in very close proximity to your hand. Grab the nearest object instead.

  • wotever99ninynine

    I am shocked. This sounds terrible. How come AAA devs keep failing at vr, where indie secs succeed? Onward and pavlov have great gun mechanics, and you use a different button for grenades and guns to prevent the grabbing wrong thing issue. The scopes don’t black out your other eye, they are proper scopes. Just everything is perfect, minus the campaign which they do t have. Same with hotdogs horseshoes and handgrenades. Even contractors and zero caliber have better gun mechanics than this. And Boneworks. Half life alyx is another example of AAA secs failing at vr. A great game, great story, great graphics. Terrible gun/vr mechanics. Weird. Thus is a Shame, after what onward did with v1. 8 I wS relying on medal of honor being good.

  • Jarilo

    “Went in and tried to use my Russles gravity gloves to flick an M1 Garand rifle over to me…didn’t work 1/10 wouldn’t play again” – Ben Lang

  • Andrew Jakobs

    Wowzers, 60 euro’s for the game? I hope it does have a long single player campaign, for 10+ hours, because multiplayer in VR is not really my thing.