To coincide with their Medal of Honor reboot, EA and Coronet have released an accompanying novel by acclaimed writer Chris Ryan. We took the book deep into enemy territory to find out how much substance it has.
As the video game’s executive producer Greg Goodrich says Medal of Honor is “all about telling the soldier’s story in an honorable and respectful way.” The game development team grew beards as a way of acknowledging the US Special Forces unit who shared their knowledge with them. Known as Tier 1 Operators, these guys have seen action in some of the most brutal modern conflicts, their missions are classified and they answer to aliases.
The game got MP Liam Fox all hot under the collar in August over fact that players could play as the Taliban. Personally, I think it’s good that games are trying to say serious things about the world, however, with its cookie cutter characters and by-the-numbers story, I’m not sure the Medal of Honor reboot is saying anything meaningful about the nature of a soldier’s life.
And this brings me to Chris Ryan’s prequel novella to the game. Set in the early days of the Afghan War, SAS operative Jock is assigned a silent hit-and-run mission with Tier 1 Operators Dusty, Voodoo and Rabbit. Medal of Honor is the first time this ex-SAS soldier-turned-author has based one of his novels directly on a game – and if one of the requirements is ‘simple story for simple readers’, it should also be his last.
It may follow the same characters as the game, but sadly you learn very little about them that will make you understand why they are ‘elite soldiers’. The language is full of active terms, yet it’s sparse on description and imagery. And the military jargon and smack talk only serves to paint the characters the same shade of grey.
If you’re looking for video game inspired novels that show life from a soldier’s perspective try Karen Traviss’ Gears of War novels. Far from the meatheaded stitch job of the games, you’ll find wistful moments born from non-linear narratives and Traviss’ ability to make the post-apocalyptic Earth-like setting of Sera pivotal.
As an ambassador for the game, and the real soldiers it’s representing, this book fails to make the characters anything more than one-dimensional sharpshooters. The dialogue could literally be a script of sound bites and the harsh deserts of Afghanistan are so underused you could swap them for any hostile environment of your choosing. EA may say they’re doing this out of respect for the soldiers, but really this is just another merchandising op in the lucrative commercialisation of war.
Medal of Honor by Chris Ryan is available now, priced £4.99.