Medal of Honor: Airborne
The marketing responsible for Medal of Honor: Airborne did his job excellently no doubt. On the mantra of less linearity and spectacular parachute jumps previewers and EA announced the resurrection of the WW2 series. We opened our parachute and looked whether this new product manages to land well in our games collection.
Let’s cut to the chase: the jumping is a nice finding, but nothing more than a gadget. Even in BF1942 we could already enter the battlefield from a parachute and the only addition is that you can land anywhere in the level to your own choice. Don’t expect too much from it, as although this indeed allows to start missions where you want, the choice for a not by a green flare pointed position nine times out of ten results in a quick death.
Once landed you can finish the objectives (blow something up, search, kill, check compass & follow the arrow, fall asleep) as you want. Nice, but the experience does remain linear as you can still only blow up a piece of artillery by putting a piece of pasta with fuse on it. There are no multiple solutions for one problem and often the open levels exist out of a couple of main streets that you’ll constantly end up in. Fun is that you can sometimes land on a tower or roof after which you’re in a perfect position to play sniper for a while. Those that love that will most certainly find this a plus.
Conclusion on the freedom: nice, but all but as deep or gameplay-determining as the PR-dudes want us to believe.
The rest of the game is nothing more or less than what we’ve seen so many times already. The storyline is non-existing as except from some briefings where you hardly find out your name you’ll have to do with “Jump men! And don’t forget to shoot!”. Some, and then mostly the later ones, of the six levels do succeed in setting down a good and immersive atmosphere, amongst other things thanks to the neat sound effects, and the feeling that your approach does have an effect on the course of the battle.
The AI of the opponents is quite aggressive. They’ll run up to you as soon as they see a chance and will give cover fire to pin you down. Also grenades are thrown at you correctly and the machine guns do form a real threat. Of course they’re sometimes less bright like when five opponents or so man the same gun so that you can shoot them one by one from the church tower.
What bothered me more are a couple of very frustrating gameplay elements. Your melee attack for instance is very weak, and you’ll all too often die in hand to hand combat. Also the unlucky placement of the sprint-button is clumsy. Worse is the fact that the hit detection is all but optimal. Despite the known “iron sights” to aim better you’ll miss incredibly often while being sure you were aiming correctly. This is made even worse by the shaky animations of the opponents which makes them switch from sitting to walking or standing in one frame. Good on the other hand is the way you can take cover and look above, next or below the thing you’re behind. And you can stay there easily for an hour as there’s little destructable environments present.
Concerning the basic gameplay Airborne just falls short, eventhough you’ll forget those shortcomings after a while and learn to live with them. Rifles of that time will probably have shot in a not-so-straight-line back in the day, no? Be aware that this game will appeal more to the hardcore shooter fanatics, and even more as it works with savepoints and your team mates have the tendency to stand in your way. Some innovations like automatic upgrades (less recoil, alternative possibilities, larger clips) of your most used weapon manage to keep the whole just refreshing enough to make the 6 to 10 hour lifespan pleasant.
Online there’s of course the possibility to play war a bit longer, with a series of gametypes where up to 12 people can fight at the same time. The parachute jumping here is a lot of fun as your non-suspecting enemies can be kicked in the neck and you can infiltrate enemy lines without being seen. Campers better grow a couple of additional eyes! On top of that the game plays fluid and especially veterans of WW2 will feel at home.
We already mentioned the good sound effects and also the music is decent. Graphically Airborne can’t make much of an impression, probably due to the large environments, but the player models, opponents and settings are a bit dull and little varied. No eye candy but convincing enough to never bother and now and then put a nice picture on your screen.
Medal of Honor: Airborne won’t make FPS-haters turn sides, but the more hardened shooter fans will be occupied with it for a couple of hours. Too bad about the problems with the hit detection, the animations and the in the end déjà-vu objectives, as we did have some fun thanks to the refreshing feel of the weapons, the parachute jumps and the in the end satisfying final missions