This E3 has offered a few surprises, and if you can believe this, a WW II shooter from EA happens to be one of them. I'm talking about Medal of Honor: Airborne, the latest installment in the long-running series, coming to the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 on August 28 this year.
Easy, dude. I'm on your side! Fucking, geeks!
You know, it really ain't easy breathing under these things.
Even though I myself fall into the category of "gamers tired of WWII games," I will admit that after a couple of minutes of watching the presentation, I decided to take the devs up on their offer and play Medal of Honor: Airborne for a couple of minutes. I actually ended up playing 25 minutes. In a crowded room and with a 360 controller (that in itself is a miracle right there, folks, simply because we're not talking about a mouse and keyboard).
My first contact with Airborne generated mild interest as I watched detailed models of your squad mates getting ready to jump out of a C-47 plane. Sure, the graphics looked good (this one is being powered by the Unreal Engine 3, although the team has heavily modified the AI code), but there was nothing really there that I haven't seen before. And then, as one of the developers was getting ready to jump out of the plane with his character, I noticed he paused deliberately. He did that to show that the jump wasn't actually scripted. No, we were actually going to parachute out of a plane and onto an actual persistent battlefield. If you wait a while longer before jumping you are going to land some distance from your designated landing spot.
And that's the thing about Medal of Honor: Airborne. The devs repeated about five times that even though they are fully aware of the general jadedness of gamers with the WWII shooter sub-genre, they wanted to redefine the formula of how these games are played. And so, what you get is a lot less, a LOT less restrictive battleground to fight in. We're talking no artificial obstacles that rail you through scripted sequences, nothing like that.
As I took up the controls, I landed on a roof of a house, therefore getting a strategic advantage over the enemy. Now, usually, the way these games work is that you sort of follow the path that the developers have laid out for you. This time around, I was free to decide which sort of approach I would take on the battlefield. I needed to assess the number of enemies that I'm facing, and then try to outmaneuver them and often retreat and regroup in order to kill them. In all this time, the German soldiers reacted quite realistically to my movement, all in an environment that was allowing for all sorts of tactical movement and navigation through the area.
Before I knew it, I actually found myself engaged in the combat, phasing out all the external noise and a bunch of dorks pretending to play instruments in EA's Rock Band in the back.
Airborne felt a little like being on an actual battlefield; not knowing exactly where to go, or what to do. I felt like a soldier trying to survive and actually figure out how to pull that off. I relied on following some of my squad members as they fought the Germans. I am telling you, people, this was a great and seamless shooter experience and I loved it.
To further add to the realism, the downed enemy soldiers would sort of be taken by the inertia of the bullet as it hit, so the death animations looked unique each time. But more than that, I was enjoying switching between my sniper and my assault gun and just having a blast on a map that was neither a complete sand box type of area, nor a railed and heavily scripted restrictive map (This should add a huge improvement to the series. - Vader). The balance was struck just right, allowing for time to fly by as I was battling my way across the battle zone.
Near the end of the presentations, the devs decided to show off one of the last levels in the game. You will be jumping over Berlin. Now, I know this may sound clich' to many of you, but when you see the city that they've modeled from the air, I guarantee your jaw will drop a little. I have never seen a better rendered urban city landscape in a game.
As you land, you go up against 16-store concrete bunkers that the Germans built, that are actually still in existence in Berlin today.
This part of the game looked incredibly impressive and if the rest of Medal of Honor: Airborne is as compelling and smooth as what I saw at the EA meeting, then I strongly advise you to swallow your FPS pride and give this, yet another WWII shooter, a chance. I think you won't be disappointed. Well, pleasantly surprised if nothing else.