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Medal of Honor: Airborne Review
developer: EA Pacific
PIV 2800, 1GB RAM, 128MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Aug 28, 07 (released)
|» All About Medal of Honor: Airborne on ActionTrip|
Back in 1998, the movie "Saving Private Ryan" opened to captivate audiences worldwide. Its director, Steven Spielberg, managed to bring home the gruesome and bloody nature of the Second World War with such force and intensity, the movie became something of a cultural phenomenon. The carefully crafted action sequences became a new standard for everyone to follow. Unsurprisingly, their unprecedented ferocity was recognized by the video game industry. It seemed like a perfect fit.
Behold! The Nazi boss unit!
Man, I shouldn't have eaten so much before this jump.
And so, in 2002, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault for the PC hit the shelves, developed by Oklahoma-based development studio 2015 and published by EA. In no time at all, the game became a huge success, with its unforgettable re-creation of the Omaha beach landing that was portrayed so vividly in the Spielberg movie.
Everyone and their mother knew that from that point on, cinematic WWII themed first-person shooters were here to stay. No matter how many times we've seen the same recipe being used, the average Joe gamer keeps eating it up, and like any sensible (profit-driven) company, EA keeps meeting the demand.
Sure enough, five years on and we are faced with yet another Medal of Honor game, MoH: Airborne, for next-gen consoles and PC.
This time around, players step into the boots of Boyd Travers, Private First Class of the 82nd Airborne Division as his unit makes its way across Sicily and Holland before finally landing in the heart of Nazi Germany; going from Essen all the way to Berlin in six dynamically updated single-player missions.
In terms of narrative, this is pretty much all that the player needs to know. Medal of Honor: Airborne is a no-nonsense action title, literally shoving us out of a burning airplane amidst of hail of AA fire, as we parachute at breakneck speeds straight into heavy crossfire on the ground.
While lacking in innovation in the story department, Airborne certainly does some things to considerably reinvent the WWII shooter sub-genre. What might seem like a collection of subtle (positive) changes certainly has a not-so-subtle (positive) impact on the game overall.
To start with, parachuting down into the hot zone is not a scripted event. Unlike any other WWII FPS that I've played before, each of the battle zones (maps) in Airborne covers a rather large area of land, complete with fully rendered urban landscapes and with many alternative routes to its numerous objectives. How you land and where you land depends completely on your skill and your assessment of the battlefield from the sky. The order in which you achieve mission goals will fully depend on the landing zone of your choosing. The designers do a great job of keeping the battlefield very open-ended while still laying out some boundaries so as to keep the balance between the railed approach and the free-roaming approach as optimal as possible.
Consequently, the flow of the action feels very natural; you never get the sense of being led by the invisible hand of the developer. While far from ideal, you are, to some degree, left to rely on your own wits and your ability to spot a good approach in the terrain. I see this as a huge step-up from the traditional WWII shooter gameplay - one that plays an integral role, especially in the later stages of the game.
That said, Medal of Honor: Airborne is probably one of the hardest shooters I've played in recent memory. Because of the relative non-linear design of the terrain, the developers were able to cram numerous threats from all conceivable (and sometime inconceivable) angles, so getting through alive and finishing the mission will sometimes be a painful exercise in heavy repetition and flexing of FPS skill (with just a touch of luck).
The game is based around the checkpoint system, which means you'll often have to clear considerable opposition and track a significant length of very treacherous terrain before your game is saved. I played Airborne on "Normal," and the game felt frustratingly hard at times.
Granted, I never see this as a bad thing in games. Quite the contrary, this made the action more intense. It made the single-player last longer, too, but at what expense? What I mean by this is that the six missions in the single-player game would be easily clearable in one day, had this game been any easier. This way, the actual play time is increased considerably simply for having to replay certain parts as you get gunned down by an odd sniper, or, for that matter, a barrage of sniper fire from all sides.
The redeeming factor in all of this is that once an objective is accomplished, it's written off, so you won't have to redo it, and the enemy presence that you cleared getting to it won't respawn. Even so, I had difficulties getting through some of the missions without slamming my keyboard against the desk at least once.
As you get closer to Berlin, developers start throwing more and more curveballs your way. Enemy opposition in "Airborne" ranges from inexperienced Italian infantry at the beginning, to the über powerful German elites in the last couple of missions. Interestingly, some of those almost feel like boss units - another twist in the sub-genre.
Likewise, your weapon proficiency will "level up" as you get more accustomed to certain guns and grenades, so, for example, the expert level shotgun will be outfitted with a nasty bayonet for melee combat, and you'll be able to attach grenades to your Springfield sniper rifle at expert level.
Such RPG touches are hardly groundbreaking but will surely guarantee a more personalized gameplay experience.
And speaking of a more personalized gameplay experience, it's amazing how effective the non-scripted death animations are in the game. In lamer terms, the engine factors in the force of the bullet and its direction and it calculates how the enemy model should fall at impact. Needles to say, no Nazi death ever looks quite the same.
8.0 Very Good
The non-scripted and open-ended feel to the gameplay, very intense, RPG elements, enemy death animation, weapon properties and how they're balanced out;
AI flaws, collision detection issues, lacks more single-player content.