In the realm of WWII first-person shooters it is nearly impossible to stand out and even more difficult to impress. No series is more of aware of this than EA’s long-running Medal of Honor series. In fact some gamers will even attribute the birth of this phenomenon with the series, unfortunately over the last few outings EA’s once praised series has seen some rough patches. With Medal of Honor Airborne it seems the devs have finally taken a few lessons from some of the others guys as well as adding in a few of their own tricks. Airborne starts off slow but gains momentum quickly making it a solid entry into the over-populated genre.
The biggest change that Airborne brings to the table is the ability to parachute into every level and basically have a free shot at where you want to begin the level. This opens up several unique possibilities. For instance coming in from these heights you get to survey the battlefield and plan your insertion accordingly. This also allows you to land on elevated areas such as roofs to gain a better vantage point on the enemy. The dynamic works well and is easy to execute, plus it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase death from above.
Once in the action you will have your standard compass that points out each individual goal marker. Regardless of where you land the levels are usually designed to lead you down a linear objective, which can detract from the sense of freedom. It’s also worth noting that no matter where your objective is simply eliminating a certain amount of resistance isn’t enough; in fact firing from cover could end up in long firefights as enemies simply continue to respawn until you manage to move forward or your AI squad mates do, of which the latter rarely happens.
For the first half of the game you will find yourself wondering what is so special about Airborne. Each level feels similar and the game simply plods you along at a slow pace, but once you reach level four (yes there are only six total levels) the action begins to pick up. This stems from the fact that at this point the game really takes advantage of allowing you more freedom to handle the game the way you see fit. Want to take out troops via a sniper’s nest before going into combat? Feel free, as these later levels are much more exciting than the previous ones. While none of this may sound too awfully exciting for veterans of the genre, it has been a while since the series has seen some serious upgrades and for the most part Airborne delivers.
That isn’t to say it doesn’t have some issues though. For starters aiming takes quite a bit to get used to for several reasons. First the weapons have far too much kick back to them. Fire more than five bullets and you will find yourself aiming at the clouds in the sky. Secondly the hit detection is terrible. There were times I had my sights set directly onto an enemy only to find out that he had Matrix-like reflexes, however on my second shot I nailed him without moving my aim-interesting. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the enemy AI wasn’t a crack shot. It seems no matter how far away they are or what weapon they wield they can nail you even while you are in cover.
Your squad mates are also hit and miss. There will be times that they seem to be on top of it all and others where they seemed to have missed the short bus to battle. There are also some interesting glitches in the game. Just as an example I was standing next to a wall trying to find some cover when all of a sudden I began floating up the side of the building. You will also fall through certain areas of a level during a parachute drop, which is likely due to the game not wanting you to go there in the first place. Overall these are minor annoyances that can be overlooked if you enjoy the game.
As for the core part of the game MoH Airborne is more than competent. The addition of a sprint button adds a welcome new layer to jogging between cover points as well as being able to lean around cover to fire. Just like any other WWII shooter you can also stare down the barrel of your sights by pulling the left trigger, which will greatly increase your aim with single-fire rifles. You can also upgrade your weapons as you progress through the game giving them faster reload speed, bigger ammo clips, and even a secondary fire capability. You can carry two weapons at a time alongside a pistol with unlimited ammo and a host of grenades.
While the single-player campaign will last you roughly 7-8 hours what everyone wants to know is how the online portion is. Airborne supports up to 12 players in all of your standard online modes, but the key here is the ability to parachute into the action. This is where this mechanic really shines as it allows you to survey the match and almost eliminates spawn camping. Perhaps in the future other game designers will learn to appreciate this dynamic and implement it into their experience. As a whole MoH Airborne multi-player is a very solid, if not customary affair.
From a visual standpoint MoH Airborne is not the best looking game on the system, but then again it is far from the worst. Animations are questionable and the explosions are embarrassing. The levels are nicely designed albeit a little on the simple side. It can be confusing sometimes to tell the difference between enemies and allies from far distances especially since there are very few enemy types throughout the game. The frame rate is solid and the weapons look great, but the total visual package is just average. The sounds however are very nicely done with great ambience and sensational effects. The score is your typical MoH orchestral flare and there is even a fair amount of chatter between soldiers on the field.
MoH Airborne is the type of game that suffers from coming out at exactly the wrong time. It isn’t inherently awful, but it suffers from being overly average. It also doesn’t help that the best parts of the game take so long to uncover so those of you with short attention spans will likely grow tired of it long before it picks up. While the multi-player adds a new dimension it doesn’t seem to keep you coming back for more, especially with Halo 3 looming just around the corner. Bottom line is if you are a fan of the series this title will certainly not disappoint, but if you have moved on and expect more from an FPS then MoH Airborne may not satisfy your greedy tastes.