Home Reviews First Person Games Medal Of Honor: Airborne
Medal Of Honor: Airborne PDF Print E-mail
Written by bobdog   
Sunday, 11 May 2008 06:02
Medal Of Honor - Airborne logo

: Electronic Arts
Average Price (at review publication time): USD $20
Official Site
Demo download (from Filefront - 1.3 GB)

ESRB Teen (Blood, Mild Language, Violence)

Like most of you, I've played my share of World War II themed first-person shooters, and I recently did a play-through of all the relevant games for the genre to finish with the latest release Medal of Honor: Airborne.

Fighting in the Past
Although I love the WW2 elements of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, I can't really include it in the WW2 shooter genre. The Medal of Honor series truly started the revolution with MOH: Allied Assault and its two expansions Spearhead and Breakthrough, incorporating intense action sequences (remember trying to storm Normandy as your pals are dying all around you?), realistic effects, and great (for the time) graphics. Now, of course, the graphics appear a bit dated, but the games are still a blast to play, and the particle effects in Breakthrough are particularly impressive.

Medal Of Honor - Airborne Medal Of Honor - Airborne

Call of Duty came out as a competing franchise in the genre, along with its expansion United Offensive. COD upped the ante by providing enhanced graphics, intense enemy rushes and war-time effects (nearby grenades causing a ringing in your ears), and multiple campaigns (American, British and Russian), of which the Stalingrad level has to be the ultimate because you're storming a beach WITHOUT any weapons! However, the games were extremely scripted, and a step out of place terminates in your explosion.

MOH came back with Pacific Assault, which was set in the Pacific Theater of the war. The new environments provided a great change of pace, and MOH went with a very realistic approach. For example, instead of merely running over health packs to get your health back to normal, you must engage the services of a medic to give you shots and sulfa. Sometimes, if you received a fatal wound, you can call out ("Medic! Medic!) and the medic will fight his way to heal you back up; otherwise, it's reload time. MOHPA offered a little more flexibility in how you approached maps, but in the end, you were still trapped in a corridor.

Call of Duty 2 then came out to serve as the penultimate WW2 shooter, winning numerous awards. The graphics were amazingly realistic, both in characters and in the environments; maps had quite a bit of flexibility in how you approached your enemy targets; the training mission actually turned into a battle, incorporating your training into it; and the three diverse campaigns were fun and interesting to play.

Medal Of Honor - Airborne Medal Of Honor - Airborne

Fighting in the Present
So how does MOH: Airborne stack against these great games that have defined the genre? Certainly, it has a good pedigree in the MOH brand, and it's been able to look at all the graphical and gameplay advances made previously, destinations visited (it feels like we must have hit every battle conceivable at this point!!), and the realism vs. "fun" factor, and I'd say it stacks up really well. In fact, this is the first time I've played a WW2 shooter and felt like replaying it right away.

What defines Airborne from the rest of the pack is that you jump from a plane (I'm still sucky at it, and have only had 3 good jumps out of maybe 60) into a living, breathing environment. The Krauts already have an overwhelming number of troops in an area that could be defined as several square miles, and you are essentially free to roam wherever you please on the map to accomplish multiple objectives. This free-form play makes it wholly appealing to me, as I'm not constrained into a corridor to shoot my way out. I can approach a target from any area, and also from any height! Remember, as I'm jumping into a map, I can steer where I land, and thus I can gain height advantage over the troops. Give me a good sniper rifle, and I'm good to go!

Medal Of Honor - Airborne Medal Of Honor - Airborne

My Kingdom for a Decent Gun
The game starts you with three stock weapons: a rifle, machine gun and pistol. The designers have tossed an interesting twist in the game, so that as you use each weapon more, you can upgrade them. You accomplish this by pulling off multiple kills, headshots, etc. I suppose it makes some sense, that you would become more attuned to what works best for your weapon. Anyway, the upgrades make the weapon more efficient, accurate, and easier to handle, like maybe adding a front hand grip to a machine gun for better control, or a more efficient choke to your shotgun for better accuracy, or a scope to your rifle for far-off kills.

Another very well-implemented idea is the ironsights. While looking through your ironsights, you can look around corners and even over and under cover sources, minimizing your exposure to enemy fire. This also allows you to use your scopes. Further, you can hold your breath while using scopes to make them more stable to shoot.

Each mission starts with a loadout of 3 weapons (2 rifles/guns and 1 pistol), so you can decide to stick with weapons that you've already upgraded, or you can decide to upgrade new ones that you've found along the way. You can always switch out a weapon inside a map too, so in case you need that bazooka to fight off a tank, just drop your BAR and switch back when you're done. I found that as the enemies got harder on later maps, it didn't make sense to try and upgrade a new weapon, as you kept getting killed more often by the more efficient troops. It's almost better to stick with weapons that will get the job done. However, if you're interested in Achievements, one medal is offered for using every weapon found in the game.

Finally, you get grenades in this game -- stick grenades, regular pineapples, and a new "tank-buster" Gammon grenade. You have to assign a button to grenades, but can then cycle through them. You also can "cook" them, holding on to them just a little bit longer and then tossing them, so that they explode where you toss them, rather than bouncing around or giving enemies a chance at returning them to you.

Medal Of Honor - Airborne Medal Of Honor - Airborne

Like Angels from Heaven
Remember, you're from the Airborne division -- you're the toughest that the Army puts out! You also get exposed to enemy flak fire while in your plane and in your chute. And then you still have to land! Basically, there are three types of landings: Flared (successful -- I've managed two of these), Botched (which mine were about 95% of the time), and Greased, where you land at a shallow angle and hit the ground running (I managed one of these).

In the air, green signal smoke indicates a "safe" landing area. I attempt landing in these, but sometimes, the enemy is already operating in the area, so you'll have to start fighting from the time you hit the ground. You also might decide to land on upper buildings, towers, etc. so that you have a height advantage over your enemies. And if you look around the map, you'll find 5 "Skill Drops" on each map, marked by white parachutes. Manage these and gain Achievements. (I've hit two so far -- but Botched landings do count!)

WW2 Reality Show

For MOH: Airborne, the game designers went a mixed route of realism vs. fun. For example, the enemy efficiency goes up as you enter later maps, because these are war-hardened troops -- you would expect them to be really good. You also can use cover to your advantage, and lean around corners with your ironsights engaged. Weapons are ranked by different factors, including kickback, such that I found some weapons (BAR especially) unusable in battle because I couldn't keep the barrel down toward the target!

However, rather than have medics heal you, like they did for MOHPA, you simply have health packs you can pick up. Your health is represented by 4 blocks on your HUD. As your health gets chipped away, you can rest and one of the blocks will fill back up, but you'll need health packs for each of the empty blocks.

Finally, because the maps are so huge, with multiple objectives, you've been issued a compass, viewable in your HUD, with arrows to your next objectives, and green and red dots representing ally and enemy placement. I'm mixed about this -- I can see having your objectives on the compass, but I think being able to spy out troop placement should be removed -- as far as I know, WW2 troops weren't outfitted with GPS transmitters to track their movement.

Medal Of Honor - Airborne Medal Of Honor - Airborne

The Big Show
So, that's all the background -- but how does MOH: Airborne play? Surprisingly well. The game is fun, challenging and diverse, although I would have liked a few more maps to play through (it has only seven). However, these are huge maps, representing several square miles each in gameplay, and you are free to roam freely over them to accomplish your objectives. And believe me, you will die multiple times on the harder maps, extending the length of play with that simple fact alone.

You can conduct training jumps to improve your landing skills, before moving on to the real guts of the game. The first map starts as a trainer in gameplay, but offers some real fun. You'll land in (on top of) a village in Sicily, complete with the terracotta roofs, and take out some AA guns and the local German HQ. Next you'll move on to the Italian mainland to traverse some ancient Greek ruins, land behind enemy lines to clear the way for the troops on Utah beach, win back the Arnhem bridge in Operation Market Garden, sabotage a German war factory, and finally take out a huge behemoth flak tower.

The game does not offer quicksaves or quickloads, but automatically saves after each checkpoint (i.e. accomplishing one of the objectives), so if you die, you parachute back in wherever you want to land, but that objective has already been completed and you can continue to the next. Any enemies you wiped out automatically respawn to those sites again, which sort of makes sense, as these would be good places to engage enemy troops.

Graphically, the game was developed with the Unreal Tournament 3 engine and is beautifully gritty (you can even see the dirt under your fingernails). It ran well on my system without any hiccups or slideshows. I ran it at 1600x1200, with high textures and model details, but medium decals and simple post-processing effects. I've got an AMD 3200 with 2GB RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GS with 256MB.

Medal Of Honor - Airborne Medal Of Honor - Airborne

At Ease, Private

Having played through all the recent WW2 shooters, I'm really impressed with MOH: Airborne. I really enjoyed it, and will do another playthrough shortly to try out some of the other weapons and see if I can increase my parachute landing skills. The game's open maps are a refreshing change from the previous "on-rails" games in the genre, and the ability to decide your point of entry into the map is a great concept with multiple advantages.

My final ranking: 9.4 out of 10, and a Foxhole Silver Award.

Game Rated 9.4/10


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