Medal of Honor: Airborne Review
It's like publishers are only suddenly noticing that there are quite a few World War II shooters out there, and are now adding gimmicks to their games to try and gain a unique edge. EA Games, seemingly completely oblivious to the notion that their Medal of Honor games really aren't very good, has come up with yet another game that simply doesn't do quite enough to hold people's attention. Let's dive into Medal of Honor: Airborne and at least look at what's good about it.
Just like any game in this genre, you'll have a briefing and get to take on ridiculous numbers of Axis soldiers to do things like blow up AA guns or take or hold control of specific towns or objectives. You'll have pretty much the same arsenal (Colt pistol, M1 Garand, Thompson SMG, Kar98k rifle, MP40, both sides' own grenades, yadda yadda) as other WW2 games. The big difference here in Airborne is that you'll get to come in via parachute, land anywhere in the level you want, and complete objectives in any order you feel like. You find out two things pretty quickly, though. One, much of the level is blocked off, even for a paratrooper, and two, there are many places you can land which don't help you much and you'll die really quickly.
The problem is that the game gives you the illusion of freedom but the levels aren't set up robustly enough to actually give that freedom to you. You see, just like every other WW2 game, there are locked doors and blocked off side areas all over the place, which means you are going to have to go down the levels' many pre-determined paths. EA hyped this game to have non-linear elements, but then they mostly adhere to the same linear-style level design that previous games in the series have. And while the green smoke grenades denote quieter places to land so you're not under fire as soon as you hit the ground, dropping right into the middle (or even a hidden corner) of a Nazi nest somewhere else on the level is pretty much lethal, especially since you can't actually get any of your AI buddies to drop with you in that same spot. They will often move with you to the next goal you're going for, but only if you run with them on the developer-intended paths.
There are a few nice things about Airborne I should really point out. One is that when you hold the left trigger to aim your gun "iron sights"-style, you will plant your feet to the ground and the left stick now lets you lean so you can shoot around corners or pop up from low cover, then retract back behind it easily. It's a decent cover system that works fully in a first person mode, with the only downside that you can't move when aiming your weapon - that's probably unrealistic, but we're getting to the limit of how many things the Xbox 360 controller can actually do. Another nice feature is the ability to gain experience with each weapon, letting you unlock three levels of upgrades for each of them - separately. The upgrades all unique, too; while most guns offer either a damage or accuracy upgrade (or both), some have some fun additions like a bayonet on the shotgun or a taped-together double magazine for the MP40 that lets you reload faster.
Unfortunately, those two impressive additions are often easily forgotten when you are constantly experiencing the game's unsatisfying gunplay. The weapons feel pretty good in your hands, but their accuracy is often just a little too iffy, while your own squadmates are often useless themselves. Throw in a health system that combines the old-school first aid kits with a little bit of regeneration (it works like Resistance: Fall of Man where you will regenerate health up to the next quarter, but can only fill up full quarters with the kits scattered throughout each level) as well as a partial reset of your progress when you die and get to drop in via parachute for a new chance at your goal, and the game can get fairly frustrating quickly. A couple of guns (like the fully-upgraded shotgun) are actually a lot of fun to use, but the strange sniping system and weak automatic weapons are a real disappointment.
But it's when you try to do the creative kinds of things that the back of the game's box boasts that the real aggravation hits, because this game's few unique features simply don't work nearly as well as you'd hope for. Try and land in interesting spots to flank the enemy, and you find that they will instantly recover while none of your buddies are around anymore to help you. Want to sneak around the back way into an objective? Most of the time you can do this by just landing in the same green-smoke spot and just going a different path - so much for using the paratrooper status to any real advantage.
Many of these frustrations go away for online play, but there still isn't a whole lot to shout about here. MOH Airborne's online play is for up to 12 players over Xbox Live and while you actually can do a couple of those creative things as a paratrooper that don't work in the single player mode - like dropping in somewhere unique, sometimes with your buddies, and taking your enemy by surprise - it's not enough over other WW2 games to really keep people playing for long.
Combine fictional missions with an unrealized paratrooper advantage, and Medal of Honor: Airborne simply doesn't deliver. With six missions that take about 60 to 90 minutes each to complete and a decent, if somewhat by-the-books multiplayer mode, and there's just not enough here to really compete for your gaming dollar. Unless you're one of the dwindling few that just can't get enough of the World War II shooter genre, you can most definitely do better this holiday gaming season than buy Airborne.