Medal Of Honor: Airborne Review - 16/12/2007

World War Two, the most overused setting in FPS history, is back again in Medal of Honor: Airborne. MoH is a traditional WWII FPS with a twist, a gimmick if you like, that is parachuting from a plane at the start of each level. Parachuting to decide your placement in the level is a nice inclusion, but nothing that really makes Airborne stand out from the crowd.

The golden thing to remember, as you read this review, is that this years Medal of Honor is the best we've had since Frontline. All of the basics are there: the cover mechanics, if you can call them that are brilliant: you crouch behind whatever, and then hold the scope button to look out at enemies. Then, pushing the analogue stick to the left or the right lets you peak out, pressing up lets you peak over, and pressing down lets you get your body down for optimal cover. The weapons all 'feel' like you would expect them to, and each have their own purposes, the graphics, while not brilliant, do their job, and the levels are long plus there's always something to keep you on your toes.

Jumping out of a plane at the start of each mission is great idea, and it does add a bit of variety to the game, because it poses (sort of) endless possibilities to how you approach each mission. Before you get to do this, though, you're made to watch a pre-level briefing that will show you the danger areas and what you will be required to do when you're on the ground. Landing by the green smoke flares will provide you with a steady flow of health and ammo. Landing on a rooftop could make you an easy target, but could also make it easier to pick off multiple enemies from above. Landing in the middle of an enemy trench is usually a bad idea, but can work out provided you can get behind a decent piece of cover fast enough. On paper it sounds ace, but when the best option, and the one you'll find yourself doing the majority of the time, is just to land by the green flares and to stick with your squad mates, it all feels a little gimmicky. I think with some work on mission structuring, giving more incentive to land behind enemy lines, and a jolt into the future will do this failing series a kick up the N-arse-zi. (Pun not intended)

Levels in MoH are massive, and not just in scale. All of the levels have at least 8+ objectives to complete, and some take quite a long time to complete on their own. The good thing is, you don't have to complete them in any particular order. The game lets you choose your own entrance to the level, and the route you take, not to mention the multiple ways of going at each objective. Objectives vary from planting charges on things, which you will do many times, sabotaging enemy equipment, which you will do your fair share of times, and clearing the area, which you will do at least once per level. While other FPS's are raising their game (see: Call of Duty 4) this one is staying put. I'll say it again, Medal of Honor needs a revamp. It needs to be taken out of WWII for starters, then it needs to be shook up, it needs more variety in the missions, maybe in one mission you have to use your sniper for pretty much the whole level, maybe you have very little ammo and have to keep nicking enemy guns to warrant any chance of survival. Anything to make Airborne a much fuller experience.

The graphics in MoHA are pretty much underwhelming. The smoke effects are great at times, but are often rubbish strings of grey that poke through walls and are the same every time. Facial animation, when you get to see it, is good, but nothing compared to the likes of Mass effect or Assassin's Creed. The buildings, which ought to have looked beautiful, seen as dropping from the sky and overlooking the environment is a major part of the game, are slightly un-detailed and don't show off what any of the next-gen systems can do. Hopefully the next installment in the MoH series will come with an overhauled graphics engine.

Authenticity has played a major part in the Medal of Honor series up until now. The historically correct weapons are still there, but now they're upgradeable. Granted it's not like they have a fluorescent yellow strip or a miniature grenade launcher for a scope, but it takes away from the series tradition somewhat...

...Although, upgrading your weapons is fun. It's nice to be rewarded for your workmanship once in a while, especially when it means some sort of treat for you. I can't say that it enhances the game, or ups the score very much, but it does add that little bit of encouragement for being faithful to a certain weapon throughout the levels.

Airborne only has 6 levels, 3 of which are great, 1 of which is outstanding, and all of them will last you at least an hour to complete. So that leaves the game at a 6-10 hour completion rate: too low for the modern game, but it's one hell of a ride along the way. The fourth level, Operation Market Garden is the best level in the title by far, and eclipses many levels in some of the top tier first person shooters. This was the only level that I didn't pause once, not even to go for a drink, or to go to the lavatory, because it is so immersive you can't bring yourself to stop playing. The thing that makes this level stand out is that for the most part, is it is marginally more linear than the other 5. There is definitely one path to follow, but there are loads of vantage points and areas for cover that you can go about it different almost every time. Towards the end the battle gets really fierce, leaving you to trudge into combat with your trusty Machinenpistole, taking out loads of enemies (which at no period feels like a chore) or to stay back and pick off each Nazi one by one with your Springfield sniper rifle. If every level was like this then boy, would this score higher. As you edge nearer to finishing the campaign, EA introduce the Nazi Storm Elite. Historical accuracy gets thrown out of the window. These almost-impervious-to-bullets warriors can take at least 15 sniper shots to pick off. It takes two head on gammon grenades to kill him quickly, but when you can only carry 8, a bad miss can cost you your life. These monsters carry a massive machine gun that takes two hands to hold, and can take you out in a matter of seconds. They really, really spoil the game. I can see what they were trying to do, making the game harder, and leaving you to use more skill than ever before, but it puts all of the earlier missions to waste.

The AI is, to put it plainly, hit and miss. They will try to flank you, and will often find decent places for cover, but can hit you from a mile off. You can be lining a shot up with your sniper rifle, when out of nowhere an enemy can hit just your helmet as your peak out with their machine gun. Not cool.

The online side of the game is average, and definitely won't take you away from the likes of Call of Duty or Warhawk. There is no lobby system, and you can't invite your friends in for a match, but Airborne has a few tricks up its sleeve. Firstly, you can choose between Allied, or Axis. The first being the squad who get the opportunity to jump out of a plane and choose their own landing spot, but does leave them open to fire while they gently float to the ground. Axis are just like any old squad, they 'appear' somewhere on the map and have to work their way to the enemies. There is also a capture the flag-ish mode, but it doesn't hold up well against the original way capture the flag is supposed to work. There's not much else to say about online, except that it only takes up to 8 players maximum, which is horrific. Airborne definitely needed more time to work on some aspects of the game.

Medal of Honor: Airborne is an extremely solid shooter with a few issues. If EA decided not to include the all-black Nazis with unbelievably powerful guns, but left the levels intact then this would be an awesome shooter. If EA would have spent a little more time creating a few more levels, varying in length and objectives then Airborne could have been phenomenal. It is these issues that hold back what could have been an essential shooter, and leave it out in the cold. Lets hope the team at EA spend a little more time perfecting their graphics engine, writing some scripts for great story-telling, ands introducing a new war, present day or in the future. Either way, if you like WWII games, or you want a quick game that will last you about a week, then MoH will more than satisfy your needs.

- Tyler Roberts



360 - PS3 - PC