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Posted on Dec 5, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Medal of Honor: Airborne Game Review

By Ryan Stepalavich

Passed Inspection: Interesting paratrooper feature, starts against the Italian blackshirts – a refreshing change in a franchise of Nazi-stomping.

Failed basic: Takes the Allied Assault mechanics and poorly places it in close-quarters combat, terrible control scheme, weak multiplayer, graphics aren’t next-gen worthy, jumping system is arbitrary, presentation doesn’t allow the gamer to be a soldier in World War II – merely a spectator.

It seems that there’s no way for gamers to get away from this prolific franchise. Ever since the smash hits such as the original, and Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, every platform on every corner of the gaming globe has had at least a little taste of the World War II gaming juggernaut. It’s not much of a surprise, however, as MoH as a franchise has successfully captured the heart and spirit of the battles of the ‘40s, from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back again.

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But, can the same be said about the latest installment, Medal of Honor: Airborne? Certainly, after a deluge of previous titles, one would assume the boys and girls at Electronic Arts’ Los Angeles development studio would be able to take the lessons of yesteryear and jump forward. However, what we see instead is a murky mishmash of previous titles swirled into one package.

Medal of Honor: Airborne places the gamer in the army boots of Private Boyd Travers, new recruit in the “failed experiment” of the US 82nd Airborne Division. Starting in Italy, Travers jumps, jumps and jumps again throughout the European Theater of World War II, from France to Germany, and everywhere in between. Sound familiar? Indeed, short of the Italian phase, this sounds exactly like Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. As such, there isn’t much deviation in the plotline from Allied Assault to Airborne. Don’t expect there to be much in the way of twists or even over-detailed briefings, though the game does force the gamer to sit through each of the three minute overviews per mission. While it would have been far more bearable if the player was greeted with a brief summation of where the gamer stands in the timeline of the war prior to deployment, they are instead greeted with a “We’re dropping you here. Shoot here. Don’t ask questions” style of overview that doesn’t manage to emplace the player at all.

However what was notable and what did work well was the “cinematic” presentation of eras and missions. As the player moves from battlefield to battlefield, the subtitle indicating the era is no longer simple white font along the bottom of the screen, but is in fact a three-dimensional object in which the gamer will paradrop through. A bit gimmicky, perhaps, but when paired with the lackluster briefings, fits in an overall message of the gamer being an observer of the war, and not a direct participant.

Another change to the Medal of Honor franchise is the paradropping system. The gamer has complete control of where he or she wishes to land on the battlefield, giving achievement points for good landings, and giving time penalties for botched ones. Usually, the briefing defines locations for dropping via green smoke signals, however this guideline is completely optional. Instead, gamers can drop anywhere. Want to simply land on top of an enemy AA emplacement, instead of hoofing it across a quarter-mile of landscape? Go for it. It does well as a “spoiler” tactic, and the enemy has a hard time coping with the introduction of a rogue Rambo opening fire from behind their own lines.

If the preceding paragraph makes it sound like Medal of Honor: Airborne’s jumping system is arbitrary, that’s because it is. The gamer can jump anywhere and will probably fare quite a bit better than if they jump to the assigned locations. No matter where the jump, the friendly AI will always jump to the gamer’s position. Disobeying a direct order? No problem. Just go for it, everyone will fall in behind and back the gamer up. The second problem is the fact that the AI has a terrible time reacting to landing anywhere but the prescribed position. Either this means that the blackshirts knew what the Allies were planning by some grace of heavenly intelligence, including how many soldiers were landing at which landing points, or the AI is just flat-out terrible. Here’s a hint: It’s the latter. The AI feels like it is designed for the wide-open expanses of Allied Assault and less like the close quarters combat of Airborne. Especially in the case of combat, both friendly and enemy AI are clumsy at best, downright ignorant at worst. Soldiers run blindly into rooms, or headlong into machine gun emplacements – quite frequently in your line-of-sight, ruining that perfect Garand shot. They don’t think, they don’t properly take cover, they just shoot-hide-rush-shoot-hide-rush in a predictable and frustrating fashion.

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