Medal of Honor Airborne Review21 Apr 2008  by
Since the days of Wolfenstein, I have never tired of hunting down virtual n**s. I have eliminated literally thousands of these enemies and am always looking for a new twist on the old theme. Medal of Honor Airborne is the latest in the MOH series, which has become pretty stale since its earliest forays into the breach. Does Airborne revive an otherwise stagnant series? Read on and you will see.There is certainly no shortage of FPS shooters around, especially of the WWII variety. In recent memory, most of these titles have become pretty forgetful. On the surface, MOH Airborne is faithful to the tried and true formula with a few new pieces thrown in to freshen things up a bit.If you have not guessed by now, Airborne places you in the role of an airborne soldier whose entry to the field of battle is via the not-so-friendly skies above the battle. After a brief intro to the new airborne spawn system, you are thrust into the story mode. In all honesty, the overall feel of the game is just ok and the story line is relatively forgettable. That said, the overall experience is just fresh enough that I wanted to keep playing.The spawn system puts you back in the air each time, so you have some control over where you will land to retry your a*ault. Unfortunately, some of the levels are confusing with the mud and mortar textures. Although the designers seemingly tried very hard to make the objectives obvious, I found myself doing a little too much wandering looking for something that I had passed 10 times previously, but just was not noticeable enough. This definitely served to slow down the enjoyment factor to some degree.Another tweak to the mix of gameplay is a character advancement system. In an effort to add a bit of a feel of moving from a novice soldier to a seasoned veteran, you initially lack skill in using your weapons. The more you use a specific weapon, the more proficient you become. While this type of skill advancement looks good on paper, it is pretty frustrating in this type of game. This strategy is fun in a game like Diablo, but felt out of place here. I am not a shabby FPS play and do not like to be artificially punished in a game. I definitely could see it working if, for example, you advanced based on a weapon class, but not on individual weapons, which is apparently what the developer did. The weapons available are really no surprise at all. While they all look just fine, there were none that I became incredibly fond of.Each level starts with you in a plane behind a line of other jumpers. Once you exit the fuselage, you have the ability to guide your chute to any location you can manage to reach. There is a small amount of finesse involved as you need to flair your landing or suffer a stumble penalty upon landing. There a few safe zones marked by smoke, but I found it most fun to fall right into the heat of the battle. The maps are on the large size, and traversing from one objective to the next can take a bit of time. Fortunately there are ample enemies spawning along the way for you to use as target practice. This is not a complete turnoff, but it certainly falls into the category of a disappointment in my book.The game hints at being an open ended experience, but, at the end of the day, it is more of a ride-on-rails experience. There is only one way to progress through a mission: achieve all goals. Yes, you do have the option of which goals to attempt first, but ultimately you will complete them all if you want to advance.The controls of MOH Airborne are of the WASD configuration, so no real surprises there. I would be curious to play the console version of this title to see if the controls translate well. Although I am an avid console FPS fan, a mouse and keyboard just seem more natural to me. In any case, the game is easy to play and no instructions are needed.There are a few bits of MOH that have the potential to annoy. Perhaps one of the most irritating is the friendly AI. On more than one occasion, I would have an AI teammate step right in front of my line of fire. There is really no good excuse for this type of design in a sequel title. In addition to the friendly AI, the enemy AI is a bit on the light side, even on the highest difficulty setting. The hostiles act like robots with predictable patterns that, once memorized, take the luster out of the presentation.The presentation of MOH is very well conceived. From the opening menu setup to the interiors of the spawn planes, it is certainly a nice game to look at. I was able to get very good quality graphics with a relatively high frame rate with my video card, which is certainly not on the cutting edge. Of course, the video is customizable, so the game should be playable on most machines. The sound design is out of this world. I love a game that offers immersion through sound. Airborne does that well.The multiplayer is the standard fare with a few game modes on some relatively small maps. There is a death match mode and a few others. Probably the most enjoyable is a team-based game in which you need to capture multiple flags to win. Not unique, but certainly fun if you are playing with a competent group of friends. The only real difference in Airborne multiplayer is the ability for Allied forces to drop into the action using parachutes.MOH Airborne is a game worth playing if you are a WWII shooter fan. While the game does not offer anything earth shattering, it is certainly the best title in the series to come along for quite some time. While I am sure it will ultimately be just another MOH game in a long line, in the short term it offers enough “newness” to justify a purchase.