Medal of Honor: Airborne

Are you to give up the fight and let this vast body of our wealth go to ruin? I do not believe it. - Richard Parks Bland

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Is there room in my life for average games anymore? This was the recurring question as I played through Medal of Honor: Airborne for the Xbox 360. There's nothing particularly wrong with the game, it does everything we've come to expect from an FPS set in World War 2. The new addition of leaping out of a plane and landing nearly anywhere on the map was a good move, greatly reducing the boredom and frustration found running the linear track in the last games. What it doesn't do is pull the game up past the dubious title of "solid rental" with limited reasons to buy. I can't imagine anyone flocking to the online modes over games like Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4 this Fall.

Now that you can parachute to so many areas of the map, MoH: Airborne takes on an open mission structure that lets you pick and choose how you go about your objectives. I appreciated feeling like I had more control over my own destiny, even when that amounted to little more than choosing the left or right path toward my goal. The illusion of choice is also helped along by firefights that flare up between your fellow soldiers and enemy units as you progress towards your goals. It's readily apparent that allies are spawning into areas as I enter them, but I never actually saw them pop in so it didn't take much suspension of disbelief to imagine this would all be happening without my being there.

At the end of the day though, it is all an illusion. Your approach to the Anti-Aircraft gun you need to blow up will funnel down to a linear path before you get there, throwing the open-ended concept out the window. I would have liked to see my options pushed beyond route choices and the occasional sniper perch. The problem is that truly open maps don't lend themselves to scripted battles and events. MoH: Airborne needs the scripting because the enemies themselves won't do much more than run for cover, throw grenades or charge you. More emergent, intelligent maneuvers like flanking and distraction would have gone a long way toward making the otherwise average gameplay stand out.

The damage model clashes with the realistic feel of the graphics and sounds. Head shots are the only sure kill, everything else requires multiple rounds before an enemy will go down. Three bullets to the chest should do more than illicit a German curse as the enemy ducks back behind some sandbags. Sometimes when the enemy is running, possibly as part of a scripted sequence, bullets won't even hurt him. It doesn't happen too often, but when it does it drags you right out of the experience.

Although it's not realistic, I do like getting weapon upgrades for individual guns as I use them. You "level up" weapon types by using them often, giving you bonuses like better aiming zoom or more ammo per clip. You can see an outline of your gun on the main screen slowly fill up with blue experience as you mow down enemies. Once it hits the top the on-screen action slows down and gives you a little time to aim a few quick shots while your new upgrade flashes on the screen. It's a satisfying reward for sticking with a particular gun and gives you some sense of accomplishment outside of just completing missions.

I know I'm supposed to complain about games being short, but after six missions and about eight hours I feel like I've reached my WW2 shooting quota for the year. It's all very competent, but there's not much here we haven't seen before.

Is there still room in my life for average games? Maybe during the slow summer months, but not this Fall.

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Comments

I was on track to at least rent Airborne when I downloaded the demo and, for some reason, just could NOT get past the controls. I was so disappointed with how the game forced you into three controller schemes that seemed equally inept, I wrote about it on my blog (link in sig), but I applaud you sir for getting through the entire game. Kudos.

I really wish I could have gotten past the controls, because it's been a while since I played a WWII shooter..

This was a bitter sweet experience for me. After double betrayal of CoD (CoD3 exclusively on consoles and CoD 4 being a game that is not CoD at all), I saw this as a flicker of hope to save the honor of WW2 shooters. I am a sucker for WW2 shooters and just can't get enough.

Now MoH Airborne... I just love the feeling of weapons and movement, I love the motion blur, I actually like enemy AI, the looks of maps and ability to pick my landing spot, and and I even like those unrealistic touches mentioned in the article because they are fun. But checkpoint save system... Didn't everybody finally learn that checkpoint save system is one of deadly sins on PC? Apparently, EA didn't learn. I mean, WTF?

So, that killed it. I just can not, will not, ever, accept checkpoint save system. Give me save at will or take your game and shove it...

I am so done with WWII shooters. I look at the screens, and already think, ow there's that gun, and that shot up barn. Ow look, a German! Been there, done that. I'm not sure if I will ever like a WWII shooter again.

I'm in the same boat as KF. I'm just amazed at how "samey" WWII shooters have become. The kicker is that there are theaters from the war that go totally unaddressed. Though CoD2 took a stab at the British/African campaign, the vast bulk of WWII shooters have you running through war-torn Europe.

What about the Asian Theatre? The Mediterranean? Tunisia? Burma? China? Etc. Etc.

Do we really need to storm Normandy yet again (ad nauseaum)? Or wander though the rolling hills of the French countryside?

In a sub-genre that has little to work with in terms of deviation from source material, you'd imagine that developers would at least create some diversity with the content that they do have. There's just so much material that goes completely ignored while at the same time we get a recycling of content over and over and over across WWII franchises.

How hard is it to mix it up a bit? I know it would get me interested again. But as it stands, I'm done with Normandy. As I am with the French countryside and a bombed-out Berlin.

Sorry for trailing off the topic of the original article, but I had a WWII Shooter Rant building up in me.

I remeber talking to a developer of this game back in May. He said the problem with Medal of Honor up to that point was the "tunnel" nature of the levels. I find it funny that there are still "tunnels" in this game. You would think they could get better AI these days.

I wasn't able to run the demo on my machine, but in the gameplay footage I saw on gametrailers it looked exactly like COD. How excited can you get about a game you've essentially already played?

WW2 will always be ripe for shooters, but we need the next generation to arrive before we can get excited again. Some new features that other people haven't used before.

i love ww2 games, can't get enough of the good ones. this game felt particularly 'meh'. a very good effort, but i think they need to put the franchise to sleep if you ask me. focus on new IP's.

In MoH:Airborne's defense, I think it was the most enjoyable and immersive WWII shooter I've played.

It was way too short, but nearly everything else about it was just polished to perfection. The incredible view distances and elaborate set dressing sold me on the feeling of being in a WWII (or at least, a WWII action movie) environment better than any previous shooter.

And, I got a kick out of the damage feedback. It often glitched, but the developers at least made a strong effort at providing location-based damage feedback that was immediately apparent to the player. So many recent shooters have fallen down in this area, that even a pretty decent implementation does wonders for the gameplay experience.

This is the same game I played, who knows how long ago, when storming the beaches of Normandy was considered a new and visceral experience. If they were to really take the free-form and run with it, and perhaps put it in a different WW2 setting, this could have been something really cool. The fact is that I have ran through a linear hallway, shot some nazis, and then pressed B to place the explosive. It isn't fun to me, and it is just a trudge through a game that will only serve to extend my already astronomical dead nazi count.

For defense of MOH:A too. I enjoyed the game. I havent played a decent WWII game since MOH:AA and original COD and afterwards every single WWII themed game was the same. So i waited. Renting occasional WWII title just to bring it back an hour later, because it was so "the same"...

Now, what i like about MOH:A is the new way of representing motion. No more stupid monotonous "headbob". You can sprint while crouched, ironsights controls are made usable by not moving, but rather "popping out" from behind your cover. AI is pretty decent for a beat up concept of WWII. I'd say its on par with FEAR. flanking, looking for cover, running when outnumbered, etc. It just works. The animation sometimes does prevent AI to show proper feedback when hit, but thats not a biggie.

The "leveling" aspect of weapons is a brilliant idea. I like J-RPGs a lot and leveling is a part of me now, so any game that lacks some sort of progress indicator is not quite as good for me I have been finishing levels many times just to level up the weapons.

About "many times" part of last sentence. Replayability is there. 3 difficulty levels to beat for differeint outcomes in medal gathering, skill landing places that grant you points, weapon upgrades (or "leveling" if you wish). Some other criteria to unlock content. Again, it just works.

Length is certainly this game's problem. They could've added couple more levels, but what-a-hey, i hope to get some new games (or expansions to this one) that use principles implemented in this game.

I enjoy it to no end. Already finished, now doing all the "unlocks". More games like this one. Even if not WWII themed.

But i must hand it to you - WWII is a bit overused. Give us something of Vietnam or Afghanistan (the old one). Give us Falklands (that'd be interesting). Give us something of WWI (yes that ONE). Where are the games of WWI ?

I dont know what else to say about this game. The most important thing is IT JUST FEELS RIGHT.

Cheers...

threedee wrote:

Give us something of WWI (yes that ONE). Where are the games of WWI ?

While that's probably the least politically problematic of the campaigns you list, it's also by far the least dramatic. That war featured distant death by faceless enemies almost as much as it featured waiting to be suddenly killed in such a manner.

Yeah.. the trenches of WWI do not sound like a good concept for a game.

The demo for this was quite disappointing...