The Medal of Honor series is a franchise that's a little bit unpredictable. After debuting on the PlayStation One with some decent games, the game went a little downhill with Medal of Honor: Rising Sun. The series redeemed itself with Medal of Honor: European Assault but early this year Medal of Honor: Vanguard failed to impress. This brings us to Medal of Honor: Airborne which signals the debut for the series on next generation consoles. So is Airborne a game worth recommending or yet another generic World War II first person shooter?
The main thing which differentiates Airborne from both its predecessors and the other hundred or so World War II shooters is how you approach each level. The game puts you in the boots of a soldier in the Airborne division, your role is simple: kill Nazi's. In the Airborne division things are done a little differently, for example rather than begin on the ground you'll begin each mission in the air. You'll need to jump out of the plane and guide your parachute to the best possible place to kill some Nazis. There is a safe landing zone but it is ultimately up to the player to decide where they land. This new premise fundamentally changes Airborne as rather than start off in the same spot for every level you have the choice. If you die quickly you'll get a chance to parachute out of the helicopter again, only this time you'll know to land in a "safer" spot. Parachuting into the level is a good idea, but the objectives do often end up forcing you to follow a straight path at times.
Onto objectives, you'll get a chance to see your objectives at the beginning of a mission. A compass is displayed on the HUD which will direct players to objectives, but they can be approached in anyway players see fit. The objectives don't need to be completed sequentially and can be tackled in whichever way you see fit. The objectives range from shooting every enemy soldier in your sight through to destroying vehicles. While it may seem like the game gives you a whole lot of freedom, the first few levels are a little too linear. The game opens up a little after the first few levels but it feels like EA wanted to hold players' hands until they got fully used to the game before letting them make choices.
In seemingly every game released these days there is an upgrade option and Airborne is no different - this time you can upgrade your weapons. Every time you fire a shot you'll get experience which will upgrade a weapon. The upgrades will give you faster reloads and faster clips, so by the end of the campaign your weapon will be significantly different from the weapon you may have begun with.
Overall Airborne's single player mode is quite decent. Parachuting into the battlefield is a great idea and being able to upgrade your weapons is a great addition. It would have been nice if EA allowed us just a little more freedom and it was plausible to approach every situation in several different ways. Admittedly there are times when you are given choice, but nowhere near as often as we'd hoped.
Airborne does feature a few problems which had us pulling our hair out. The AI is questionable at best. Sometimes your allies will simply stand there not shooting at anything at all, often they'll even walk right into the middle of where you are shooting, which is extremely frustrating. Sometimes the game won't register shots either. In fact, the very first soldier we shot at during the campaign mode took four shots to go down, simply because the game hadn't registered we had actually shot at him.
Multiplayer support has also been added to Airborne. The game supports online play for up to twelve players and features ranked and unranked matches. There are several maps to choose from and a few multiplayer modes including the obvious team deathmatch mode. The Objective Airborne multiplayer mode is a battle to capture and hold three flags on the map, it's a decent multiplayer mode and one we spent the most time with. Once again you parachute into the level, but you definitely get more of an adrenalin kick knowing that your allies and enemies are parachuting into the battlefield right beside you.
Graphically Airborne isn't a standout but it isn't the worst looking title either. The game's levels are quite large but the lack of destructible elements in the levels is disappointing. The character models are decent. The overall presentation in Airborne (like in most Medal of Honor titles) is impressive. Everything ends up looking and feeling so slick and polished. The soundtrack is once again impressive and ends up sounding like something you'd expect to hear in Saving Private Ryan. The guns sound brilliant but the soldiers do become a little repetitive after awhile.
The six levels in Airborne will take players around seven to ten hours. The campaign isn't exactly lengthy but the online multiplayer should keep players entertained for a little while longer. Fans of the franchise will want to play through the game a second time as the expert difficulty is a significant step up. The achievements in the Xbox 360 version are quite varied and to get the full 1000 points you'll need to play through the game, complete the game on the toughest difficulty and pull off several tough tasks.
Medal of Honor: Airborne doesn't do a whole lot to differentiate itself from the other World War II shooters, but ends up being an enjoyable game and one of the best for the series yet. The game doesn't feature as much freedom as we would have liked but if you enjoy killing Nazis and you're not yet sick of World War II shooters then there are much worse options than Medal of Honor: Airborne.