Medal of Honor: Airborne Xbox 360
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
Given the popularity of the Medal of Honor series it's surprising that we have had to wait so long for a Medal of Honor game to arrive on the Xbox 360. In some respects though maybe the wait hasn't been a bad thing. After all, the Call of Duty series has provided us with a World War II based FPS for the last two years and the extra development time for Medal of Honor: Airborne should have given the developers the extra time they need to give us a graphical feast worthy of the Xbox 360 in addition to some new innovations to help freshen up the series.
Medal of Honor: Airborne puts you in the shoes (or should that be boots) of Boyd Travers, a Private First Class of the "All-American" 82nd Airborne Division. You'll begin in the Sicilian village of Adanti and battle your way right through to the heart of Germany itself. As the name of the game suggests, you'll play as a paratrooper and each mission begins with Travers parachuting into the battle zone. In addition to the single-player campaign, there are also a variety of Xbox Live multiplayer modes for two to twelve players.
Previous Medal of Honor titles have been strictly linear affairs. To a certain degree this is still the case but Airborne does allow an element of flexibility that previous titles in the series didn't. As mentioned earlier, each mission begins with Travers parachuting into the battle zone. You'll have full control over where Travers lands. It's possible to land directly in the line of enemy fire, into areas where there is no enemy presence and if you want to, you can even land right in amongst the enemies although this isn't such a wise option to take. Once you've landed in the battle zone you'll have to carry out your set objectives. You do always appear to have options about which route you take in a battle. You don't always have to face the enemy head on and you can often bypass the main heat of the battle and take a less obvious route to your objective, which is a welcome addition.
Aside from the ability to land where you want, there are a few other differences this time around. You can now 'cook' your grenades (essentially that's pulling the pin out of the grenade and holding it for a few seconds so that it stands a good chance of exploding on contact, which gives the enemy no chance to get out of the way). During a mission it's possible to earn weapon upgrades by performing certain feats such as melee kills, headshots, dispatching multiple enemies at a time and so forth. You'll also earn medals for your efforts if you're particularly impressive on the battlefield.
For the most part the single-player campaign is enjoyable but there are some problems that do take the shine off the experience. There's not much of a storyline here and what is here is essentially providing a simple and uninteresting way of connecting the six major battles. The early missions are OK but it's the latter three that really feel different and make the game worth playing. At times the first few missions feel a little chore-like but get past those and the game becomes much more enjoyable. The AI isn't as sharp as it could be. Don't get me wrong, it's aggressive but at times it feels too aggressive. Enemy soldiers clearly don't give a fig by running right into the firing line. Your fellow soldiers also don't care about getting in your way whilst you're lining up a shot. It can be a real test of patience when you're about to give an enemy machine gunner a lead injection only to find one of your own soldiers walk straight in front of you and block your vision. Most annoying of all however has to be the hit detection. There will be plenty of times where you hit an enemy smack on only to find it does nothing. Sometimes you have to hit an enemy multiple times before they finally go down and it feels a little unfair at times.
The multiplayer options in Airborne are best described as functional. There is only support for online play with up to twelve players battling it out in Team Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch Airborne and Objective Airborne game variations. In Team Deathmatch you'll chose whether to fight for the Allies or Axis forces and then engage in combat, with the team achieving the highest score at the end of the time limit being the winner. Team Deathmatch Airborne is a similar experience with the additional ability of being able to parachute into the battle. Objective Airborne again sees you having to pick your team (Axis or Allies) and here you have to fight to capture and hold three flags on the map with the winning team being the first to capture three flags. Online play does support voice communications which inevitably will prove problematic for deaf gamers.
It goes without saying that Medal of Honor: Airborne is certainly the best looking Medal of Honor game to date. That's not to say the game is particularly impressive. You couldn't argue that Airborne is graphically superior to many of the FPS games you'll find on the 360. In fact there are some rough spots. In places it seems as though certain animations are missing. Watching an enemy climb over the sandbags, for instance, you'll notice the animations are actually quite comical in places as they seem to zip from one stance to another without any natural flow between the movements. The character models look quite good and the weapons look good also. The explosions don't look as good as they should do and you won't see impressive environmental damage modelling here. Still the frame rate bears up quite nicely and the load times aren't too bad at all.
Medal of Honor: Airborne does offer subtitles but they are disabled by default. With the subtitles enabled you'll be able to enjoy the dialogue that links the missions together. These subtitles are simply displayed using white text. There are no character names or portraits placed alongside the text. Tutorial messages and objections are shown in text. Objectives can be recalled at any time. You're informed in text of all the upgrades and medals you've achieved. During the battles you'll receive plenty of speech from your fellow soldiers. None of this dialogue is subtitled unfortunately. Whilst it doesn't make the game problematic, it does take away some of the game's ambience. If you decide to 'cook' a grenade a ticking sound will warn you that you need to throw it as soon as possible. There are no captions for this sound and indeed there are no captions in the game.
The wait for a 'next-generation' Medal of Honor game has been quite a long one and in the mean time we've had two Call of Duty titles, both of which were great, so it's natural that big things were expected of Medal of Honor: Airborne. The game does offers some important differences from previous Medal of Honor games but there is also a strong sense of familiarity here too. World War II FPS games are ten a penny these days and any World War II FPS needs to offer something different to stand out. Medal of Honor: Airborne just about does this but I daresay that for some it sticks a little too close to the series’ previous conventions. That said, if you're a fan of the series then what's on offer in Medal of Honor: Airborne will satisfy.
It's taken a while for the first 'next-generation' Medal of Honor game to arrive and thankfully the result is quite a pleasing one. Despite some innovative touches here and there though, the game feels a lot like the previous Medal of Honor games and some gamers may be disappointed by that.