When “Medal of Honor: Airborne” was announced, a similar groan could be heard coming out of the mouths of many a vidgame fan: “No, not another World War II game.”
Publisher/developer Electronic Arts does offer some solid innovations in this latest sequel, but like an aging rock star that might produce a good song now and again, it’s still just an old man standing at a mic with a guitar.
When WWII was the hot property in just about every medium – from “The Greatest Generation” to “Saving Private Ryan” – it seemed like the gaming industry wanted to capitalize on that just as much as everyone else. Players were slammed with titles like the “Medal of Honor” series, the “Call of Duty” series, “Brothers in Arms,” and a myriad of other less memorable vidgames. While Activision has wisely decided to move the “Call of Duty” franchise into modern day with its upcoming fourth installment, it seems EA and its in-house “Medal of Honor” developers are content to stay exactly where they are.
To its credit, EA is trying to push the genre forward somewhat. “Airborne” has a few innovate hooks like “land anywhere,” where a player literally jumps out of an airplane and can land anywhere in the map. It also has a complex artificial intelligence for enemies, dubbed “affordance A.I.,” that makes soldiers seek cover and specific firing routes.
But with titles such as “Call of Duty 4,” “Warhawk,” “BioShock” and “Halo 3” moving the first-person shooter genre much further forward, “Airborne” really shows its age. The innovations it does offer would have been much more compelling three years ago.
The save system is also a big failing. In one word, it’s brutal. The game only allows the player to save at checkpoints, rather than wherever they may want – this is especially frustrating after a difficult firefight or mission. The checkpoints in “Airborne” feel random and far and few between, making for a very frustrating experience of playing a long time, then having to start all over again.
The graphics and effects in “Airborne” are top notch. The foggy effect while looking through a scope, in particular, helps make the gameplay very immersive. While the sound could be mixed a bit better, it does provide that much needed-feeling of being in a war and having a million bullets flying by the player’s ear.
Much like its offline counterpart, the online functionality is slim and feels very old to the experienced shooter fan. Even with the unique ability to drop in on the map anywhere when on the Allied side of things, the multi-player experience features the same old weapons and only two generic game types.