Medal of Honor: Airborne is the latest in a long line of World War 2 based games. For some reason, I tend to be a sucker for these games. Call of Duty 2 was the first game I bought for the Xbox 360 and really the gold-standard for WWII shooters. The problem is the genre has been explored so often that there isn’t much left in the way of originality.
Airborne, from mega-publisher EA Games, aimed to change that by adding a parachuting element (hence the airborne part). The idea is at the beginning of the level, you parachute into the battlefield. From above you can pick the place you’d like to land and approach the mission’s objectives from any angle you’d like. This allows for a little strategy and at least gives the illusion of something new.
I say illusion because once you are on the ground, it’s pretty much business as usual. If you’ve played a decent WWII game, you will be in very familiar territory. All the weapons behave as they should and the Nazis sound like, well, Nazis. The graphics are about par for the course. There were a few moments of awe sprinkled throughout the game, but the animation left something to be desired when you killed someone. More than once, I can remember shooting a Nazi only to have them catapult up into the air over my head. Things like that will definitely take you out of the game.
One of the real genius elements (and one I think was in previous MoH games) is the idea of upgrading the weapons. The game keeps track of your kills with each weapon and as you achieve a certain number it adds new elements to that weapon. The Thompson sub-machine gun for instance will gain a pistol grip for better accuracy and a drum clip for more ammo. Each weapon can be upgraded three times. You’d be surprised how satisfying it is going back through and upgrading every weapon.
The achievements in Airborne are fairly easy. Given about a week it would be possible to get all 1,000 points. The single-player involve mostly working through the game and upgrading weapons. There are a few interesting ones like killing an enemy by kicking there grenade back at them and most can be unlocked simply by playing through the game. A few (like fully upgrading all weapons) will require several play throughs.
The online achievements are also fairly easy to get. In my first online match I ended up with 80 achievement points. That’s very unusual. After getting almost 10 percent of the total achievement points in one round I figured the rest would be a breeze. They certainly aren’t hard, but just require playing multi-player for a while to rack up kills.
However, I never found out how easy they were to get. I think most of the problem lies with EA’s servers. It was sometimes hard to connect and when I finally did the lag made it almost unplayable at times. To me, Call of Duty 2 set the bar of online WWII shooters. Comparing the two, Airborne jumps out of the plane, but it’s chute never deploys.
The ability to parachute into battle was interesting but not really the game changer EA described it as. That being said, if you enjoy a solid WWII game, Airborne will deliver a really great single-player experience. The lack of any local multi-player (which is pretty unforgivable in my book) and a dismal online experience take away from what could have been a really great package. Overall, I’d put it somewhere on the battlefield between the great Call of Duty 2 and the absolutely horrible Hour of Victory.
Airborne makes a really great rental, but wait until these Nazis storm the clearance bin to buy.