Medal of Honor (MoH) has been a long-running franchise, even longer than the colossal Call of Duty. For years, MoH was the undisputed King of World War II games. After making ten games in this same genre, Medal of Honor: Airborne was the final WWII shooter they released on all of the current generation consoles. Even though it’s fallen down to the $9.99 bargain bin, is EA’s final trip into WWII worth taking?
You fill the boots of Corporal Boyd Travers of the 82nd Airborne division. After a brief stint of training in North Africa, you begin diving into the most hectic and dangerous places in the European Theatre. I would love to tell you about the plot of the game, but there isn’t one. The story isn’t a linear campaign, but just a series of missions. Aside from winning the war, you have no other goals or plot points. That was easily one of the most disappointing parts of Airborne, because of the sweeping stories and struggles depicted in previous Medal of Honor games. You travel from Italy, to the Netherlands, to the heart of Nazi Germany, but these are all locales we’ve seen in every other World War II shooter out there. It becomes difficult to find something in the plot to set Airborne apart from the sea of WWII games.
Airborne took an interesting twist on how you play WWII shooters, adding in the idea of being a paratrooper. Instead of a linear campaign, beginning on one side of the map and ending on the other, this game allows you to parachute into the level and accomplish objectives in any order desired. While this is certainly an interesting idea, it makes the single-player campaign feel more like multiplayer. You lose the purpose and narrative of the story, trading that for frantically running from objective to objective. You don’t feel like part of a group of soldiers, but more like the only bastard on the battlefield who is actually doing anything.
Due to the nature of parachuting into battle, your teammates are scattered throughout the map, forcing you to do EVERYTHING. This wouldn’t be so bad, if the enemy AI didn’t solely focus their attention on you. If you can see an enemy, they will immediately turn around and do their best to ruin your day. This problem occurs in many games, but it’s particularly frustrating in Airborne. Also, Airborne isn’t a long game, taking about 4 hours to complete on the Normal difficulty. This wouldn’t be such a problem, if it had any multiplayer to lean on for additional replay value. Sadly, like many “Under $20” Games, the multiplayer community of this game is dead. So, you’re left with a short, mostly disappointing campaign. That’s it.
In addition to changing the core concepts of the FPS genre, they also added a unique set of controls. If you’ve played a few First-Person Shooters, you can pretty well handle any shooter. Airborne decided to scrap the standard controls, replacing it with a new layout and strange “peek and shoot” ability. As you all know, when you pull the left trigger on your controller, you will normally bring up the Iron Sights and move a little slower. Well, you still pull up the Iron Sights in this game, but instead of having the left thumbstick move your character, you freeze in place and the thumbstick makes your character move up and down, as well as leaning left and right. Once you get used to this, it can be a somewhat handy tool. For example, you can aim more accurately with the Iron Sights and quickly duck in and out of cover. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make up for being stuck in a single place. Any gamer knows that you have to keep moving, if you want to live. Even campers have to move eventually, for God’s sake! But, being frozen in place while shooting makes you a massive target. Combine this with the massive vendetta the entire Axis has against you, and you’ve got one big pain in the ass.
Medal of Honor: Airborne is from 2007, so it isn’t going to win any prizes for how good it looks. Don’t pick this up if you’re expecting a visually stunning journey into the second World War. The same could be said for the music. Although it was scored by the same person who scored most of the Medal of Honor games, it sounds bland. It’s the same orchestral pieces that are in every WWII game, trying to inspire the player, but really just boring you. I hate to sound so jaded, but with 220+ games about WWII out there, hearing the same types of music can get tiresome.
The achievements could have been the best part of Airborne, except it fell short (a running theme for this game). There’s an average mix of achievements for beating the game, as well as getting certain amounts of kills, doing certain objectives, etc. The main problem with the list is the large chunk of multiplayer only achievements. Yes, the dreaded “Multiplayer Only”. These achievements account for 310/1,000 points for this game. So, at best, you’re only looking at 690 Gamerscore. What else baffles me is that they decided to throw in 5 achievements for multiplayer that are worth absolutely nothing. That’s right, 5 difficult achievements worth 0 Gamerscore. What the fuck were they thinking?! Who wants to put so much effort into an achievement that has no value?! I mean, you could argue that Gamerscore itself is valueless, but shut the hell up.
All in all, Medal of Honor: Airborne fails to separate itself from the rest of the WWII genre, despite its unique gameplay twists. The complete lack of any plot or character gives you no drive to complete the game, except for your own desire to get it over with. The wonky controls make it annoying to pick up and play, without delivering any worthwhile benefits for the changes. I really don’t understand what they were aiming for by making Airborne so clumsy and odd. I can clearly understand why this game was in the bargain bin, now. Well, on the bright side, the achievements suck.
Medal of Honor: Airborne is Not Worth It
By Blake Edwards