From: EA For: Xbox 360 Genre: FPS, Warfare ESRB Rating: Teen (13+)
Medal of Honor Airborne
Once lauded for deep story-telling and immersive WWII action in the form of interactive pathos, EA's Medal of Honor series take a dive into the shoot-'em-up action tank and wallows there. Airborne is a let down.
Too much in Medal of Honor Airborne causes the player to stop and think things like: "Why, if I pause behind cover for a few seconds, does my health bar refill?" A great game mechanic that makes sense for space marines sporting energy-shielded armor suits, is completely incongruous in this game of World War II parachutists.
Meanwhile, game mechanics like upgradeable weapons are compelling, but encourage nonsense tactics, like trying to clear trenches with the sniper rifle to get enough "experience" for the final upgrade, and once you've got it, dropping the rifle and trying to snipe across the map with the handgun or Thompson SMG for the same upgradeable reason. On the one hand, it instills the desire to upgrade all of the weapons to maximum power, giving gameplay some stakes, but at the cost of keeping forefront in the mind of the player that this is only a game. A gimmick game at that.
Airborne's open-structure maps that are less linear than the typical FPS rabbit-warren mazes and provide for more of a free-roaming battle. However, every time you round a corner to find the battle waiting for you to arrive the spell is broken: virtual Nazi and American soldiers effectively sitting around behind boxes having a smoke until you show up, whereupon some AI agent recognizes you and yells something like "Travers is here!" and, as if following stage directions in a high school musical, all snatch up their helmets, start yelling and shooting. There is more of a sense of being an actor in a play than a pair of boots on the ground in Over There warfare.
As for the open game structure, it sacrifices the strong story-telling of more structured Medal of Honor games past. The cutscenes normally inserted to tell story and build emotion do no such thing in Airborne, some of them being so maudlin as to turn the you off even more. One regrettable scene tries to show how hateful the Nazi enemies are by having them drive a tank over an immobilized comrade. A comrade you don't know or care about; a comrade poorly acted; and seeing as you have been running around sniping German heads, them driving a tank over one of their own, some weak fool who can't even roll out of the way in time, just doesn't register as a war crime worth caring about.
The only effective innovation that Medal of Honor Airborne does offer is the vertical maps, the levels with some height to them. Sniping from rooftops and machine gun nests on second floors of buildings forces extra vigilance from the player. Again, unfortunately this vigilance means leaning out of cover, sniping until you get hit a couple of times, and ducking back behind cover to wait for your life bar to recharge. Kind of fun, but you'll never, ever, not-for-a-moment forget you are sitting in front of your television playing a game.
Effectively, Medal of Honor Airborne takes a bunch of good game design elements and forges a compelling but completely non-immersive gaming experience. Unfortunately, you expect, and can get in other great first-person shooters, great game design, compelling play, and immersive experiences that draw you through the screen into the game world ( Call of Duty ).
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