An already usual reaction of the video game community whenever a new World War II game comes out is something like: “Oh, no! Not again!” And they’re right too, because WWII is right there after those Science-Fiction and Fantasy subjects, in terms of the most used setting in a game. So, maybe it’s because I’m a heated fan of this subject, that my reaction regarding these games is a bit more favorable. Generally, I felt that WWII games were much better made in terms of quality, than their SF counterparts, and I have always enjoyed playing them. So it’s not a coincidence that two of my all-time favorite games are Call of Duty, and Brothers in Arms.
One of the oldest and more popular series set in WWII is Medal of Honor. Until now, the MoH games remained loyal to each other in their cinematic, albeit somewhat fictionized approach to the war subject. In game lingo the term “fictionized” could be easily translated as “arcade”, and the Medal of Honor series has always kept a pretty fragile balance between historical realism and arcade gameplay. Medal of Honor: Airborne maintains most of the features of its predecessors, but also introduces some new elements, witch unfortunately seem more centered around creating the illusion that the game lives up to 2007’s standards, rather than actually bringing some innovation in the genre.
As always, we’ll start with the story, which (not surprisingly) is next to nonexistent. The whole idea revolves around you being a certain Boyd Travers, a paratrooper in the legendary 82nd Airborne Division, taking part in almost all the major European operations of WWII: the landings in Sicily and Italy, then France and Holland and finally being airdropped above an industrial district in Northern Germany. From the other games in the series, Airborne inherits the story structure: there are six large campaigns (each one corresponding to one of the aforementioned operations) and one small tutorial in the beginning.
This is where we also encounter the first problem with the game, because the tutorial itself is pretty much useless. It’s true that some of us had just about enough of those silly texts like: “hit W to walk forward”, that we see in most shooters, but Airborne doesn’t give you a single clue about how you’re suppose to play it. The tutorial only consists of 3 training jumps, that in theory serve the purpose of getting you used to the novelty in Airborne – the handling and landing of a parachute. The big problem here is that the game doesn’t offer a single clue about HOW to execute those actions.
Consider this example: after you jump from the plane, a message appears: “Press the “flare” key to flare your chute”… ok, but which exactly is the “flare” key?! I looked up “flare” in the controls list… nothing. This category wasn’t even listed. Well, after many failed attempts, I finally find the troublesome key: SPACE. Once the three jumps are done, the game automatically jumps to the next mission, regardless of whether you’ve learned the landing procedure, or not. I can’t really reprove this design decision, because appropriately landing the chute is not all that vital to finishing the game. The only shortcoming is that when you do a botched landing, you’ll take longer to free yourself from the chute’s harnesses and because of that the enemies have more time to shoot at you.
Another form of tutorial are the few introductory movies found in the “Extras” section in the Main Menu. They provide a few hints on how to move effectively or on different kinds of tactics, but again, there is no mention of any keys and some actions are even forgotten altogether. For instance, they don’t say anything about the fact that you have the ability to hold your breath when using the sniper scope. Although this feature makes aiming this weapon much more precise, the developers failed to mention it. I luckily found this by mistake, while I was pressing the SPACE key.