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Review: Medal of Honor Airborne

Medal of Honor was once the ultimate in War games. Nothing bettered it, and Frontline cemented its place as the best War series around. Along came Infinity Ward with Call of Duty, and it all began to change. As CoD began the rise to stardom, Medal of Honor slipped right down into the forgotten realms as a has-been. Rising Sun was the start of the descent, and the sequel merely added to its misery. But now, back on new generation hardware and with fresh ideas, EA return with the once-great series to make a fresh start. Do EA get it right, or does Call of Duty continue to reign supreme?

The story centres around Private First Class Boyd Travers, a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne division. As players follow his story, they will traverse across Europe, from Italy to France to the Netherlands, ending up of course in Germany. Along the way there is a lot to do and a lot of Germans to kill as players fight their way from objective to objective.

This isn’t a typical Medal of Honor game though. Gone is the linear gameplay of running in what is effectively a straight line, and in its place is a whole new idea of choosing where you start to fight. The whole point of Airborne is the parachuting. Playing a paratrooper, it is necessary to jump from a plane each time a mission starts, and occasionally when you happen to die. This allows for the player to roughly choose where he wants to land on the map, making each new attempt at the mission a fresh one. It allows for you to go behind enemy lines covertly, or just go in gang-ho if that’s the preferred style. EA have made this even more interesting by placing five “Skill Drop” points across each of the missions, where players attempt to land there for better positions over the enemy and of course to go some way to getting Achievements.

Parachuting isn’t an easy task though. Much like real life, it has to be done the correct way to make it successful. If Travers is off-balance, he will “botch” the landing. Time it right and hit the analog stick up as he touches down, and Travers will get a “greased” landing. There’s “flared” landing too, which is considerably harder to do as Travers’ parachute has to open just before he hits the ground. Movement in the air is all controlled with the left analog stick as well, and the right analog stick will allow the whole area to be looked at. It’s even more spectacular if Travers can land on the enemy, as a swift click of the right stick will make him kick out as he comes to the ground, allowing for a melee kick to knock the German out.

Parachuting works well once you get the hang of it, and it’s a mean challenge trying to land on all the skill drop zones; more often that not it’s a tad difficult to get Travers into the exact position required for the skill drop kudos, as even the training is a challenge.

It’s a shame then that this well-implemented, revolutionary idea isn’t capitalised on more. There are a mere six missions to conquer, and it’s only the last two that put up any challenge. Each will take about an hour to complete, possibly more on the “Hard” difficulty. The rest can be done within thirty minutes; forty minutes is perhaps the longest for the first four missions on Normal. The last two are frustratingly hard, as new German soldiers are introduced and turn up in large numbers. As frustrating as it may be, it’s refreshing knowing that the game has lasted just a bit longer.

Naturally there are several objectives that need to be completed per mission, and thanks to the new parachuting idea, each objective can be done in whatever order the player wishes; the player can freely run around the map doing whichever one they prefer first. One objective too hard? Next time you die you’ll parachute in again so land Travers somewhere else for a different challenge. This is vastly superior to that of Call of Duty, which is very much a linear game. Of course all objectives need to be completed for the mission to end, but thanks to the expansiveness of the levels and the multiple routes through the map, it means it isn’t a chore to do.

It’s a shame then that with such a strong backing, the gameplay contained within each of the maps is so frustrating. The hit detection is truly awful. More often that not a well placed head shot will not fell the German infantry, and often three body shots are required. This is frustrating because it makes the whole War experience a lot less believable. The enemy AI too isn’t as great as EA made out before the game shipped. German soldiers will often simply run past Travers as if he doesn’t exist just to get to cover, when surely firing at him is the better option. The German soldiers also make a bee line for the machine gun emplacements, when it’s clearly not always a viable thing to do. It doesn’t make sense and shows EA haven’t got it right.

The framerate too is incredibly poor in places. At one point it became impossible to go forward as the game seemed to dip to about 10 frames per second, and a new route had to be made that avoided so many enemies on screen at once. This is simply not good enough for the new generation; there must have been five soldiers present when the framerate just gave up. It didn’t happen all the time, but when it did it’s obvious there’s a problem. The graphics too are slightly disappointing. This is certainly no Gears of War (Airborne also uses the Unreal Engine 3, although modified), and it could be argued that this looks worse than CoD 2. Certainly CoD 3 looks considerably better. With all the time EA had with the game, it only seems right to expect more. Keep an eye out for randomly spawning Germans too as it happens a lot. They magically appear and immediately attack, often leaving you wondering how the hell you just got killed. Again, very annoying.

All is not lost in the single player though. The atmosphere is terrific. EA have certainly nailed the aeroplane noises, whether Travers is jumping out of the plane or whether the planes are flying overhead, they sound spectacular and really make the room vibrate. Bullets whiz past too and again helps to immerse the player in the dog fight that takes place on screen. Fellow team mates shout too; often words of encouragement towards Travers, but they also let you know which side they will be covering and so on. It’s always nice to hear some support, and the team AI does actually help out a lot. They shoot accurately and the enemy does go down. If a team mate dies, they parachute back in a few moments, which again is a nice touch from EA. There’s a brand new health system too, which is divided up into four quadrants. If you lose an entire quadrant, it’s only possible to regain it with a health pack. However if only a part of a quadrant disappears, then it is automatically regenerated in a few seconds. It’s clever and works surprisingly well.

The objectives are a mixed bunch, but usually consist in either planting some explosives or wiping out some tanks. There’s a whole host of weapons to do it with, and it’s here where the game gets a whole lot more interesting. As Travers fights his way through the non-stop onslaught of Germans, the weapon he uses to kill them gains experience. As more experience is gained, the HUD image of the weapon in use fills up. When it is full, the weapon gets upgraded. This is possible three times for each weapon, and even pistols and grenades can be upgraded. The upgrade varies from weapon to weapon, but it usually consists of a larger ammo clip, a faster reload speed or better accuracy. It’s great fun to see what each new weapon will bring, and the Thompson is particularly great as it will make you feel like an Italian mobster from the Seventies, thanks to the massive fifty round drum it attaches. This is saved from mission to mission, so every time you pick up a weapon, it will keep the experience gained earlier. It’s a neat touch and one that will definitely make the game’s replayability extend, as there’s an Achievement for fully upgrading all the available weapons.

Sadly though, all weapons are usable in the multiplayer. This means that every three matches it becomes a rocket launcher fest. Rocket launchers in multiplayer games such as these simply do not work; there are no vehicles to destroy so the weapon is useless. The multiplayer is far more enjoyable when the weapon is not in use, but that will require several like-minded players to play with and against. Even created rooms cannot limit what weapons are used, so unless you state otherwise, people may still whip out the rocket launcher.

There are three modes in the multiplayer which all offer something slightly different. There is no Deathmatch option which is a little surprising, only Team Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch Airborne and Objective Airborne. Team Deathmatch is self explanatory; two teams that have to kill one another for the most points. Pretty straightforward. Team Deathmatch Airborne throws a little bit more into the mix. While it is still the usual Team Deathmatch idea, the Allies have to parachute in rather than just spawning on the ground somewhere. They can parachute down and attempt a melee kick, but they can also be shot out of the sky before they even land if players have a sharp enough aim. Or a cooked grenade for extra “pwnd” moments can be used to take Allies down in the sky. Objective Airborne plays almost identically to the popular War mode in CoD 3, although in Airborne there are only three flags. One flag is harder to capture than others, as it will require two people to stand in an unspecified zone in order for its capture. It can get tough when there are twelve playing to try and maintain each position long enough to score a point, especially when Allies again have to parachute in.

There’s very little lag in the online games which is excellent. There may be the odd hiccup sometimes (one time it became impossible to look left or right and all the sound disappeared for some reason), but for the most part the experience is a smooth one. Weapons again can be upgraded as the online battle rages on which will give you the edge over your enemies. The multiplayer is a lot of fun, however the matchmaking for ranked matches seems slightly strange, as it will often not bother to even up the teams, or will take an age before the game kicks off. It could have been done better, that’s for sure. There’s not a great deal here that is brand new or revolutionary, but what it has got it does right. Variety isn’t the spice of life here though as there are only six maps playable, and more often than not you’ll find the game (in Ranked Matches at least) picking the same map over and over. It can get a touch tedious because of this.

Airborne tries very hard to offer something new to the worn out FPS War theme, and but for the parachuting, not a lot has changed. With AI that require two headshots before they go down, and a dodgy frame rate that for some reason drops when not a huge amount is going on, it lets itself down. The multiplayer is good fun if there’s a room without people using rocket launchers continuously, but again apart from the parachuting the whole affair is pretty generic, although good fun in small doses. Travers and his 82nd Airborne Division get the job done, but it’s a messy affair and one that he won’t want to repeat too soon. Call of Duty 2 set the bar too high for Medal of Honor this time around despite being two years old now on the 360, and as such Airborne pales in comparison. The campaign is far too short despite being less linear than other games in the genre, and the multiplayer simply can’t bring it back up from the botched landing.

Final Score: 5 out of 10 - Below Average (How do we rate games?)

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28 comments on 'Review: Medal of Honor Airborne'

Comment by mu on 2007-09-16 23:25:51

wow, i think you made quite a few good points in your review, but your score seems very low to me. i personally played the multiplayer for about eight hours before i even started the single player campaign, and while the hit detection is atrocious, and there is not a ton of innovation, the game controls well, and doesn’t look bad at all. i am having as much fun playing moh as i ever did playing cod 3, and only the cod2 single player mode can truly pull rank on this game in terms of enjoyment.

again, not a bad review, although the number doesn’t seem to fit.

although i have yet to complete the single player game, i can say that, based on the quality of the multiplayer experience alone (which is the core of this experience in my opinion) i feel this game deserves at least a 7.

props to the reviewer though for getting a lot of good info out there. do not be afraid to try this game though, you may very well rate it higher than a five.

Comment by Niels Keurentjes on 2007-09-17 13:01:11

We don’t rate on the IGN scale, where a 5 is ‘abysmal’. As stated alongside the score, the 5 means ‘below average’, which you must admit has a point after stating the game cannot even closely compete with a 2 year old 360-launch-rush-port.

Comment by mu on 2007-09-18 02:24:17

neils… i believe that this game is NOT below average. that was my point. but thanks for rushing out to defend another botched review. you don’t have to explain the damn rating system every time neils. ross spent three pages listing some pretty good features of this game and very few applicable knocks. again, the xboxic review number is FAR below even the most malevelant internet trolls. and the real issue is, ross went to some pretty great lengths to list what makes this game good, and then shot it in the ass.

no, that is not the issue. the issue is, WE ALL KNOW ABOUT HOW YOU RATE GAMES! there is no need to jump in everytime, just to say the same damn thing. when you give a game a controversial rating, you will receive shit for it. yes life is a bitch. but this is the LOWEST score on this game. there is no need to seek attention in this way. the review was decent, but the number does not fit the game, and to be honest, as far as i can tell, it does not fit the review.

and please, for the love of god, do not tell me what i have to fucking admit. and the statement that moh “cannot even closely compete with a 2 year old 360-launch-rush-port”, is open to debate.

Comment by Pedle Zelnip on 2007-09-19 15:31:23

LOL, pwned…. :)

I agree, there is a tendancy on this site to hear “read the review” or “we don’t rate the same way other places do” every time there’s even the slightest criticism of a review.

I haven’t played MOHA yet, but the 5 at the end seemed a bit odd given how positive the review seemed. 5 is supposedly below average, but the review talks about how there are one or two revolutionary additions to the genre, and some very solid aspects of the game. This alone would seem to warrant at the very least an “average” rating if not better.

Comment by Niels Keurentjes on 2007-09-20 11:05:07

WE ALL KNOW ABOUT HOW YOU RATE GAMES

Then why act as if our 5 is the worst grade in history?

Yes, we’re adamant about our stance, which is why we keep repeating it. Stop screaming for us to give below average games a 7 or 8, and we’ll stop explaining why we actually gave a game a mediocre grade. The review explains several highly disappointing aspects of the game, and then summarizes it accordingly in the grade. Below average. Not crap, not abysmal, no just ‘Below Average’. Because there are so many games that are just simply better. Where this one falls short.

the 5 at the end seemed a bit odd given how positive the review seemed.

A game can do many things right and still be sub-standard based on a small number of things done wrong. I myself have no idea why you think the review is positive, since I would summarize it myself with “framerate issues, spectacularly stupid AI, ridiculously short campaign and fundamentel problems with multiplayer”. Those are fundamental failures, not being compensated for by a novel parachuting system or the lack of online lag which should be standard in any online game. Based on that I’d say the 5 was overly generous.

Comment by mu on 2007-09-20 13:01:00

let me ask you a hypothetical neils…

in a library of games, there are ten games, and they have all been reviewed at 9 or 10. now a new game comes out that is an 8. is this game considered below average to you, because the rest of the games in the library average out to 9.5?

just wondering if you guys would actually consider that “professional”. or WHATEVER you consider yourselves to be.

and after about twenty hours on multiplayer, there has been not one single “rocket launcher fest.”

and there is NO FRAMERATE ISSUE! ross, your box is probably readying up for the red ring.

please xboxic crew, take your fucking whooping when you blow it! you certainly get props when you don’t! you guys are the most egomaniacal fools on any fanboy site i have ever come across! just chill! we all have a right to express our opinions.

“I haven’t played MOHA yet, but the 5 at the end seemed a bit odd given how positive the review seemed. 5 is supposedly below average, but the review talks about how there are one or two revolutionary additions to the genre, and some very solid aspects of the game. This alone would seem to warrant at the very least an
average” rating if not better.”

“wow, i think you made quite a few good points in your review, but your score seems very low to me.”

“again, not a bad review, although the number doesn’t seem to fit.”

“5 seems a little low for how, well, upbeat the review is.”

“I’m a little confused by the review because overall you say the game is good if not revolutionary, but then give it a “failing” grade. Regardless I figured I’d share my two cents.”

just a couple of comments you may have missed neils, and for the record, you have brought nothing to this discussion except a flaccid defense mechanism, and an overinflated ego. but i did learn something about you today!

and for the record, you are a GOOD CREW. i just feel like, lately, your reviews have really been misleading, and i am just trying to help edify the community.

i think a lot of people that would have enjoyed moh, won’t now, because of ross’s FINAL SCORE. actually, the review itself seemed to give a positive enough impression of the game, and i am not really knocking it, but the final score is what a lot of gamers are just going to look to for actual purchasing strategy. i just wanted to balance out what looked to me like a pretty extreme score, with some of my own comments.

i feel as though this game is a solid 7.

“Above Average: The product is better than other offerings in the same area. It has obvious flaws, but hey it will entertain you and you probably won’t regret spending money on this.”

this game has obvious flaws, yes, but it absolutely smokes over the outfit (another gimmick oritented wwii shooter), and i feel that the single player campaign is done at LEAST as well as cod3, and overall, it is a more polished title than battlefields.

i know reviews are opinion oriented, but i feel that you, as journalists, are supposed to be trying to help out your readers to buy the right games for themselves, and as a casual observer, it is pretty clear to me that is not the intention of the reviewers on this site.

Comment by Aert on 2007-09-20 19:26:54

So who’s neils?

Comment by Niels Keurentjes on 2007-09-22 20:05:15

in a library of games, there are ten games, and they have all been reviewed at 9 or 10. now a new game comes out that is an 8. is this game considered below average to you, because the rest of the games in the library average out to 9.5?

You can say what you want about IGN, but yes at least they’re consistent with their ratings. Meaning they give 90% of the games a 9 and then consider an 8 substandard.

However, since we don’t give 90% of the games a 9, I honestly don’t understand all the bullshit you’re spreading here. Did you EVER honestly read that link we keep giving? Because you seem to have missed the most important page of that page every time we linked it, and that’s why we keep linking it:
“The most important thing you need to remember when reading a review is that you are not reading a text which prescribes how you should think about the given product: a review is an article describing how the reviewer thinks about the product. He tries to do this as objectively as possible, but in the end it is still the opinion of one person, corrected and egalized during the editorial process by a limited number of other people. What this means in the end is that a review can be a very good guideline for deciding about whether a product is good, but it should never replace your own opinion, just augment it.”
Apparently you thought the game was ace, well whooptie-fucking-doo good for you. We however thought the game was below average, so decided to give it a 5. That’s why on our site it gets a 5, along with a long explanation why it gets that grade so that people can decide for their own whether they agree with the way we weighed things. Noone’s stopping you to give the game a 9 on your own site. Understand? We have a rating scale we decided to use with good reason, and will continue to use with good reason. Even if you do decide to continue to bitch about our all our ratings being too low. Because you are 1 out of 300.000 unique monthly visitors that apparently wants to risk a heart attack over disagreeing with us being frighteningly consistent with our ratings.

Comment by mu on 2007-09-22 23:47:35

your review scores are anything but consistent. and i hope everyone who is reading this is learning a lot about the crew here at xboxic. i know i am!

Comment by mu on 2007-09-22 23:56:05

and my apologies for misspelling your name. thank you aert for pointing out my mistake.

Comment by Niels Keurentjes on 2007-09-23 13:31:22

So, ever bothered reading that paragraph yet I copied here with good reason? The part about opinions differing and people not having to agree with a review(er)? We’re absolutely consistent. Just not with your opinion lately it seems. Well, that’s useful information for you then, and information we’ll keep in mind for when we get other solid complaints.

Comment by mu on 2007-09-23 14:22:28

you appear consistent to YOU, niels, because you are the editor. believe me, your reviews lack consistency, they lack professionalism, they lack insight, they lack information. but they are full of self righteous opinionism. i guess that is a form of consistency.

i am just saying, from an outside point of view, you reviews blow lately. if you do not want feedback from your community, don’t ask for it, but do not give us shit for expressing ourselves when it is obviously appropriate.

and yes, i have read your “how we rate games” about fifty times, and if you had any sort of relationship with your readers, you would have known that i have supported many of your writers articles, including some well written reviews (few and far between). i am not just talking smack, i am actually trying to facilitate the flow of information, and provide a bit of a second opinion.

so CHILL! and try to pay attention when you get “solid complaints.” your ego seems to be blinding you.

i totally recommend that YOU (and i mean you niels) personally go back and reread what your readers have written. i don’t want to hear what you have to say about it again, but for your own edification. hell, smoke a bong load first and i GUARANTEE you will see things differently. aren’t you guys in holland?

i just don’t understand why, when you give something such a controversial score (lowest score on the fucking internet), you get so upset when people say that it doesn’t add up. i am not the only one that has read the review this way.

and i just wanted to point out that ign has only about fifteen games that got a nine out of ten score. and, to be SURE, i am not defending ign. their reviews are absolutely inconsistent, and mostly, bottom of the barrel. but neither was i referring to ign when i brought this up:

“in a library of games, there are only ten games, and they have all been reviewed at 9 or 10. now a new game comes out that is an 8. is this game considered below average to you, because the rest of the games in the library average out to 9.5?”

i said that, because you gave this game (moh) a “below average” rating, seemingly because there are so many other good games around that ross thought were better. i personally feel that a game should be based on its own merits, and other games should only be used to show the potential of a console.

there are a lot of good games out right now, but that does not diminish the quality of moh, which i have NEVER claimed i believed was “ace” as you so lovingly claimed i said, but the game is receiving an injustice being given a “below average” rating, no matter what the number connected with it, and i just wanted your readers to hear this other opinion.

Comment by Aert on 2007-09-23 15:13:14

What have you been smoking?

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-10-02 10:27:23

To play devil’s advocate, I have no issue with the reviews as I use them as only a part to build a full idea of a game before buying.

I will read the review from here, I will read other reviews from other people elsewhere, I will (if applicable) draw conclusions from previous versions of a game (i.e if I liked Halo 1 & 2 there is a good chance I will like 3), I will check out videos and screenshots and if available I will play a demo.

Using all these mediums together I will form an opinion then decide based on that if I will purchase the game or not.

But hey, thats just me. I like this site but don’t use it as my bible for game recommendations, i decide that myself from all the available information open to you.

Comment by mu on 2007-10-02 14:37:00

i already have all these fucking games. i am not doing this because i feel fucked over by xboxic with their reviews. i just feel the information in a lot of these reviews has been incomplete in one way or another, and i have been trying to do my part to fill that void.

Comment by mu on 2007-10-02 14:41:10

and aert, it appears you thought i was talking about all of ign’s reviews ever. i was actually just referring to their 360 reviews.

Comment by UK JAY on 2007-09-16 23:52:11

Great review Ross, was wondering how long since I saw you playing it recently. I purposely did not buy this until I read some kind of review and now I shalln’t bother. Im still yet to complete CoD2 so shall turn my efforts in that direction.

Comment by Colby on 2007-09-17 01:08:59

“Im still yet to complete CoD2″

Wah?!?!?! If I could reach through the internet and smack you I would right now lol.

Comment by AugustusBot on 2007-09-17 12:36:48

lol.
agreed. cod2 was amazing.

Comment by UK JAY on 2007-09-17 13:05:08

I bought CoD3 long before I bought CoD2 - Im halfway done, but so many other great games has come out since and it gets left behind a little, but im ploughing through it…

Comment by jmel on 2007-09-17 01:44:33

Finally, another honest review… I’d seen a lot of those 7’s and 8’s lately, and I was shocked cuz I know you guys normally dont rock the whole “toe the line” crap.

Comment by mu on 2007-09-18 02:31:54

giving this game a 7 is totally reasonable. and swimming against the current is just as lame as toeing the line. and you don’t even get anywhere.

Comment by Grommell on 2007-09-17 03:05:46

5 seems a little low for how, well, upbeat the review is. I’ll avoid this game and savor my war-lust in favor of COD4 methinks.

Comment by mikem on 2007-09-17 04:08:52

I’m a little confused by the review because overall you say the game is good if not revolutionary, but then give it a “failing” grade. Regardless I figured I’d share my two cents.

1. My friend and I have both played through the game a few times now and have yet to suffer the framerate issues you speak of. I just have not seen it at all, so I’m sorta wondering about that.

2. This is my first MOH game, so I could be wrong, but the cover system (more of a lean I guess) seemed quite fresh to me. The game felt far less like I was simply running and shooting as a mad man, and gave a sense of the pressure of a stop and pop gunfight. To me that has set this title apart a great deal.

In short, MOH is not the greatest game of all time, but for me it continues to be tons of fun and a solid if not earth-shattering game. In my mind that gets you a C+/B-. Not hating on the review (to each their own) but for those of you on the fence maybe this has helped.

Comment by Brett Farve on 2007-09-17 14:52:51

Well…well…you made some fantastic points but i disagree i dont think this game was made for jews.. or was it?

Comment by FOO Q on 2007-09-19 01:32:25

utter crap - the negatives about this title FAR outweigh any positives. I found it tedious and annoying to play…it does however make a fantastic frisbee!

Comment by Sage on 2007-09-20 07:14:51

Hells highway will be better than this in my opinion so i wont be wasting my money on this game

Comment by Defiantly on 2007-10-01 17:02:53

Definitly a good RENTAL. I found it fun and fairly easy. Yes, there are only 6 levels, but each are large. I wouldn’t buy it though, as replayability is quite small.

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