Medal of Honor: Airborne Preview
The Medal of Honor franchise began on the PS1 and was heralded as one of the best FPS experiences of that now archaic generation. The first installment on the PS2, Medal of Honor: Frontline and PC, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault also received a ton of critical acclaim as being both intense and finely polished. However, we've seen a slight drop-off in overall quality since then, as recent MoH titles like Rising Sun and European Assault didn't quite have the same impact.
But now that another one is in the works for next-gen consoles, we can't help but be excited...after all, we believe in giving history its just due, and for each of the last two generations, the first Medal of Honor titles for each platform were outstanding. Therefore, by tradition, we should expect Medal of Honor: Airborne to reclaim the glory of Frontline and Allied Assault. In fact, after gathering up a ton of information, we're inclined to bet on it.
The game takes place in 1943, and your first level will revolve around Operation Husky, the very first combat parachute drop in U.S. history. Fans may remember storming the beach at Normandy in Frontline, and EA is planning to knock gamers out of their chairs with yet another unbelievably intense opening sequence. You'll start in the air and end up in Berlin following that long trek that all but ended WWII, and you'll also tackle three more operations: Avalanche, Neptune, and Market Garden. Throughout it all, you'll assume the roles of Private Travers and Pathfinder Eddie La Pointe, and battle your way through Europe in your noble effort to end Hitler's terror.
Now, don't think for a second that Airborne simply uses the idea of leaping out of planes as a cheap gimmick to inspire sales. That is not an automatic aspect of the gameplay; you, the player, will control the jump from beginning to end, and that includes maneuvering, chute management, and landing. It may take some time to master the controls (getting tangled in the chute with bullets flying by your ears isn't exactly safe), but once you do, you might be able to execute the perfect "greased landing," where you hit the ground running with weapon drawn.
You can land anywhere in the battle map, and you can even select your landing point from the start. And because of this freedom, there's little chance the game will have the linear feel of its predecessors. Depending on where you glide out of the plane, and depending on where you ultimately land, each operation could play out very, very differently. Whether you land in the dense trees a good mile away from any battle or whether you land smack in the midst of hell, it'll be up to you to plan the attack from the ground up...er...from the air down.
Each of the five operations include two major missions, and for the first drop, you'll play as Pathfinder La Pointe. A Pathfinder's job is to drop in before the primary force in order to designate drop zones via radio communication, and therefore, you'll need to use a good bit of stealth and ingenuity. When everything is ready, Travers will follow in with the rest of the troops, and that's when things will get awfully hectic. You've got objectives to fulfill and other targets of opportunity, and even though there are no squad-based tactics, at least you won't be fighting solo. Hundreds of other soldiers are flyin' in with ya, champ.
It's here where EA institutes an innovative new AI system, dubbed "Affordance." Supposedly, an affordance is just about anything you can use to your advantage during combat, and some things rely mostly on common sense; high ground is better than low ground, for instance. Everyone on the field knows this - just like they know that any cover is advantageous - so both sides will attempt to utilize any "affordance" they can find. In this way, the battles should be very realistic in regards to the soldiers' actions.
You'll be able to sprint, peak around corners, and strafe. In terms of how your health is measured, there are five slots of health, and each slot will regenerate provided it's not entirely gone. If it is, it's gone forever until you either complete the mission or find a health pack, which the Germans will hopefully provide. EA is further introducing something called "True Trigger," which forces the player to squeeze the trigger with exactly the right pressure in order to execute a perfect shot. And exclusive to the PS3 version, players can use the Sixaxis to control the jump.
Last but certainly not least is the neat-o weapon upgrade and customization system, new to the Medal of Honor franchise. You can find some mods in the field, and it's up to you how you wish to use them. On top of which, given the RPG-esque skills system that relies on you to gain experience with each kind of weapon, you'll have to plan accordingly. For example, if you find an attachment for the classic M1 Garand that allows you to fire grenades, but aren't proficient with the M1 in the first place, you won't be able to use that mod. Experience, skills, and customization? What is this, Deus Ex?
Based on the screenshots and videos we've seen thus far - feel free to take a gander at EA's Medal of Honor: Airborne website - the game is darn pretty. We should be getting actual emotions on the faces of frightened soldiers, and as usual, we're also expecting the trademark top-notch sound quality commonly associated with the franchise. Scheduled for some time early next year, this one is destined to turn a lot of heads. We suggest keeping a sharp eye out for Medal of Honor: Airborne so you don't miss out.
11/1/2006 Ben Dutka