Medal of Honor had its day. That day is long over, and the sun has set a few hundred times since the heyday of the series. With franchises such as Call of Duty and Brothers in Arms, Medal of Honor is still waiting for the chance to see light again.
Wii and PlayStation 2 fans will recall Medal of Honor Vanguard, released in March of 2007. This Xbox 360 title bears a striking resemblance, though cinematics and level designs have been altered. The key feature of Airborne is jumping out of a plane onto a loaded battlefield already deep in a battle. It’s an effective mechanism, and the first time you misplace a landing next to a Nazi while struggling to get up, you won’t forget it.
Finding objectives is done on a compass, and regardless of where you choose to go initially, the allied soldiers will react and fight alongside you. Their chatter lets you know what to do, and immerses the player deeper as they spout off specifics. It’s impressive how the game is always ready to adjust to the player choices.
In every level however, once the first set of missions are cleared, the player is forced to complete a second set of objectives. These eliminate the open natures of the stages, and worse, require a return trip through an already cleared area to complete a task that apparently appeared in a matter of minutes.
Likewise, death either results in a re-drop from the plane or a simple restart from a checkpoint. It’s nearly impossible in some levels to drop on the objective you were working on, and you’ll need to haul back through the stage yet again to find it. It’s beyond the point of being repetitive.
Carried over from the Wii version – sadly – is the inconsistent and poorly implemented collision detection. This ruins the game, making it unfairly difficult even on the casual difficulty setting. You can clearly land a head shot, yet the bullet seems to have no effect. Later, when the ridiculous “super Nazis” show up, they require multiple direct head shots to be cleanly killed. It’s luck, not skill, at that point.
Not all is wasted. Battlefields are fun to play through. The varied night and day drop zones help with otherwise inexcusable feelings of repetition. An unforgettable soundtrack, including a nicely mixed version of the familiar Medal of Honor five-note theme, is used beautifully.
Multi-player is also a highlight despite the problems with hit detection. Maps are made up of closed off single player stages, and allow for an incredible array of tactics. You’ll need to ensure roofs and streets are cleared before moving anywhere. Numerous areas allow camouflage to make the quiet kills on an unsuspecting victim. Team play is vastly superior compared to the death match.
Airborne’s myriad of problems are not strictly gameplay. Its release can’t be justified anymore. Its experience is tired, the setting worn out, and it fails to bring anything new to a genre desperately requiring a slowdown. This originally classic franchise has completely died out.
GameXYZ is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Mild Language, Violence. This game can also be found on: PS3, PC.