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Medal of Honor Airborne

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA

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'Medal of Honor Airborne' (ALL) Developer Interview

by Rainier on May 22, 2007 @ 12:45 a.m. PDT

Step into the boots of Boyd Travers, Private First Class of the 82nd Airborne Division and engage in battles throughout Europe. From rocky beginnings in Sicily to war-winning triumphs in Germany, each mission begins behind enemy lines, with an intense and fully interactive airdrop. Your ability to determine your own starting point dramatically changes the way each mission plays out. View the entire operation from the air, and then control your parachute to choose your landing spot. On the ground, gather your senses and assess the terrain. A wide variety of authentic, customizable weapons are at your disposal, each with distinct characteristics. Choose your path in this free roaming FPS environment. Medal of Honor Airborne will also feature exceptionally photo-realistic characters, adding to the intensity of the cinematic, story-driven game.

Q: What makes Airborne stand out from other shooters at this point are the, you know, air drops. Can you take us through the initial drop for each major operation? What will we see when looking down on Operations Husky, Varsity, Avalanche, Neptune and Market Garden?

RD : Operation Husky is a drop into a walled village. Some of the key aspects of this environment include a central town square, a bell tower and a large Town Hall structure. There is a small church in the NW corner of the map and the rest is mostly densely packed residential area. Husky features playable rooftops as well as back alley and vertical flanks that exist throughout the entire level.

Operation Avalanche is a drop over the Greek ruins at Paestum. The Axis used this archeological site as a staging point for their counterattack against the fifth army landing on the beaches of Salerno. The main elements of Paestum include an amphitheatre, aqueducts, ruins and Greek temples. The entire site is in the process of renovation, so raised catwalks and ‘in progress’ excavations can be found throughout the mission.

Operation Neptune is the infamous D-Day landings in Normandy. In this mission, you land on the hill and fight your way forward to the beaches. As a member of the 82nd Airborne, you will drop behind the enemy defenses at Utah beach. During the drop, you will see the allied landing taking place at Utah beach. Below, a massive Axis spotting tower and radar array sit on a steep hillside carved with trenches.

Operation Market Garden features the largely destroyed city of Nijmegen and the bridge over the Waal River. Key elements of this environment are a massive church, several ruined industrial and residential districts and, of course, the bridge. This mission will also feature Tiger Tanks roaming the streets as the player drops in. There is also a heavy focus on urban combat before moving into a desperate fight to secure the Nijmegen bridge for the Allies.

Operation Varsity is made up of 2 missions. The first mission is over a factory/industrial environment. Elements include giant boilers, huge chemical vats, a series of multi-level catwalks, raised pipes and conveyors, a rail yard and several factory interiors. The second mission in Varsity, and the last level in the game, is a very closely guarded team secret right now. It is the ultimate Medal of Honor level. The ultimate vertical FPS level. The ultimate Airborne level. It’s going to floor you when you see it. Until then…

Q: From what we've seen, you can land anywhere. Tell us about some of the cool landing areas that we've seen in trailers that you can only reach from the air.

RD : Each mission provides the player with many different landing options. Dropping on an enemy objective or deep behind enemy lines is what we call a ‘high risk’ drop. Each mission is sprinkled with several ‘sniper drop’ locations, some of these can only be reached via a drop. Flying through a window or damaged section of wall or roof is what we call a stunt drop. Another attraction is landing on top of vertical things like towers, columns, walls and catwalks. Rooftops are always in play in airborne. If there is a structure with a roof, no matter how big or small, you can land on it. Of all the drops though, the most satisfying one of all is what the development team likes to call the ‘Drop Kick Drop’. Land on top of an enemy and melee kick him in the head.

Q: How does this new vertical game play change your game?

RD : Vertical game play provides you the opportunity to get above, around and/or behind just about any fight in the game. During a fight, it makes you think differently as a player. It’s not just about ‘who to kill next’, it actually makes you think strategically, about how you want to engage that fight. Vertical flanks essentially negate the cover the enemy is using, so you rain death down on them from above. Another incredibly fun element of the gameplay is lobbing grenades at people from above. Additionally, the enemy will often use these vertical positions against you. After the first few engagements, you’ll find yourself paying a lot more attention to what’s above and below you.

Q: Will the Warthog and Banshee make an appearance, or have we been playing to much of the Halo 3 beta?

RD : We tried it out, but the paratroopers just seem to jump out of any vehicle we put them in.

Q: How does Travers decide on the drop zone at the beginning of each mission?

RD : The ‘drop zone’ for each mission is determined based on where the plane lets the stick out. Once the player is out of the plane, they have total control over where they want to land. Essentially, almost all of the playable space in a mission is your drop zone. You can choose to drop anywhere you want to.

Q: Because Airborne is more of a sandbox game this time around, enemies can come at you from any direction. What's the first thing you should do when you land alone in the middle of a field?

RD : Find some cover. Listen for allies nearby. If anybody shoots at you, shoot back. If all else fails, turn heel and sprint for the nearest allied position (look for the green smoke flare).

Q: We noticed how hundreds of Allied soldiers will join you in the fight. Because missions are not linear, battle lines form dynamically. How will you work together with NPC recruits to win the war?

RD : Most of our allied NPC’s are reinforced from the air. This means they can drop anywhere in the map. Allied soldiers will engage the fight they drop closest to. Once that fight is resolved, they will run off to join other fights in the mission that are still active. When the allies engage a fight, they will engage with the axis until the player arrives. The player’s presence is the deciding factor. Your actions will push the Axis back and allow the allies to move up.

Q: Describe the new Affordance Engine and how it helps open up MoH.

RD : The first thing we realized when we attempted a non-linear sandbox style FPS title was that we had to let go of scripted AI. In your classic FPS games, the AI’s are scripted by the designer to go to a specific location based on a player trigger. It’s the same every time you play it. When you open up the environment as we have, the player can come from many different directions. Scripting was out of the question. We needed an AI system that could essentially ‘think for itself’ in response to the players actions vs. having a designer do the thinking for them. The idea was, if the player’s plan of attack is different every time, the AI should behave differently every time. In essence, the AI will make strategic decisions in reaction to the player’s actions.

Q: MoH has never been a very tactical game. Will maneuvers like flanking and bounding play an increased role in Airborne?

RD : Airborne is all about player choice. That’s what drives the entire game. Choose anywhere in the mission to land. Choose where to go once you land. Choose what objectives to complete in whatever order you want. Choose how to engage. Take the fight down the middle, flank left, flank right, go up and find a vertical flank. Choose what weapons you want to take into the mission. If you die, you re-drop and can try a new encounter or a new approach on the fight you were in. Player choice, tactics and strategy permeate every aspect of the game. It doesn’t just play an increased role; it’s the heart of the entire game.

Q: We saw a city in Sicily that looked huge. Tell us about the size of the environments. Can you enter buildings seamlessly or is their a load or will we fight mostly outdoors? Will players be able to attend Mass?

RD : The environments are large and they are filled with interiors. The first mission of the game, Operation Husky, features over 45 interior rooms. As far as loading goes, each mission starts with an interactive cinematic ‘In the Plane’ sequence. From this point on, there is no loading in the mission whatsoever. Even our save/checkpoint system is entirely seamless.

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