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PS3/X360/PC Preview - ' Medal of Honor Airborne'

by Andrew Hayward on July 11, 2007 @ 12:01 p.m. PDT

Medal of Honor Airborne, next-gen debut of the series, is set to redefine the series by introducing players to an entirely new way of experiencing a WWII FPS – namely the fully interactive Airborne experience.

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA LA
Release Date: August 28, 2007

"Medal of Honor first came out in 1999, and pretty much since then, not just the Medal of Honor series, but all World War II first-person shooters have followed the Medal of Honor formula," started Chris Busse, producer on Medal of Honor: Airborne. "You know, a linear path, scripted events, the guys do the same thing… a very similar experience time and time again when you played through. We really wanted to break that formula. That was the biggest goal for us."

And with that, we're dropped into the world of Airborne, the first entry in the long-running series to hit the next-generation consoles (not including the distinctly last-gen Medal of Honor: Vanguard for Wii). As its title implies, Airborne follows the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division's exploits in World War II. Over the course of six lengthy missions, players will drop down into several distinct locales, with the ability to choose any landing spot within view.

What this does is eliminate the aforementioned scripted events and canned animations that have made the Call of Duty franchise so popular in recent years. Airborne attempts to approximate the thrill of a multiplayer battle within the single-player experience, but worry not — this is a campaign through and through, not merely a mindless romp against bots.

Each of the six missions will begin with the protagonist being unloaded from a plane, giving the player the opportunity to guide him through the air towards any destination on the map. This is made possible by the flexible objective system, which allows the player to tackle the list of goals in any order. Should you fall during the mission, you'll be dropped again, giving you a chance to reposition yourself for another objective.

Without the fixed events and linear paths of its predecessors, Airborne will rely on advanced enemy AI to deliver the sensation of battling a skilled opponent. The AI has been engineered to map out the battlefield and know where cover is in every direction. Should you blow the cover of an enemy soldier, he will bail out, locating another spot from which he can attack from behind cover. Players can attack from all angles, but the computer will continue to adjust accordingly.

According to Busse, the use of a comprehensive Ragdoll 2.0 physics engine will give the enemies lifelike animations that don't appear to be canned or predetermined. "We get these very realistic looking deaths," he said. "[The enemies] carry their momentum as they're going, and then the momentum of the bullet … so you've got a guy charging towards you, and you plug him in the right shoulder. He'll spin from the impact of the bullet, but he'll also still have the momentum going forward as he flies past you."

Once the player completes the initial set of objectives, the final objective will unlock, which will allow the player to complete the mission. Busse claims that each of the six missions will take upwards of 90 minutes or more, giving Airborne an approximate 10-hour run time. Whether this open-ended, sandbox style of play will invigorate the genre has yet to be seen, but Busse had his own theory about why Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is shifting away from the World War II setting that made the series a hit.

"I think [Infinity Ward] realized that, again, that formula that all the games have had … something had to change," said Busse. "They decided to change the setting; we decided to change the gameplay."

We're hoping to get a bit more hands-on time with the gameplay at the E3 Media & Business Summit in this week in Santa Monica, where Busse confirmed that multiplayer details will be revealed for the late August release.

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