Once the initial objectives are over, additional missions will appear. Maybe the Nazis counter-attack, or maybe your squad finds itself surrounded by snipers, but either way it means the game hits a nice balance between open gameplay and structured, narrative-driven action. You rarely get the ‘I’m being driven down a funnel’ feeling you have in more orchestrated games like Call of Duty 2, but you still get your big, cinematic set-piece moments.
In fact, ‘cinematic’ is very much the word here. The lush, Unreal 3 engine graphics, superb atmospheric effects and moody lighting would put Airborne only just behind Gears of War and Bioshock in any Xbox 360 FPS beauty contest, and the added clarity and resolution available on the PC makes it a contender on that platform too. The soundtrack is a stunning piece of work, combining the classic MoH themes with some great, orchestral bombast for the action high-points, and the 5.1 sound effects are just superb. I haven’t been so unnerved by the scream of bullets and the constant thunder of gunfire and explosions since I first played Call of Duty 3. Even the shouts and screams of allies and Nazis, if a little repetitive, are well done.
Full marks to EA, then, on concept and presentation. Prizes, too, for finding new, photogenic settings that bring a fresh touch to the tired WWII experience. We get Sicily, we get the Roman ruins at Paestum, and even when we get Operations Overlord and Market Garden, we get them from a slightly new perspective.
Good as all this stuff is, there is one feature which might lose Airborne a few friends along the way: the checkpoint system. Basically, the game only checkpoints your progress whenever you complete an objective. That’s fine when an objective is fairly short and sweet, but it can mean that you struggle through bunker after bunker full of Nazis to the very end of a section, only to die, then have to parachute in and tackle the same goose-stepping bad boys all over again. In some games this wouldn’t be a problem, as you’ll have seen their positions and their movements before, but as the AI in MoH allows for a certain degree of unpredictability, you can’t guarantee that Fritz, Franz and Hermann will do what they did last time around.