The ripples spread further than that, though. Because you can approach each area from an infinite number of points, the levels must be constructed in a completely nonlinear way. Most shooters guide you along a one-way path, with enemies popping out at scripted moments. Medal of Honor: Airborne creates more of an enclosed arena and, not knowing where you'll drop in, places enemies everywhere.
The result? An atmosphere of chaos in which you feel like anything can happen at any minute. One moment, you might be taking pot shots at a squad of Nazis from behind a pile of crates... the next, you might be caught in a melee battle with a soldier who snuck up behind you... and next, you might be frantically kicking a grenade back at an unseen assailant. Die, restart and the whole battle will unfold completely differently. It has to, as the game has no idea where you'll choose to land and must trust the enemies' AI to track you down each time. Medal of Honor: Airborne, therefore, often feels like a multiplayer deathmatch disguised as a single player campaign.
The developers understand this effect and take cruel advantage of it. They purposefully, and authentically, designed all of the soldiers' uniforms to look similar so that distinguishing friend from foe - especially in the dark and fog-filled settings of most missions - would be agonizingly difficult. We often caught ourselves shooting allies in the back out of pure jumpiness or, worse, waiting nervously for a shadow to emerge from the shroud, only to realize too late that it was indeed a Nazi soldier.
This constant uncertainty, coupled with the randomness of enemy encounters, could make Medal of Honor: Airborne play more like an actual war game than any of its competition. If you're looking for the movie version of World War II, with epic scenes scripted into all the right places, Call of Duty will probably remain your favorite franchise. If you think, on the other hand, that you're ready to face the truth of war - the unpredictability that is so terrifying and so thrilling at the same time - Medal of Honor: Airborne could be the WWII shooter to deliver it.
We'll know for sure when the game ships on August 28th for 360, PS3 and PC. For more screens, hit the Images tab above. For our extensive interview with Airborne's producer - plus awesome new gameplay footage - check out the next page.
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