Sept 4, 2007
The main innovation in Airborne, and the one most obvious from the title, is that you play Boyd Travers, a paratrooper in the US Airborne Division. The tactic of dropping soldiers into enemy territory from planes was a new one for the ’40s, and it’s one of those ideas that - once heard - you’re surprised nobody has converted into a game before (well, not for a few years anyway).
With this first innovation came a necessary second. Because you can drop in anywhere on the map, the AI required the capacity to deal with a foe that wasn’t guaranteed to approach from one end of a corridor. So NPCs - both allies and enemies - respond purely to their surroundings, as affected by your presence.
The routes the enemies take is sometimes cool - they can leap out of windows as well as over upturned desks - but the important point seems to be that this intelligence is map-wide. Once you’ve cleared an area of objectives, you’ll find the enemies you were fighting disappear pretty quickly. It seems like they were only there to fight you off, and once you’ve done your job, the remaining enemy run off to defend the next objective. It gives you a welcome moment of respite, and feels, if not realistic, then at least somehow justified.
New to Airborne is the weapons upgrade system. Each of the 13 weapons has three upgrades, and just using a weapon increases its experience meter. Puncturing three or five bad guys in quick succession boosts it even faster. When this XP gauge fills up, you’ll be rewarded with five seconds of slo-mo while you get told what’s happened to your gun. Upgrades include the obvious - less recoil, higher ammo capacity, higher damage and accuracy - to more unexpected bonuses. The German G43 rifle undergoes perhaps the most radical transformation. Its second upgrade is a variable zoom scope, allowing a touch of sniping, while its final upgrade allows you to fire grenades. This is particularly cool in multiplayer mode where the grenades aren’t so underpowered - although upgrades aren’t earned in MP, they’re either on or off.