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 true heroes among us - the brave, the reckless and those who are aware that this is a game, and you don’t actually die in real life - will want to drop into the thick of the action. Your options are only limited by the landing range of your parachute, and your ability to land well - if you aim for the town hall roof and botch the landing, you’ll be shot down before you even get your gun out.
If you’ve got the Springfield sniper rifle, of course, you might like to land on a rooftop and pick off a few of the fascists before you work out how to get down and pistol-whip the rest. Alternatively, you might like to sail through a window, just to see who’s in there and if they’re surprised to see you. Or you could go for completion and seek out the five difficult skill drops dotted around each operation.
Each level has an initial group of missions, which can be completed in any order. If you die at this time, you’ll be given the chance to drop in again, and guide yourself to another more appropriate place. However, in what feels like a strong compromise of the game’s freeform approach, once you’ve completed these missions, your spawn point becomes fixed, and you’re off down another corridor-like shaft. You’ll often still have a number of paths available, but it suddenly becomes linear again. The split is about 50/50, and it’s most noticeable in the Market Garden level (once you get to the bridge).
The six campaigns will take under ten hours to complete. Some replay value is gained from playing the levels in different ways - that’s the main point of it, after all - and the multiplayer is reassuringly strong. The weapons are more balanced than previous MOH outings, and there’s a reprise of the Destroyed Village map for the fans of Allied Assault. The multiplayer also gives you the option of letting the Allies ’chute in - only this time, the Nazis are able to gun you down in mid-air if you try to land too close. The multiplayer is a lot of fun, especially with weapons upgrades turned on. It has to be said, without the multiplayer, Airborne might have felt a lot less substantial.