In a lot of ways, the Medal of Honor series is kind of the grand-daddy of World War II first-person shooters. They've had some good ones; they've had some bad ones. In recent times, it's seemed that newer series, such as Call of Duty, has taken some of the wind out of their sales. With Medal of Honor: Airborne, however, EA has jumped right back into the fray.
Medal of Honor: Airborne follows the 82nd Airborne Division in the invasion of Europe. In a departure from previous Medal of Honor games, there are two new things about how you enter a battle.
First, you get to pick your weapons ahead of time. You're not just limited to U.S. or Allied weapons - you can also start off with German ones if you so desire. You pick both a primary and secondary weapon.
Second, you pick WHERE you deploy! When the mission starts, you're in an airplane over the battlefield. When you're in the door (hope you're not afraid of heights), you can look over the battlefield to see where you want to jump. Green smoke indicates a "safe zone" with allied soldiers and supplies. However, you don't have to go for the green smoke.
Once out the door ,you control your parachute as you plummet to the ground, hoping to get a good landing. (The developer showing off the game had some good landings, as indicated by an icon and message that popped up - when I tried, I got a "botched" landing and took a couple of seconds to get up from where I hit, a delay that could've been fatal if there'd been Germans around.)
From there, you pick what fights and objectives you want to do. The entire area is open to your choice - what some people like to call a "sandbox." A great example of that is the "Black Tower" level in Essen, part of Operation Varsity. You can land on top of the tower and go after the anti-aircraft guns up there. You can land on the side of the tower and fight your way in if you're really good with a parachute. Or you can land on the ground and snipe and fight your way to the top. It's up to you.
Another note on the Black Tower: Ever since Allied Assault, the Medal of Honor series has been trying to re-create the intensity of the Normandy beach invasion sequence, one of the most popular missions in their games. They think they've hit it with the Black Tower, and I think they're right - it's insane. I can't wait to try it.
You don't fight alone, however. While you don't have squad commands, allied soldiers will try to help you, following along and providing covering fire. I found them to be surprisingly smart - holding down the line while I flanked the enemies, staying out of the way, providing effective support. Often, friendly artificial intelligence can hurt you more than the enemy, but I didn't see any of that in my short time playing.
The graphics are much improved from previous entries in the series, as is also the physics. The environment is also considerably more destructible. A neat effect I saw at one point was when the objective was to destroy some fuel tanks. Instead of having to use the standard grenade or C4 - something I used later - the developer shot a couple of rounds into the tank. Fuel began to pour onto the ground which he then ignited by firing his pistol into it. The fire raced up the spilling fuel and exploded the tank.
If you don't like the objective you're going for, just leave it! You can walk out, go another route or just try to take care of another one completely.
You do have a health bar in the game - four parts to it, in fact. If you don't lose all the health in one part of it, then it will automatically regenerate. If you do lose more than a whole part, you'll need to get a medpack to refill it. Die, and you simply redrop onto the battlefield again.
At the same time, every time you kill someone with a weapon, you get experience with that weapon. As you do so, a picture of the weapon will fill in the corner - and when it's full, you get an upgraded weapon! For instance, with the MP40 submachine gun, I got "dual magazines" so I could reload faster, while with the shotgun, you can get an improved choke for further distance in shooting.