Airborne Single Player Preview

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I received an urgent email from EA’s Blackhat only two weeks before the event, asking if I would be able to free myself from my busy schedule in order to jump from airplanes straight into World War II. My reply: “MajorWoody reporting for Duty, SIR!”


In Medal of Honor: Airborne, the latest installment in EA’s WWII first person shooter, you step into the boots of a soldier in the 82nd Airborne. But this isn’t just another installment of run-and-gun WWII style. This is Airborne!

If you'd like to re-read my thoughts from the first summit back in Oct 06, they are here:
Day 1: http://www.fpsadmin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=11954
Day 2: http://www.fpsadmin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=11958

We all arrived at EA at 8am sharp, with the promise (from Blackhat) of lots of game time. After breakfast, we dove right in. This was my second chance to play Operation Husky, and I will say the game has come a LONG way. Lots of tweaks have been added, new features, new graphics, and the weapon system is complete. We only played for about 30 minutes when Blackhat tore us away (seriously, he walked up behind people and hit ESC we were all so into playing) for a brief talk from Executive Producer Patrick Gilmore.

Patrick showed up some video clips of ingame play, and described some of the goals of the game, features, and talked about the history of the franchise. Joining Patrick was Producer Matt Marsala, who gave us a rundown of some of the game play. There were few questions—I think we all wanted to play :)

Game time! Blackhat had us all load up the new level, Operation Avalanche. In this level, we’re dropping at night into Italy. There’s objectives all over the place, a fuel dump, radio tower and ammo dump. In real-life, Paratroopers can land in a widely swathed area, it’s just the same in Airborne. You’ll notice after you land that a few others will always land with you to help you in battle.

The first drop into the new level, I landed near the green smoke, which marks the area where paratroopers are meant to land – there’s ammo and health here in large quantities. From this point, you can literally go in any direction and find some action.

In Airborne, you are the paratrooper. You can jump to roughly 80% of the locations in the map and engage the enemy where you land.

Unlike typical “scripted” FPS games, where designers are quite literally “directors” of the action, Airborne’s AI is completely aware of the situation around them. This enables AI to change their actions as the players movement changes. This effect is called the “Affordance Engine”. In less technical terms, this means, cover your ass at all times, because the BOTS ARE SMART!

What does all this mean? Simply put, the AI can “hear” and “see” you as you move about the maps as a real enemy soldier would. If you are trying to be sneaky and decide to reload your weapon when you near a group of Germans, they will hear you and open fire while your clip is in your hands. Don’t sneeze! If you open fire on Germans facing the other way, they will turn-around, take cover and return fire.

Notice I said the Germans will “take cover”. Unlike a linear game, where the AI waits for you to pass a certain point (or trigger), and the enemy just sits there waiting to be picked off (think run-and-gun), Airborne’s AI acts as though they won’t be respawning ever again and they fight for their lives!

On my last visit to EA, I covered all the levels and missions that would be in the game. The levels are still there but some missions have been combined. Gone are the Pathfinder missions, but rather than scrap those portions of the game, EA chose to merge the activities into other levels.

Last time around, we also saw the beginnings of the weapons upgrade system. This time, that system was complete and refined. Weapons upgrades are given out as you prove your efficiency with your weaponry.

In Airborne you’re able to carry two weapons and a side-arm. Each weapon has three upgrade options. Efficiency is measured in several things: head-shots, three-in-a-rows, and five-in-rows. Rack up lots of them and upgrade your weapon. Each time you get an upgrade, you get a medal that shows on screen (opaque so it doesn’t interfere with your gaming) so you can keep track of your progress with each weapon. Yes, even the pistols can be upgraded!

The affordance system and weapons upgrades are two of the coolest features of this game. Now I’ll touch on some of the other

Other features:
Peak-and-lean: Peak-and-lean is meant to replace prone mode (prone mode is not available). What this means is, you can take cover behind a object, then peak around it in any direction, left, right, up and down. I personally think that prone is an important feature; My first instinct when underfire is to drop to my belly.

Nade Kick: If an enemy nade drops in front of you, you’re able to kick it away before it blows. Or, as a strategy, you can drop your own nade in front of you and kick it away towards the enemy.

Nade cook: Nuff said, it’s possible.

Nade short toss: tap the action button instead of pressing and you do a short toss. A nice feature from the old MOH games.

Melee Kick: Huh? Yep – As you drop from the sky you can steer toward an enemy and kick their face in (one “shot” kill), pretty sweet.

Airdrop Achievements: Each map has five spots, marked with a downed parachute that are particularly tough to reach. As you drop, you can flare your chute to slow your decent, and also steer left and right. Steer for one of the downed chutes and land yourself an achievement. Some are on small windowsills, some are on church steeples and others are on statues or other architectural objects.

After we played the game for about an hour, Blackhat had a competition for us. He put each player on the big screen and had us each try to land on a certain achievement spot. It’s not easy! In fact, we got so into that and melee kicking that we spent at least an hour just trying to do those two things.

Other features that deserve a mention:
- The game supports HD, in fact, the opening screen said “EA HD” and we played on wide-screen monitors.
- “Rag-doll” physics are in full effect. Chuck a nade into an MG nest and watch the kinetic movement—that is, the bodies fly in the right direction and flop all over the place rather than just dropping dead.
- Health system: I touched on this last time around. You get four “pills” each with life in them. If you get hit enough to make a pill go away, it’s gone. Grab health to regenerate a pill that’s gone away. If one of your pills is low, take cover and it will regenerate.
- The HUD: The HUD is nice, not overly busy (well, it was HD…). I like how they’ve decided to show your ammo status. You have an outline of the weapon shown on screen filled with green, as you fire off rounds, the green goes away until you deplete your clip. Reload and the green comes back. Very nice touch!
- Yes there's iron-sights, it's not toggleable -- in other words, you press and hold the right mouse button to be in iron-sight mode.
- Yes there's sprint (currently infinate)

I think that Airborne will be a great game. I’m really looking forward to seeing the other levels and what comes in the multiplayer version. The good news is, the MP producers have an excellent pool of features and maps to build on.

Blackhat has informed us that the gag has been removed, and we’re free to speak about anything we’ve seen in the single player game. So if you’ve got questions, ask and I will answer!

I shared a cab with Matt Pruit of Planetmedalofhonor.com and another gentleman (who’s name I’ve forgotten – he’s an EA Community leader for Battlefield). I’ve got to say, that was the stinkiest cab I’ve ever been in in my life. I had the “pleasure” if sitting in the front with the driver. There was a “little tree” hanging from the rear-view mirror, I’m sure it smelled nice at one time it it’s life. But this day it needed an upgrade – BO FTW!

(Special thanks to Linkin Park for the new album Minutes to Midnight which provided the background music for me while i typed this up!)
 
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rudedog

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Thanks for the update Major, looking forward to playing myself. I hope we start to see some MP soon! :salute:
 

GaSplat

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#3
Sounds awesome. But if the opaque medal doesn't block your view, I'll bet the translucent ones are nearly impossible to see! heh heh - just kidding.

Nice review. Is it lean and peek, or lean and shoot? If all you can do is peek, then that is not so cool. Soldiers take cover if they want to live.

The whole start anywhere thing has got me eager to get this game.
 
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Nice review. Is it lean and peek, or lean and shoot? If all you can do is peek, then that is not so cool. Soldiers take cover if they want to live.
You can do both. When you're in iron-sights you can do all the peak and lean moves.

PS: Added "iron sights" and "sprint" to the features list.
 
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Whiskey

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Nice write-up, Woody. I was at the event as well, along with Pruitt from PlanetMedalofHonor. It's really interesting reading all of the different articles going up right now...there was SO much to see, experience, and talk about with this game, that each preview adds a little something that others may have missed. Yours here contains lots of great info that wasn't mentioned yet.

SP looks fantastico so far. If they can translate the "feel" of it to MP, MOH:Airborne will be a big hit, IMO. :cool:

 
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