By Odyssey 1 Comments
The Backlog Blog Log's Log: Alright, my second entry this week. I'm still trying to figure out how I want to approach this. I'm actually surprised that my first entry got as many comments as it did. A whopping 3! I was expecting like, one max. As someone who's pretty much new to this blog stuff, I'm sort of excited now. I really want to make this a real, productive thing. Now I'm asking myself questions: Should I try to write a list of the entire roster of games that I want to beat? Should I rethink my scoring system? Or should I just free wheel everything? And I want to have it update on a regular schedule at a regular time, but what days? I'm thinking of backlog updates every Monday and Friday, and then on Wednesday I'll write in some random thing.
Well, enough of that. Time to talk about another game that I crossed off my list.
THE BACKLOG BLOG LOG II: AIRBORNE IN THE USA
AKA: I revisit the moment the WW2 shooter collapsed from exhaustion and died while no one was looking.
Medal of Honor: Airborne
Medal of Honor: Airborne is a tragic gem. Simultaneously the culmination of EA's original Medal of Honor franchise, and the moment when gamers had enough of the wretchedly overdone setting. We were sick of it all: The European landscape, the same inadequate weapons, the bombastic orchestrated music that blared as you shot the same enemy types over and over (and the enemy types were: the guy who shot at you with a machine gun, and the guy who shot at you with a rifle.)
There use to be a time when that got us excited. When we were fresh off of Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers and being able to witness something like Omaha Beach was a incredible, petrifying experience, even if the rest of the game was your standard first person shooter. But as we were most exposed, it quickly became white noise to us, as Medal of Honor's developer 2015 studios split up to become "Infinity Ward" and make it's competing brand "Call of Duty". The genre was looking somewhat crowded before (with Wolfenstein, and Battlefield becoming popular franchises), but then every year we were bombarded by more and more World War 2 titles. From 2004 to 2007, we had six Medal of Honor games and eight Call of Duties. Not to mention other properties joining the fray with Band of Brothers, Red Orchestra, Day of Defeat, World War 2 Combat, World War II: Online, Combat Elite, Sniper Elite, etc. I'm getting a little nauseous just thinking about it.
So it's 2007, the idea of a World War 2 game has been explored, interpreted, and beaten into the ground so much that a screenshot of a new game with the setting sends viewers into a narcoleptic deep sleep (or in World at War's case, unbridled rage.) EA looks upon it's bruised, wheezing Medal of Honor license and a single tear rolls down John Riccitiello's face as he remembers the glory days of the series. What began as a Goldeneye clone became a front runner to one of the most popular and celebrated sub-genres in our history of gaming. But in 2007 it was a dying giant, it's extinction inevitable as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare approaches it, and EA Los Angeles knows. With one last gasp of air, Medal of Honor: Airborne was created. The giant dies, the fad is dead, and nobody cared.
But now it's 2012, we're no longer constantly exposed to European beaches, Panzer tanks, and young Americans yelling at you to go somewhere. Nobody dares to make another WW2 game, as they're a profit black hole these day. Modern war has replaced it, and I'll talk about about it as I finish Medal of Honor: Medal of Honor, but for now we have an opportunity. The white noise that we chose to ignore is now gone, and I can, and am able, to go return to World War 2 without fatigue.
Medal of Honor: Airborne is a weird thing to go back to. After playing so many modern first person shooters, after playing so many games that featured steroid induced bad boys with the personality of tweens, fighting faceless enemies in some truly disgusting ways that we've now become immune too. I felt something I haven't felt in a while. Honor.
Right at the start, even when the game introduces you to the tutorial. There's this feeling of hope, pride, and optimism. And in Airborne it is executed so well, that even when you're told as you're parachuting:
"Steer in for clearings. Look for green smoke. Do you know why we look for green smoke?"
*Cuts back to the aircraft, as you make another jump*
"Because it's proper procedure!"
(A video of the tutorial, but it's something you should witness for yourself:)
I felt like I wanted to thrust my fist in the air. It's a tutorial, I wasn't being told a speech on how awesome our special little group is (don't worry, they still do), they're merely giving me directions on how to operate my parachute correctly. But it made me feel like a hero, who was ready to embark on some epic journey. And when you are eventually told that your airborne group is special, you kind of believe it. If it was 2007 I would've rolled my eyes at this entire sequence, numb to the Patriotism and Spielbergism of it all. Except it's now 2012, my tolerance has lowered, and I'm playing a game that's trying to outdo every WW2 game that came before it. My body isn't ready for this.
The game itself stands up quite well. If anything it's the "yin" to the modern shooter's "yang." Every mission starts with a classy quote, and then a slice of the quote becoming the title of the mission (like Infinite Mischief), followed by a jump out of an airplane into some god forsaken battlefield, and giving you the freedom to go anywhere and complete most objectives at your own pace. Luckily this is one of the few games that doesn't sacrifice the quality of a focused experience for freedom. It's a testament to good level design when a open world can feel like a focused experience regardless of what path you take and how you take it. It will from time to time still funnel you to various locations that demand you to witness how exciting it looks, but what's important is that you don't feel guided. You're able to become more immersed with the game, those exciting "cinematic" experiences occurring from your own actions. When I managed to flank a squad of Germans, grab a turret behind them, and used it to shred apart the rest of their group while they were distracted by my own squad, I had a huge grin of satisfaction. It felt like something from a actual movie, except I pulled it off myself by my own actions and not through some scripted sequence. It's the kind of stuff that makes me agree with David Jaffe's ideas of "Player Authored Stories."
There's also some surprisingly fresh elements to it. EA Los Angeles needed to keep players interested with using the same old WW2 weapons again, so they threw in an upgrade system. Using the same gun repeatedly gains experience, unlocking new attachments for it as you upgrade. It's an effective way to breathe new life into these old weapons. Instead of rolling my eyes at the STG-44, I was excited to see what it would become when I maximized it (it became a dual clip assault rifle with a acog scope, bad ass.) It seems similar to Call of Duty's ever exhausting multiplayer persistence systems (despite the game releasing before COD:MW), but it's refreshing to see it in a single player game. There's also "stunt" locations you'll find in each mission, where you'll discover more challenging areas to land in or on, rewarding you with.. Well, I don't know really. It may be one of the weirdest afterthoughts I've seen in a mainstream game. "I'll go kill Hitler, right before I land on top of this busted water tower."
EA Los Angeles tried to fix the problem of repetitive enemy types that stay the same. There's ten tiers of Nazis. With the first six or so being your standard soldiers, with each higher rank having increased health and hardware. Their behavior is sometimes impressive, with my favorite being the snipers that hold out their knives to blind your vision and distract you while another sniper tries to pick you off. Why the hell don't I see that more? Modern shooters have figured out every way to cleverly kill someone, and they never think of having the AI use it on you. It gets blatantly "gamey" when they introduce the final tier: a gas-masked juggernaut who stormed right out of Wolfenstein, shooting a heavy machine gun from the hip and can take three rifle grenades to the face before he dies. It's okay though, by the time he shows up it's near the end. And oh boy, the final level, titled "Flying Through Hail", is one of my favorite final levels to ever grace a shooter. It's the culmination of every mechanic in the game, coming together in an area that is as unique as it's frighteningly beautiful.
So there it came. This hidden gem, a final cry of attention from the now dead sub-genre. Gamers assumed the worse in it, another careless WW2 shooter pumped out by EA. After four years, it did sell a million or two. But EA knew it was time to retire the Medal of Honor license, and turned it into the competitor title for Activision's off-year for the Call of Duty license. Funny, It started as a game that chased Goldeneye's coattails, found it own thing for a while, and now it's chasing after Modern Warfare's.
It is short, there's only six missions (and the forth mission, Market Garden, is rather weak) that will last about 4-5 hours. But it's a great experience, my favorite of the WW2 FPSer sub-genre, and if you enjoy a military shooter it is definitely worth the five dollars whenever it goes back on sale. After being removed from the setting for a while, you can start to appreciate why everyone jumped on the bandwagon in the first place.
Score/Fruit: 4,661,942/5,000,000. And a Apple Pie (it's a fruit for this game you communist.)
I was going to write about A.R.E.S., but I didn't expect myself to write that much about Airborne. I might edit this later to include a review. But one thing's for sure: Tune in next week while I also say goodbye to the Wii while finding things to say about Mario Galaxy 2, say goodbye to the PSP again, and talk about why HD remakes of classic 2D games may be a bad idea! (Or good, whatever.)
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