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Scene, Sunday, September 23, 2007

World War II has been refought countless times on game consoles — and quite a few gamers yawn when faced with another take on Operation Market Garden.

But “Medal of Honor: Airborne” is for the rest of us.

The first-person shooter from Electronic Arts takes gamers through a series of battles involving the 82nd Airborne Division. Each starts with an airdrop and winds through a number of objectives — usually blowing up a large piece of equipment or securing a location. We know the drill and we love it.

It’s all the easier to like “Medal of Honor: Airborne” because the game delivers solid action and good graphics.

It all starts with an airdrop on Sicily, which is engaging but not overly difficult. The action then follows the 82nd Airborne through Italy, Normandy and the Netherlands on the way to Germany — where the fighting is hot and heavy. Gamers parachute into each mission, landing anywhere they want and tackling objectives in the order and manner they prefer.

The last two missions are in a tank factory and an enormous anti-aircraft tower. The factory is a sniper’s paradise, where high ground is vital. The tower mission requires a variety of tactics and weapons to overcome fierce enemies — including some fanciful storm troopers who wear gas masks and fire heavy machine guns from the hip.

Aside from the storm troopers who look like something out of “Killzone,” visual problems confine themselves to overly acrobatic deaths by some Germans and grenade blasts that hang in the air a little too long. For the most part, people, places and items look and behave pretty realistically.

The artificial intelligence is a mixed bag. Enemies react well, taking cover and returning fire instead of standing around and waiting to be shot like in some other games. Allies aren’t so hot. It sometimes feels like no one’s going to defeat the Nazis unless you track down each one yourself. Of course some gamers like it that way. (Those who don’t can look forward to the squad-based “Brothers In Arms: Hell’s Highway” that’s on its way from Ubisoft.)

Online, “Airborne” offers standard modes of competition — team deathmatch, capture-the-flag and others — and the maps are quite good.

The game’s biggest drawback is its lack of a mode allowing side-by-side play. If you want to play with a buddy, he had better not be in the same room because there’s no co-op or head-to- head shootout.

That’s actually a bit of a shame since the real Medal of Honor generally goes to those who work with and for their comrades.

Platforms: Xbox 360, PC and on PlayStation 3 in November.More


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