Before the release of Call of Duty 4, one franchise controlled the console shooter scene: Medal of Honor. Developed by DICE, the current developer of the Battlefield franchise, Medal of Honor paved the way for the modern shooter scene.
At the height of the series success, came Medal of Honor: Airborne, the very game that potentially shaped how shooters were played. In Airborne, you assume the role of a fictional paratrooper working alongside other members of an American airborne division. The story takes you all over Europe, assisting the Allies in many influential operations necessary in defeating the Axis.
Although Airborne only featured seven missions for the player to trudge through, each mission was entirely unique. You could either spend time knocking out the Axis defences on Utah Beach in Operation Neptune, causing havoc in the massive flak towers protecting Berlin in Der Flakturm, or storming the Sicilian mainland in Operation Husky. By participating in huge operations, the sense of patriotism is un-canny.
Much like shooters today, Airborne gives a sense of freedom during its campaign, a concept that was then unknown to the more linear Call of Duty games. I could choose to go and destroy a gun emplacement or eliminate a group of enemies from an area, before completing the second half of the mission in a more linear, story-based fashion.
Airborne also featured the ability to customise the loadout of your paratrooper before deployment. Customisation ranged to every part of the loadout, from a selection of weapons that were unlocked through story progression, all the way down to which explosive you carried.
However, the one part of Airborne that makes it entirely unique even today was how every mission started with a drop from a plane. This allowed you to determine how to play through the mission by having control over where you land and subsequently, how you land. By achieving a perfect landing, you could instantly engage in combat whereas a bad landing could leave you at risk to enemy fire. There is nothing more terrifying than falling feet first into an entire platoon of Axis soldiers without your weapon being ready.
Medal of Honor: Airborne also featured an online mode that allowed players to bring the reality of Airborne’s campaign to a multiplayer PvP. Unfortunately, finding a game now would be challenging but the Airborne campaign still allows for hours of fun.
Even though the Medal of Honor franchise is all but dead today, Airborne will always remain a gem to the shooter genre with the series being arguably one of the best shooters ever created.
Available digitally for PC, Xbox and Playstation. Buy on Steam here.