Of course the big unique feature of Airborne is the parachute drop. When the map starts and you’re US, you start out in a C47 hauling ass through a big open countryside. You go through the whole cycle – stand up, hook up, light turns green and GO GO GO GO, and out your stick goes to drop into the map. You can free look around during the whole sequence, and you change places in the stick on each initial spawn. However later spawns put aside the airplane sequence, and just spawn you in over the map right under the chute so you’re not waiting for the whole plane thing each time.
One thing I was worried about going in was how the airdrop was going to play out. I figured the Germans with a couple of good rifleman would kill everything before it hit the ground. While there were times where I was killed a few times in a row before I hit the ground, in general it didn’t play out that way. In fact each side as their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the airdrop. The Germans of course can see where the allies are headed (in general), and they can shoot them out of the sky. The Allies can’t shoot back while under the chute, but they do have a major advantage – they can see the entire map on their way in. They can see where the enemies are and maneuver to flank, or they can also see where the friendlies are and maneuver to join them. The Allies also can land literally anywhere on the map they can get to during the drop – roofs, balconies, etc. The Germans can also get up to most of the same places, but they have to climb up and can’t see what’s up there already. The Allies can also throw some pretty wild movements into the chute to make it hard to hit from the ground. One thing I have to note is how nice it is to be back to a game where each team spawns in a consistent place again – no more circle-jerk goofball spawning like in COD. The return of spawning sanity, the welcome change in gameplay due to the innovative airdrop, plus the uber-cool airdrop sequence earn a great rating from me. Rating: A
There are three gametypes we saw at the summit – standard TDM where both teams spawn on the ground, Airborne TDM where the US spawns in the air and parachutes in, and an Objective Airborne.
This last one plays basically like Call of Duty’s DOM or BF2, where both teams fight for control points sprinkled around the map, and the US spawns in a parachute. The key difference to this gametype is each team spawns on their own side of the map, and each one has a flag on their side that can be capped by one player. There is a third flag in the middle that takes 2 players to cap, so it makes for a bit different play than DOM or BF2. Of note, there was no classic round-based obj/S&D style gametype. While most of us at AHGN won’t mind, this will be a significant blow to the tournament crowd and many public communities that like this style of game. Neither is there CTF, or some of the other gametypes we’ve seen in other games. At this point we have no information about how moddable the game will be, so it’s tough to tell whether community developers will be able to add new gametypes themselves, or what EA’s plans are for more. Rating: B
Each side has the usual complement of weapons – M1 Garand, Thomson, BAR, Cold .45, Shotgun, Springfield sniper, and Bazooka for the US, and Kar98, MP40, MP44 (STG), Shotgun, G43 sniper, Mauser pistol, and Panzerschrek for the Germans. Both sides get grenades, though I didn’t notice any smoke grenades. The presence of the rocket launchers really seems rather silly to me, given the lack of vehicles in the game. However they are deadly little puppies as the splash damage will take out players at a pretty good distance – good room clearers for sure, although quite vulnerable.
Each player gets a pistol, grenades, and primary weapon, and you can pick up a secondary weapon along the way. The sounds, accuracy, recoil, damage, and rate of fire for the weapons all seem well done, historically accurate, and relatively balanced. In general the weapons seemed quite hefty and serious – much like Red Orchestra, in a good way. It really seems like you’ve got a weapon in your hands. I particularly loved the feel of the Garand, and the STG is a mean SOB. In addition, EA has provided for optional weapon upgrades that can be earned as you play along. For example the rifles can add a rifle grenade, and the STG gets a scope (though the recoil makes it hard to use, and personally I found it more hindrance than help – luckily you can take it off). The sniper rifles have some unique features themselves. The first one is you can (and really, have to) focus the scope, using your mousewheel. This provides that extra bit of difficulty to keep things from turning into a snipefest. Additionally, the bullets you fire from the sniper leave a small-but-visible smoke trail. You see the trail go right by your head if you’re looking in the right direction, pointing out the direction the sniper is. It’s not clear if this will be configurable at the server level, but we did ask for the ability to do so. Rating: B+
What the maps lack in quantity (6), they make up for in quality – they are really well done. I had a feeling the game would have good maps just looking at the SP trailers, and I was definitely not disappointed. Great flanking options, the verticality factor, the small details, the incredible view in the distance, I can’t say enough about the maps – someone spent a lot of quality time on the maps and it shows. Given the likely size of the server population (20-24 is my guess), the maps are just about the right size. You get 3 old standbys – Destroyed Village, Remagen, and The Hunt. While ‘old’ maps, they are totally new and in many ways different than the originals. Its fun getting to places you could never get before and most buildings that were closed up before now are open. In addition we will see 3 new maps that are also SP levels. Hopefully EA can turn out some more maps by release, or during subsequent patches
Rating: A+ for quality, B- for quantity
The health system in Airborne is interesting, and not like games I’ve played before. Each player has a health bar broken up into 4 quarters. When you get hit, you take whatever the damage was on a 100 point scale initially. For example, let’s say you take 66% damage, the health bar will go down to 1 full quarter and one partially full quarter. After a short period of time (say 5-10 seconds), the partially full quarter will refill the partially full quarter only. So in my example, I will eventually return to 50% damage. I will then stay there unless I’m either hit again, or run over a health pack which will restore a quarter’s worth of health to me. The system was simple to figure out and understand, and draws a nice balance between the old healthpack system and the stupidity of auto-regen as we saw in COD2. As for damage itself, the system seems fairly similar to most other games and true to past MOH titles. A shot in the chest with a BAR gives 50% damage (after the partial regen). A shot to the head kills. Bashes on full-health players take 2 to kill, though the first one stuns them somewhat with shock effect. Reality players will probably want more damaging weapons, but it’s unclear at this point how possible it will be to configure that. Rating: B+.