WW2 #14: Medal of Honor: Airborne

One of the last big WW2 shooters of the 00s is honestly just a worse version of Medal of Honor Vanguard

june gloom
3 min readMar 19, 2024

This review was originally posted to Twitter on September 25, 2018.

Initial release: August 28, 2007
Platform: PC, XBox 360, PlayStation 3
Developer: Electronic Arts Los Angeles

For what might retroactively be considered the series’ last hurrah for the World War 2 setting that made it famous and launched a genre, Medal of Honor: Airborne is a lot of noise for not much to set it apart from Medal of Honor: Vanguard.

The ideas presented in Vanguard, namely the parachute landings as well as the wholesale ripping off of Call of Duty 2’s overall combat loop, are present here, with some tweaks. The parachuting has been expanded upon, and there are strategic landing spots that you can find. Regenerating health returns, but as it was popular back then to hate on it, EA Los Angeles tweaked it by giving you segmented health, similar to Condemned 2: Bloodshot (as an example.) you have four segments; as long as you don’t lose one entirely, it’ll regenerate.

(As an aside, whatever happened to that system anyway? I don’t see it much at all anymore. I thought it was a good compromise between regenerating health and using health pickups.)

Another thing that’s been tweaked is the weapons system. The more you use a given weapon the more powerful it gets, leveling up a total of three times to give you added benefits like faster rate of fire or a bayonet or whatever, and these persist from level to level.

Like Vanguard, the AI can be a bit anemic. Unlike Vanguard, there’s a general sense of bugginess; nothing gamebreaking, but sometimes things just don’t work as they should. Or, in the case of ragdoll physics, they work too well.

While Vanguard was linear, Airborne’s six missions basically allow you to drop in wherever and tackle objectives in most any order you want. You’re also given full license to explore the map, though don’t expect to have any friends along as they’re busy fighting the war. I did mention there’s only six missions, right? And they can all be tackled in fairly short order. My total runtime was 4 hours, and I spent a chunk of that time on the toilet. It seems as if the Medal of Honor games get shorter and shorter with each successive entry.

Overall while this is a fine game, and certainly one of the most playable entries in the franchise, I can’t really recommend this game over Vanguard. Vanguard just plays better, even on a PlayStation 2. Airborne in comparison, for all its hype, feels like a desperate gasp at remaining relevant. By 2007, World War 2 shooters — once a popular theme in a genre that had exploded in the post-Half-Life years — had lost all popularity, and I think Medal of Honor is to blame. Between 1999 and 2007, Medal of Honor had a new release every year. It’s easy to see why some people thought there were too many WW2 FPS games — half of them are this franchise! Worse, by the end, Medal of Honor had abandoned all of its original character. The OSS, WW2-espionage theme is completely gone. The use of stock footage to make the game feel educational or more immersive, gone. The veteran interviews, gone. While Medal of Honor was aping Call of Duty to try and stay relevant, Call of Duty was on its way to abandoning the WW2 theme entirely for several years.

Of course, with a new WW2-flavored Call of Duty from a few years back, and the return of Wolfenstein and WW2-themed multiplayer shooters, it’s easy to see why the WW2 theme is popular again, but it feels far more cynical: a capitalist response to fears of fascism. At least in the 00s games were just saying “remember that Tom Hanks movie? Now you can be in it!” These days it’s “are you scared of fascists!? Buy our new game that explicitly positions them as bad guys, and the controversy that actual racist shitheads stir up will serve as free advertising! Don’t forget the battle pass!”

Airborne may feel a bit generic, but at least it was innocent.




june gloom

Media critic, retired streamer, furry. I love you. [she/her]