Last summer, PC Zone was days away from doing an exclusive reveal of the new Medal Of Honor: Airborne, when suddenly, the studio trip was cancelled and all coverage postponed.
A few months later, the fog of war lifted and we discovered why - EA had decided to delay Airborne so they could shift the game over to Epic's Unreal Engine 3 and take advantage of its stunning next-gen rendering technology.
The result is a huge jump in detail on character models, a larger draw distance and more explodey whizz-bangs (stop me if I'm getting too technical). However, it's been a long time since Allied Assault and the glory days of Medal Of Honor, so can the latest episode successfully claw back some ground from WWII shooter invaders such as Call Of Duty?
Well, the focus of Airborne is on five historic operations, including Market Garden, the botched Allied offensive into Holland featured in the famous Richard Attenborough movie A Bridge Too Far. You play each of the two major missions in every campaign as two characters: first as pathfinder Eddie La Pointe, to set up communications in what will be mainly stealth missions; and second, as Private Travers, jumping into the action alongside hundreds of fellow allied soldiers.
However, what's really different from previous MOH games is that the parachute descent is completely controlled by you - if you happen to choose your drop zone on top of a high building, that's where you'll begin the mission. You can also cock-up the landing, which could mean a serious loss of health, leaving you vulnerable to attack as you desperately untangle your 'chute.
This non-linearity is a major departure for the franchise, and the development team has had to completely re-write the AI for both allied and enemy soldiers to help them take advantage of the terrain and changing dynamics of the missions in real-time. Levels are blimmin' huge, with three entrances and exits to almost every location, multiple pathways and the ability to complete mission objectives in whatever order takes your fancy. Hmmm, take out the sniper's nest with a gib-splattering grenade or maybe viciously garrotte the lookout? Ooh, choices, choices...
Another new feature for Medal Of Honor: Airborne is the ability to upgrade your weapon depending on your proficiency rating in the game and whether you pick up the supply bundle left by an air-drop, local resistance or stabbed Nazi. Based on actual field modifications used during WWII, the mods can include increasing the rounds carried by a machine-gun, or reducing the recoil in a sniper rifle. You'll also be able to increase your shooting accuracy through what EA are calling 'True Trigger', a targeting skill that when mastered, makes taking out any Swastika-bearing fascists a breeze. Medal Of Honor: Airborne - officially one to watch on the radar.