One of the most anticipated WWII inspired games is finally out. Call of Duty 2 follows the classic game, considered as one of the best WWII shooters ever made by gamers and critics alike. Publisher Activision and developer Infinity Ward have teamed up once again to create the sequel to the original Call of Duty, and in doing so create a gaming experience that does not attempt to change any of the core game play aspects that made that game great, but rather to refine it in order to reach its true potential. As we will see, this was a solid design decision.
Veterans of the series will welcome back the details that made Call of Duty such a great game. Real life aiming, for example, means that you don?t have a crosshair floating in mid-air but are actually forced to use the sights and scopes from your on-screen weapons (ed. Oh no? don?t tell Jack Thompson, or he?ll be foaming that the game will turn our children into ?pixelantes?). The title also does away with the standard ?health bar? found in most First-Person Shooters, and instead uses ?senses? to know if you?re injured. When you get shot, the area where you got the wound will flash red for as long as you have the injury. The more severe the wound, the more red it will become. Forget about trying to be the hero every time because when you are severely injured you will have to find a safe spot to lay down and recuperate.
There are no magical floating health packs. If you get shot, you have to judge for yourself how bad it is and whether or not you need to wait before going into action again. This level of realism is further enhanced by the addition of strategic weapons such as the smoke grenade– players can use it to block a sniper?s line-of-sight and escape or blur incoming enemies and take them by surprise. The smoke grenade can, if used effectively, tilt the balance towards your side in a battle. Besides the strategic advantage it offers, it also looks amazing.
As in the original Call of Duty, effective use of your squad is crucial in finishing missions or performing tasks. You have to follow instructions and observe your squad?s actions carefully if you want to stay alive– running around, guns blazing, will only get you killed. Again, like in real war you may feel constricted of action but in every situation there?s procedures and strategies that have to be followed in order to keep your team-mates alive and well.
The slogan for the first Call of Duty was ?In war, no one fights alone,? and that motto is as true then as it is now. Game play is aimed toward a more collaborative, squad-based experience. You may not have human controlled squad mates in the single player campaign, but the computer controlled soldiers act as they would in real life. The AI in this installment has been improved quite a bit, especially the enemy?s AI. Your Nazi foes, for example, actually seem to think and change their attack plans dynamically according to the flow of battle. If your plan is to garrison in a building or barracks, the enemy will try to ferret you out of your cover using grenades. As in real life, there are no sure-fire strategies; sometimes they will work only for a while and then you have to change. Just as in the original title, there?s no danger in getting lost in what you have to do, because the missions rely heavily on scripted sequences. This isn?t a bad thing by any means, however, and adds to the game?s excellent ?cinematic? presentation.
The engaging multiplayer action that was introduced in the original title also remains virtually intact, and is as fun as ever. The classic game modes return along with the addition of a ?Headquarters? mode. In this mode, two areas of a map are chosen as the site for a planned headquarters, one for each team. Once your base is set up, you must defend it against enemy attack. The longer you go without being overrun, the higher the score. Be wary of enemy fire, however, because a lucky grenade toss or sniper shot will keep you from respawning until after your base is overrun and your team looses the match.
HQ mode offers many strategic possibilities: do you go medieval and defend your base or do you forget about your HQ and go all-out against the other team? There?s always the healthy middle line, where each member of the team is assigned a position to defend and attack. Once a HQ is overrun or expired, then new locations for them appear and it?s the whole story again.
It will be hard to top Call of Duty 2 where it shines the most: its realism. There may be other WWII games with better graphics, but this game is king of the hill in terms of cinematic presentation, sound and game play, and that?s much more than you can usually expect from a sequel to a classic. It?s not easy to fill those shoes, but this new addition to the series is a welcome one.
Graphics- 7 Although Call of Duty 2?s graphics have been updated, they still seem a bit ?second string? compared to the cutting edge of what modern FPS titles can boast. As with the original, the visuals, while certainly serviceable, are not why players come to the party- they are only one component alongside the title?s mesmerizing sound effects, addictive gameplay and movie like presentation. The character models don?t look like cartoon characters but they still retain a ?computer generated? feel that sometimes strains the player?s suspension of disbelief. In the midst of battle, however, the player likely won?t have the time to note such minor details, due to the intense presentation of war that is the franchise?s hallmark. Backgrounds, it must be noted, are where the development team obviously made an extra effort– the game looks like it was designed so that gamers concentrate on the strategy and not in how ?cool? the characters look.
Gameplay- 8 The high level of immersion that Call of Duty 2 offers can occasionally make players forget about actual game play mechanics. This is indeed a good thing, however player control is always a key factor of success, particularly in games that aim for realism. Unlike games like Doom or Quake, the character you control will not be able to do double jumps or replenish life with a blink of an eye. Instead, the game shows how difficult and taxing war can really be. Tactical awareness, cover and avoidance of damage rather than twitch reflexes will be key to your survival.
Sound- 9 It?s hard not to praise the incredible achievement that the entire Call of Duty franchise has accomplished in the sound department, and this latest installment certainly lives up to the challenge. War documentaries that show interviews with WWII veterans always mention the visual impact that combat has on people, but they also always mention the deafening sounds of gunfire, explosions, rolling tanks and planes flying by. War is as visual an experience as it is audible. Pushing the game?s realism is what Infinity Ward wanted to do from the beginning, so the sounds of war had to be loud and frightening. Each weapon you fire, or that the enemy fires at you, sound exactly like its real-life counterpart. Ever wondered what a cannon shot from a tank sounds like from a few feet away or the sound of a grenade exploding a few inches from your position? Call of Duty 2 offers that experience, and it does it better than ever before. In addition to the sounds of gunfire and explosions, other sounds such as the bellow of your Sergeant to the war cries of charging Nazis will remind the player that war is about people more than weapons. Combine a set of good speakers or headphones with a copy of Call of Duty 2, and no movie can come close to the this amazing audio experience.
Value- 8 It?s rare trait when a videogame combines entertainment value with historic relevance. Call of Duty 2 is not by any means a true-to-the-bone depiction of World War II, but it does deliver what books or documentaries cannot: an experience of the Great War as realistic and immediate as is currently technologically possible. The next thing would be too close for comfort. This trait alone adds value to the game, as well as credibility to the genre. Call of Duty 2 stresses the fact that you can?t go around shooting enemies by yourself, and that collaborative strategy is a must. Like in a real war, the road to victory is not a one-man journey.
Curve- 9 With three games now under its belt the Call of Duty series is already very well established, and is currently the most realistic WWII-inspired game in the market. War has always been a theme of movies and the arts, and so it s not surprising that it also has made the leap into videogames. It?s an event that always leaves teachings for future generations. Call of Duty 2 even manages to pull out some quotes (some deep, some simply amusing) about war and the role of men in it. Aside from the seriousness, this is a game that has high entertainment value.