Released in 2003 and using the Quake engine, the original Call of Duty drew a lot of critical praise and quickly became a favorite of many gamers.
The series recounted events from World War II, but it did so a little differently than the Medal of Honor franchise. Instead of being fitted into the shoes of a single soldier, Call of Duty puts you in the role of many fighters from different nations. You will not only get to experience the conflict through the eyes of an American, but also those of British and Russian forces as well.
The series also changed some of the first person shooter concepts a little bit and offered you an experience that involved you as part of a group. Most games make it seem like you're a one man wrecking crew mowing your way through enemy forces like Rambo, but Call of Duty gave you a squadron of intelligent allies. This really brought a certain Brothers in Arms quality to the franchise that has assisted with the feeling of being immersed in the war and that more than just your life is at stake.
Since the original game came out roughly two and a half years ago, there have been many expansions and console versions. The original had been released on the PC but received an expanded campaign known as Finest Hour when it made the port to the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube. Shortly thereafter, the PC got yet another version entitled United Offensive before the sequel had actually come out. The second campaign hit the market in a couple of different ways. Call of Duty 2: Big Red One came out around the same time for the pre-360 generation of consoles and offered a more solo battle compared to the rest of the series. The actual Call of Duty 2, however, proved to be more of a ?true? sequel to the franchise than the latter. With so many installments in such a short amount of time I had some questions going in about the quality of the experience and wondered if the series wasn't going to fizzle out. Would the real sequel be as good, if not better, than the original? The answer was a resounding "Yes!"
Everybody knows that the Xbox had firmly planted its feet in the land of first person shooters, so it should be no surprise that when the 360 was released it received a few. Call of Duty 2 offered the new console generation a glimpse at war and online play with an experience that was very familiar to the PC adaptation. Just like a soldier in the thick of things, you are tossed from the frying pan into the fire and constantly have to dodge bullets in order to survive. It's also important to watch your squadron's backs and keep them alive as well, because they are doing the same for you.
You start the game in the Russian campaign but the others will open up for you as you complete missions and further your progress. Each mission comes with a story to set it up and objectives relating to particular encounters and needs for the war. Video footage is added along with CGI in order to make a surreal experience that really depicts the scope of World War II. This and the overall atmosphere add a sense of urgency to the missions so don't be surprised if you see tanks rolling in the distance or planes making aerial raids a couple of blocks away. The immersion into war is what Call of Duty is all about and the sequel is no different as you go from point A to point B.
The control in the game is essentially as basic as first person shooters can get with dual analog movement and familiar button presses. The only real difference here compared to other shooters is that pressing the right analog stick in activates the melee attack. You also have two styles of grenades to make use of and they each lend themselves to strategy in a big way. The left bump offers up the handy smoke grenade to assist you and your squad with a better vantage point, while the right lobs frag grenades respectively. Making the best use out of either is enough to give you that special thrill that only comes from a gamer high thanks to a rare moment.
The action varies at points, but you are constantly kept on your toes and on the move as wave after wave of enemy combatants come your way. Sometimes you have to fortify a position while in others, you have to overtake a compound. Whatever it is that you are doing, you can rest assured that the game is going to throw some tough as nails AI your way.
Enemy soldiers duck and dodge behind obstacles, overturn furniture for make shift shields and even try to flank you. It's a nice change of pace compared to some other shooters where foes just charge blindly at you while shooting. You also have to make sure that you put that final bullet in them too because if you don't, a dying soldier will life his gun for a last ditch effort to take you down. Predicting when they have to stop to reload also adds an element of strategy to the gameplay and learning the styles of weaponry comes in handy when you can take your enemy by surprise.
A change to the series this time around comes from the omission of health packs for keeping your life up. Now, you don't really have to worry about keeping track of how much damage you have taken since health regenerates after a period of time. It's kind of like the rechargeable overshield in Halo and comes in handy. Sure it may not be the most realistic system in the world, especially when you're talking about a WWII game, but it works. When you are about to die the game will tell you that you are hurt and should take cover so if you have no idea how many bullets you?ve taken at least the game is keeping track.
Of course, one of the main attractions with the 360 version of Call of Duty is the Xbox Live support for up to eight players. Depressingly the console can't support nearly as many players as one would have hoped, but the action here is great none-the-less. There is a great variety of useful maps in the game as well as many of the standard FPS modes to play through. Deathmatch, Search and Destroy, and Capture the flag all play out wonderfully, but I feel that the options just aren't as robust as some other games offer.
The main draw here is undoubtedly the single player campaign with features some absolutely amazing visuals. The game runs beautifully at 720p, looks better on an HD TV and is neck and neck with the output from a high-end PC. There are so many characters on screen at one time that it becomes daunting to the point that you are sucked in even more. Your forces and the enemies? intermingle as they are classing and the effects of war outshine every other WWII game on the market.
Seeing grenades kick up dirt and bullets whiz by your head is unbelievable but what really sells the art of war home here is the subtle things. In one stage you have to crawl through a series of rusted-out pipes and get the drop on the Nazis. Unfortunately, once you start shooting they'll basically know that you're up there. Seeing bullets riddle the pipe with a tunnel of light and whiff of smoke afterwards is surreal. It's minor touches like this and the happens in your surroundings that really bring the beauty of Call of Duty 2 into the light.
If the visual impact of the game was enough to knock your socks off then the aural impression will blow your mind. Having a 5.1 system really hits home the fact that this game is amazing. You can often judge where an enemy combatant is just by listening to the direction of their yelling or their gunfire. The sound effects are booming too and everything gets picked up on the rear channel when it needs to be. As far as content goes the voice acting, effects and music are all extremely solid.
I have to admit that I'm normally the type of gamer that poo-poos playing a war game. I think they trivialize the meaning behind the loss of life and never really pay homage to the true scope of the conflict. Call of Duty 2 however, is the game to make me change my tune. Sure the health system is unrealistic and the multiplayer options may be a little drab, but the game itself is phenomenal. This is easily the best WWII shooter on the market and the best FPS on the Xbox 360. If you have the system and haven't played the game yet, you owe it to yourself to do so, because you are missing out on the quintessential experience of the year.