Review by Laseau

Reviewed: 04/02/07

Impressive.

I've never played the original Call of Duty, and I've not yet bothered to try the multiplayer in Call of Duty 2. That being said, what I've experienced in the single player campaign is nothing short of remarkable. Having only played the game on Veteran, I might also add that it is an amazingly difficult and frustrating experience, as well as puzzling at times. Regardless, it's been well-worth playing and managed to keep me immersed from start to finish—if rather flustered.

The struggle began on the Russian front, where I took control of Private Vasili and was almost immediately thrown into the heart of conflict. The first mission was preceded by a short training session, which was, thankfully, integrated into the game, and was quick and to the point. From there, I was no longer playing a game, but was rather plunged into a constant life and death struggle against the overwhelming Nazis. I already mentioned that I've only played this game on Veteran, and so had no prior experience in dealing them effectively, making it infinitely more intense and immersive. One wrong move and I was torn to shreds by enemy fire, one wrong step and I was blown to bits by a grenade.

The emphasis on cover isn't created by neat prompts and slick movements; rather, it is created by natural instinct and fear, by necessity. This separates Call of Duty 2 from, say, Gears of War. Every moment is cherished and every repelled enemy assault is a relief, and every successful assault is that much more pleasing. Fairly consistent checkpoints relieve some of the burden of survival, but long stretches of fighting without a checkpoint are nerve-wracking; and despite detracting from realism, the absence of the checkpoint system would have resulted in the unorthodox disassembly of many a controller. Unfortunately, the need for a checkpoint system is not created entirely by the threat of Nazis or grenades or tanks; rather, there are several instances in which the developer's choices make progress extremely difficult and frustrating.

First and foremost in my mind is the formula for storming a building. As expected, enemies will often hole themselves up in ruined buildings, creating a defensive stronghold. Rather than having a set number of enemies, however, Infinity Ward decided that they ought to constantly spawn and pour out in droves until the player enters the building and eliminates the threat within. This makes storming a Nazi stronghold even more insanely difficult and frustrating than it should be. Sometimes, even after I had entered the building, I was killed by an enemy that appeared in a room I'd already cleared. In my mind, there is a simple feature that would almost entirely negate this problem, but Infinity Ward was not insightful enough to add it: some control over your fellow soldiers.

Your comrades are not devoid of intelligence, but I often found myself grumbling at their poor decisions. First of all, they press an attack only if you take the initiative, even if they outrank you. Second, they have the uncanny ability to step in front of your line in fire, which wouldn't be such a terrible thing if Infinity Ward hadn't included a friendly fire feature; accidentally firing on a fellow soldier causes you to fail the mission. This was especially annoying when I stormed a building, as I tend to be very cautious and jumpy while clearing rooms; spooking me, whether it be an enemy or ally who does, usually results in death. As if that weren't bad enough, their presence is not comforting and often fatal. When several allies storm an enemy position at my side, I have a slight sense of security; unfortunately, in Call of Duty 2, your allies tend to fall back when you get into the thick of things, and usually without any warning. Thus, by the time you notice they're gone, you're dead and grumbling at their incompetence.

Despite these shortcomings, Call of Duty 2 presented an exciting opportunity to relive the key battles of World War II through the perspectives of three different forces. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys first person shooters, and action games in general. Might I also add that Infinity Ward did well with the achievements for this game: all of them are unlockable offline. Adding a little variety might have been interesting, but beating the game on Veteran is task enough, in my opinion. As a Platinum Hits title at $29.99, Call of Duty 2 may be worth the cost; if you're unsure, though, a rental is great idea. All said and done, Call of Duty 2 should be the standard to which all subsequent war games should be held.

For those concerned: I'll take a moment to elaborate on the look and feel of the game, which, for a game also released on past-generation consoles, is rather appealing. The graphics didn't necessarily impress me, but I was pleasantly surprised at how effective the often drab and grungy textures complemented the game's content. The lack of vitality in the graphics make the game unique and, at times, cinematic. However, what the graphics lack in crispness the sound makes up for. Between the gunfire, the varied and impressive array of voices, and the ambient noise, a very cinematic experience is presented. I felt almost a part of the battles as my men and I charged over hills and under cover to take on the Germans in a no-holds-barred battle to the death. Excellent, indeed.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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