Call of Duty 2 Review
Written : Saturday, April 19, 2008
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
As that great old ballad used to go, War, what is it good for? Maybe in real terms not an awful lot, but the world can’t deny the adrenaline and excitement that it generates among its participants, not to mention the fear, panic and chaos. In catering for this odd addiction there has been a constant stream of games based on man’s seemingly favourite pastime of shooting ten shades of hell out of each other, and the surrounding scenery too. After all, war games allow the ‘good guys’ to emerge victorious time and again as well as giving people the chance to experience events that happened long before they were born. The Call of Duty series first emerged as the WW2 shooter on the PC, impressing everyone with its great graphics and realism. A clever story-line based around three allied armies and war zones didn’t hurt matters either.
As one of the first games to be launched on the Xbox 360 this game had a lot riding on it, and questions were raised about whether or not the series would run as well on a console as it could on a PC. Thankfully Infinity Ward managed to assuage such doubts by producing a game that stuck true to what had made the original great, while at the same time offering 360 owners a fluid console experience. It certainly offered some of the best graphics and sound on the newly launched console and was the first widely played multiplayer offering on the platform too.
Forward comrades, into the breach.
The game’s story is split between the viewpoint of soldiers from three of the forces allied against the German onslaught. You start off as a member of the Red Army during the battle of Stalingrad and as the game progresses you will also enjoy stints with British and U.S forces fighting throughout Europe and Africa. Each faction is equipped with their own unique weaponry and allies that help to keep everything feeling decidedly authentic, the fact that you don’t even start with a weapon in the poorly equipped Russian army is testimony to how many troops would often find themselves thrust into combat, relying on weapons to be plucked from the hands of a dead comrade.
Missions are nicely varied and can see you hopping continents and even armies as you switch between the allied forces. While killing the enemy is a given you are also required to clear out key objectives, hold defensive positions and even, in a strangely out of place sequence, take on your foes at the helm of a tank. The objectives force you to keep pushing forwards against seemingly limitless odds but the A.I support on offer is often helpful at taking down enemies for you and providing cover. It would have been a bit more helpful if you could order them to push forward or defend you directly, as it is they will only move as far forward as you are prepared to risk your own neck. So, any charge has to be led from the front, which can often get frustrating. The missions also revolve around real world events, which gives you a feeling of just being a lone soldier in the grand scheme of things rather than single-handedly taking on the enemy by yourself. Set pieces in Stalingrad, Hill 400 and the D-Day landings all add a nice sense of spectacle.
While it’s a nice change that the missions don’t just revolve around killing everything in sight (though that does come in handy) it is concerning that the enemies tend to be limitless in number, which can often be something of a gripe. While it does discourage players from just camping in a safe spot and sniping from afar, which would lessen the challenge somewhat, it is also quite frustrating how often you’ll be required to make a leap of faith and charge bravely towards a heavily armed position in order to stop the stream of German foes from re-spawning. Only by clearing and occupying an objective will the enemies cease to attack, but it can often lead to one frustrating death after another especially on the highest difficulty.
Two Germans + one machine gun = dead bodies
The saving grace against such overwhelming odds often comes in the form of a grenade, which assume a far more tactical role than seems to be the case in most first person shooters. Regular grenades can be used to flush out enemy positions but it’s more often than not your stash of smoke grenades that you’ll turn to in order to get out of a tight spot. As the game often relies on you having to dash forward in the face of enemy guns a wall of smoke is your closest friend, it can often cover your approach or retreat for that matter. The fact that even under cover of smoke the enemy A.I can often find you unerringly is somewhat annoying but it’s the risk you have to take. In fact if there is one overriding problem with the game it’s that the enemy A.I can at times be too unforgiving. It’s a given that they will become more accurate on harder difficulties but the fact they will aim directly at your position rather than that of allies is annoying, they’ll even run straight in front of your troops just to shoot you down and it happens too often to be mere chance. Enemy tanks are also stupidly overpowered considering you are expected to sneak up and destroy them on your own, they will often turn and shoot you instantly should you get close and it becomes more a case of luck than judgement to destroy them.
Graphically the game is superb, though in terms of age it has indeed been surpassed as developers have since gotten to grips with the hardware at their disposal. That being said there wasn’t a finer looking launch title than this, as the sight and feel of battle on the frontline was superbly recreated. Weapons, uniforms and locations are all unerringly portrayed and the smoke effects are a particular treat. The effects on offer are superb too being as close to war as you may want to get, with your comrades urging you on realistically while all around you bullets whistle and explosives echo throughout the warzone. A lot of time and effort has been spent recreating combat as realistically as possible and it shows.
Sometimes you just have to leg it – tactically that is.
Online you can have up to eight players battling it out over the usual array of multiplayer battles such as Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. Sadly the community has dwindled down to only a few hardcore players, which hasn’t been helped by the fact a lot of glitches were present at launch that resulted in games lagging badly or dropping out altogether. These issues were eventually patched which created a sublime online experience, but the early issues had sadly already done too much damage and turned a lot of people away from giving the game a second chance.
The achievements on offer are indicative of a lot of early 360 games and focus solely on completion of the campaign. If that sounds easy then don’t be deceived as you are required to complete the game through on Veteran difficulty to get most of points. The fact that this game still ranks as having one of the toughest single player campaigns even so long after launch is a testament to the level of skill required. Tough considering the annoyingly frustrating A.I. that can unerringly pick you from a crowd of twenty, in smoke no less, it seems that no small amount of luck is required too. That being said 1000 points should be available for those with a measure of perseverance.
Superbly realistic audio sets the tone perfectly, all of the weapons sound suitably authentic and the script is actually pretty well done and doesn’t slip into the usual war clichés too often.
Probably the best looking launch title and a great early use of the hardware available, has since been surpassed as developers got used to the 360 but still looks good and runs smoothly. Suffered from a few online glitches at first but these have since been ironed out.
Nothing you haven’t seen before and the continually respawning enemies can get extremely annoying, not to mention the EXTREMELY frustrating level of difficulty on Veteran setting. That being said there is still a lot of enjoyment to be had both on and offline.
A superlative WWII experience in a genre that seemed to be becoming stale, the multiple viewpoints help keep things fresh and other a broader perspective on events as a whole.
Complete the game on Veteran and you’ll get all of the points, simple as that. While that’s not exactly the easiest task in the world it does demonstrate a pretty unoriginal list, which can only partially be forgiven by the fact developers were still coming to grips with the system..
A great war game but one that will probably be so frustrating after your first foray on Veteran that you’ll never play it again, the online mode was hampered by problems upon launch and the introduction of two sequels since then has reduced the community to practically nil. Worth picking up though for a solid solo experience..