Review: ?Intense? is the one word that sums up Call of Duty 2 on the Xbox 360.
The Xbox 360 may not have the one key ?system seller? game that people seem to expect it to have right out of the gate, but the lines are definitely drawn for which titles are the ?featured? releases from MS' perspective ? namely, Perfect Dark Zero, Kameo,
and Project Gotham Racing 3.
All of those titles are great games in their own right, but one ?non-exclusive? WWII-themed shooter makes a strong argument for its cause based on its technical muscle and white-knuckled combat. With its flawed multiplayer aspects aside, Call of Duty 2
is easily one of the top 5 games of the Xbox 360 launch and also one of the best shooters to come along in some time.
Call of Duty 2
? which is also available on the PC ? plays quite a bit like the first PC game, but with some key refinements that really add to the grit and frenzy of combat. The focus in the game is put squarely on the variety of conflicts that can be found within, and you'll be in for a wild ride thanks to this dynamic and gritty nature to the battles.
The campaign is structured, as before, through three story arcs from the perspective of the three nations of the allies in WWII. Beginning with the Russians, the ?Winter War? is fought through snowy villages and involves a good deal of fighting inside and around blown-out buildings and houses. The British campaign takes place in more wide-open environments, especially since much of it is played in Tunisia. Finally, the American portion of the story is played through many villages and rolling hills in France, as well as other notable sequences like climbing atop a large artillery plateau that is fortified on a steep hill. Each third of the campaign puts you in the role of one particular soldier within the ranks of the respective country (with one exception in the British campaign, as you have to play one mission as a tank commander), and your superior officers will often refer to you by name when ordering you to complete an objective or go to a location.
The level of difficulty chosen at the beginning of the game does greatly affect the experience within the campaign (in terms of the opposition's accuracy and tactics), but the principles of fighting the Nazis will remain similar, regardless. The bulk of the battling has you and a band of soldiers moving from point to point in order to complete an objective or advance on the enemy. While doing so, you will often find open streets with machine gun emplacements that you'll have to get by, as well as broken down houses that contain pesky snipers or bolt-action toting adversaries. Fighting tactically is usually the answer for most scenarios, as you'll be much more effective from behind cover rather than playing the game as if it were Halo
. This doesn't mean that the game won't allow for some moments where you can really let loose, but to truly do well in the game, you'll have to know when it's safe to advance on the opposition or else you'll be cut down by their accurate shots. The conflict in Call of Duty 2
never feels cheap or unfair, though, and you will only die if you wander recklessly into an area that you haven't scouted properly or are greatly outgunned.
Your weapons will dictate much of how you proceed, so it's helpful that you can pick up guns from dead soldiers or from stockades so that you can better deal with certain situations. Each weapon sounds and looks specific based on its country of origin, but the general categories of pistol, bolt-action rifle, semi-auto rifle, shotgun, sniper, and rocket launcher are all there to be explored. The bolt-action rifle is particularly satisfying, as it delivers a real punch that feels authentic and is akin to recent war movies. Other weapons, like the rocket launcher or shotgun (?Trench Gun?), are only found occasionally and are more suited for localized situations where you're dealing with concentrated pocket of troops or armored vehicles. Whatever the circumstance, the guns all feel unique and deliver a substantial feeling of impact when they are fired.
Of course, many of the conflicts can get pretty frantic and you'll be absorbing a great deal of bullets as much as you fire them. Call of Duty 2
opts to not use a life bar and instead go for a regenerating shield-type game mechanic; this allows you to quickly dart to cover as the screen fills up with red and signals that you're hurt. The difficulty does affect how many bullets you can take in a short time before you die, but usually a few shots will put you dangerously close to death. This type of health system is effective because it eliminates the need for health pick-ups and it allows the gameplay to keep going, as even when you do die, the game gets you back in the action quickly.
Grenades also play a pivotal role in almost all of the battles you will experience in Call of Duty 2
. You will have access to frag and smoke grenades, and each type can be found on the bodies of slain comrades and enemies. You can only hold four of each type at one time, but again, you won't have a hard time finding replenishments. Frag grenades can be quite devastating for many reasons, as they can be deposited behind sandbags or into gun bunkers and take care of a good amount of the enemy threat. Frag grenades are also an effective suppression technique, as you can throw one out with some intermittent gunfire and you'll be able to keep the enemy pinned so that you and your allies can advance. The introduction of smoke grenades makes suppression even more possible, as you can chuck them out and wait for the smoke to create a cloud. Once it does, you can advance on the enemy from an even footing, as they don't have the tactical advantage they once did with clear vision and superior positioning. Not only are the smoke grenades great tactical weapons, but they also look phenomenal, graphically speaking. You'll have to beware when grenades are thrown at you, as they can be equally as damaging to you, but luckily there is a handy grenade indicator that lets you know when you are in or out of range of the blast ? helpful, but not always a savior.
The AI of the soldiers on your side and of the opposition really credits how well the other gameplay elements work. You'll have support soldiers who actually shoot adversaries and accurately call out locations of enemies (in windows of buildings, behind walls, in vehicles, etc.). They will also remind you of objectives and sometimes even lead you to the correct destination of your objective based on where they are headed; this is helpful because you might, sometimes, not realize where you are going, but your buddies are always ready to lead the way (you do have a radar with objective indicator, but this isn't always crystal clear). They aren't always the brightest teammates when dealing with grenades or emplaced guns and will sometimes stay around an obviously dangerous area for a bit too long. That being said, they do credit the overall feel of the game as you'll really feel like a part of a team when charging with a group of Russians across open field or when scurrying around the trenches with some British buddies. The personality of the characters isn't greatly fleshed out, but you will care about some of the guys who get more focus in each of the campaigns, and that familiarity works towards the game's goals. The German AI is very strong and it makes the battles all the more memorable because of its tenacity and menace. There will be plenty of moments where the enemy will eventually get overwhelmed and be fodder inside a house or what have you, but more often then not you will be outgunned and be picking off key snipers or support groups as they try and overrun your fledgling position. Even up close, the Germans can create some problems, as they use their numbers well and can melee you very fast (kind of freaky the first time I experienced a beat down at the hands of a determined Nazi soldier). If you crank up the difficulty to ?Veteran? ? the hardest setting ? you'll get the full brunt of the German might, and the accuracy and tactics of the Nazis can be truly intimidating.