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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Activision

 

Developer

Infinity Ward

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

November 17, 2005

 

 

- Gorgeous

- Some very good animation

- Smoke grenades

- Three different campaigns

- Sounds great

- Barely noticeable checkpoint saves

 

 

- You almost always have to take the point

- No robust physics engine

- Only one multiplayer mode offers anything unique

 

 

Review: Call of Duty 2: Big Red One (XB)

Review: Call of Duty (PC)

Review: Doom 3 (XB)

Review: Far Cry Instincts (XB)

 

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Call of Duty 2

Score: 8.5 / 10

 

Way back when, full-motion video games bit the bullet for its cinematic trappings and extremely linear progression.  Nowadays, graphics are getting closer to photorealistic that seems to be the Holy Grail of Gaming (hopefully next up is artificial intelligence) and Call of Duty 2 is a good step forward in that particular crusade because it’s one good-looking game – not photorealistic but still good and even better on one of those widescreen high definition TVs (or so its been reported by those with nice TVs).  But even on my regular TV, the graphics are sharp, the smoke grenades extremely smoky, and the action very smooth.

 

But graphics aren’t everything.

 

call of duty 2 review          call of duty 2 review

 

Like the original Call of Duty (on PC), this second iteration features a trio of campaigns in an attempt at capturing the international conflict that was World War II: the Russian push against the Nazi’s in Stalingrad, the British mechanized rush against Rommel’s Afrika Korps, and the American assault at Pointe du Hoc (proving that scaling cliffs is just as hard as a beach landing).  This is a nice break from the traditional WWII shooter that almost always sticks to an American perspective.

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Through each campaign you’re tasked with a series of mission objectives that progress to a final, intense showdown, like the Russian campaign, which concludes with a defensive mission that actually had me holding my breath.  The British campaign beings with a series of counter attacks that pave the way to some really fun tank missions.  But possibly the most gripping conflict appears in the American missions.

 

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As Call of Duty 2 is a very cinematic game, the scripting and pace are very good – there’s never really a time that you don’t feel like you’re right in the middle of a massive battle.  Planes fly by overhead, shots ring out but during the Russian campaign there’s a heavy use of silence – only the swirling winter wind (accompanying some believable falling snow) and your footsteps can be heard at some points – the sounds of battle seem distant until you round a corner to find a Panzer tank laying in wait.  Then the sound really kicks in.  Pair this deft use of audio with the great visuals… well, Call of Duty 2 is the first game in a long time to actually make me duck as the machine guns start and your comrades start yelling out enemy positions.  And although the action is directed it doesn’t feel as narrow as the “you must go this way!” of the recently shipped Call of Duty 2: Big Red One (for Xbox and PS2) because there is more choice in direction.  The levels are designed in such a way as to make it fairly obvious which way you’re supposed to be moving but there are a few areas that are wide open expanses – still cluttered with debris and objects – that allow the player to be in control of the action.

 

I really wish Call of Duty 2 featured a physics engine that matched its visuals.  Grenades have no effect on anything but enemy soldiers.  Crates won’t even break!  There is the occasional fuel barrel which can be exploded but it doesn’t make up for the feeling that everything around you is practically indestructible (scripted mission objectives aside).

 

Call of Duty 2 eschews health packs and med kits in favor of a more organic, though not much more realistic, approach.  If you take a flurry of bullets you’ll die but if you manage to find cover before that happens you’ll survive – the red tinge to the screen and heavy breathing gradually recede and you’re as good as new.  It’s very close to the way Master Chief’s shields are recharged in Halo 2.  (This feature is most welcome during the multiplayer games because there’s no camping by health packs for easy kills.)

 

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Call of Duty 2 save progress via a barely discernable and evenly spaced checkpoint system.  You’re never far from the next save point.  I fell into the trap of “just one more checkpoint” that took me almost three hours to get out of. (After finishing the British campaign and playing a good chunk of the American one I finally accepted that I had hit the next checkpoint.)

 

The AI for both your foes and friendly forces in pretty good.  Foes and friends alike take cover and return fire; enemies may crouch in a room waiting for you to enter; if a grenade lands near them they’ll often scatter.  But it still falls to you to lead the action – you always get the short straw though your squad never lets you in on the selection process.  “We drew straws and you got the short one.  Get down there and take out that tank with a sticky bomb!  We’ll cover you from here.”  You have no control over your fellow soldiers because they’re basically treated like cannon fodder.  If they get cut down other soldiers take their place so there’s no babysitting and no command interface. (Thank-you Infinity Ward!)

 

The multiplayer portion of Call of Duty 2 is of the standard variety: deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, search and destroy (similar to Counter-Strike), and headquarters.  Headquarters is the only mode that’s out of the ordinary.  Your team must capture a control point and establish an HQ, but there are some restrictions that keep the game fresh, such as the defending team not being able to respawn once the HQ is built.  The game supports Xbox Live and split screen play.  The multiplayer’s biggest failing is that some of the maps don’t feel very populated even with a full server.  That said, it’s still fun to jump online – connecting to Ranked or Quick matches is easy and there is almost no waiting for other players to join the map.

 

Call of Duty 2 is a very solid launch title for the Xbox 360 but there’s still room for improvement, like some kind of enveloping physics engine.  The action is good, the animation smooth, and the smoke grenades (still) smoky.  Good stuff.

 

- Omni

(November 30, 2005)

 

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