Are you ready to answer the call again?
This review originally posted at MentalGamers – www.mentalgamers.com/game_reviews.php?r=2
For fans of the Call of Duty series, the wait is finally over – Call of Duty 2 is here at last!
The game take a similar format as before – There are 3 campaigns comprising Russian, British and US, but you can choose which order to play them to a certain extent. When you start the game you will be a new conscript in the Russian army, but after completing the first set of missions you will unlock the British campaign where you can choose whether to continue playing the Russian one or start on the British one. Complete a few more missions and the US campaign is last to be unlocked, and while you will take part in the infamous D-Day landings it is not from the usual Omaha or Utah beach perspective, which have been played to death already, but the cliffs at Pointe Du Hoc. Before each set of missions you will get a briefing with supporting images from the “Military Channel” which is a nice touch and gives you the background for the mission. Of course you can skip these and get stuck right in if you choose.
There is nothing really “new” added in this instalment of the series, but then again it already had all the bases covered so what more was there to add? You could say this is just more of the same, but for a fan of Call of Duty that’s exactly what was needed right?
The focus is of course on infantry, but there is one mission set that sees the battle through the eyes of a tank commander hurtling through the desert with dozens of other tanks. The Germans have a greater range so it’s a frantic full on charge at their lines to get within firing distance, and it is definitely a welcome change from being a foot soldier.
The sound is as impressive as it ever was. The ambient sounds are much improved and really draw you into the game. Also, both your squad mates and enemies have a whole host of things to say, from the basic “Cover me, I’m reloading!” to the more profane taunts and battle cries (which I won’t mention here…). With a 5.1 sound system (or a good set of headphones) you’re going to feel like you are right there in the thick of it, practically feeling the displaced air from the bullets whizzing past your head.
Of course the graphics are also top-notch as you would expect. The smoke and explosions are nice and rounded and look spot-on, the scenery is amazing, and only some of the close up detail is a little rough around the edges. Then again those details are easy to miss when there is carnage all around you and you’re under heavy fire. There are some amazing effects achieved with the graphics and sound – Shell shock is back and actually makes you feel dizzy with the blurred swirling vision and the high pitched whining in your ears. And all of that is *after* hearing the shell scream past your head. One mission has you crawling through a pipe while German troops below fire up at you, and the slivers of light piercing the dark as the bullets punch through the pipe is fantastic – fantastic enough to get me killed as I sat there watching it.
But what about the AI? I’m happy to say it has been greatly improved over the previous incarnations. A number of times I’ve found myself playing hide & seek around some object of cover with a lone enemy, but they also work better as a unit too, Your squad mates will stop periodically to rally up before pressing on towards the objective, and as your companions around you new waves will come up from the rear. It really begins to feel like a real battle as you stop-start your way along the streets, pausing every now and then as a bunch of Germans puts down suppressing fire on you. If you stop and try and take them on you may thin their ranks but not for long, they get reinforced too, so you need to pick your moment wisely before pressing forward. The only part that slightly disappointed me was that in some situations where I was supposed to lead some men to an objective and chose to take an “off the beaten path” route, my squad would just sit and wait at the point I was obviously intended to go through and I would end up ambushed from all directions by German troops.
A few “new” features I noticed were:
Smoke grenades (which were included in the United Offensive expansion pack for Call of Duty) let you cover your advances, very handy for those missions where you need to get up close and personal with a Panzer to attach a sticky-bomb to its tracks.
A completely new approach to health for the call of duty series – There are no health packs to pick up, in fact you don’t even have a health bar. The more hits you take the redder and more blurred your screen will become and you will find your character starts to pant and groan. Too many hits in a short space of time and you’re a goner. If you find yourself taking fire you need to get into cover fast to recover. This may be considered by some to be not too realistic, but then neither is a magical health pack that heals all wounds.
The sniper rifle is now a lot more fun to use – when you bring up the scope you need to steady it before firing by holding the shift key (by default) to steady control your heart rate and breathing.
There is a “grenade indicator” that tells you when a grenade is nearby and in what direction.
The game also auto-saves at frequent and logical points, so you will never find yourself having to go too far back when you get taken down.
The multiplayer aspect of Call of Duty 2 is a completely different experience now. With regenerating health it changes the style of play a lot and I have to say it’s going to take a bit of getting used to. Call of Duty fans will no doubt remember the “bunny hopping” that was a much debated feature of the original, and was removed in later patches… Well thankfully they’ve got it right this time and it’s been removed right from the start. Unfortunately they’ve also removed the ability to sprint which was a great feature in my opinion. They have also neglected to let you “cook” your grenades before throwing them which makes for a much more realistic game and made room clearing much easier. I’m dubious about the grenade indicator I mentioned earlier being included in the multiplayer, it makes it impossible to sneakily grenade someone, especially without being able to cook the grenade before throwing. You will also find the crosshairs have changed slightly – they will only appear when you are stationary. If you want to fire while moving then you need to bring up the iron sight which is a feature I like. However there is an annoying glitch in that when your cross hair passes over an enemy it turns red, but when that enemy is hidden in/behind a bush it will still turn red even though you can’t see them.
If you like United Offensive then you may be a bit disappointed here – Ranks, vehicles and artillery strikes are all gone. Personally I liked those features and would love to see them in a later patch or expansion, but time will tell.
Overall I’d say it feels slightly more “arcade” than it used to but then again I’ve been playing a lot of Battlefield 2 while waiting for this release so with a bit of practice I may change that opinion.
My final comment for the multiplayer game is regarding the lack of any anti-cheat (notably Punkbuster). No doubt there are already various hacks doing the rounds and for honest gamers the lack of anti-cheat could be a killer for gameplay. We all know that Punkbuster is far from perfect but it’s the best option we have. Hopefully the developers will strike a deal to get PB included in the first patch, or at the very least put in some form of their own protection.
Summing up, this is a fairly graphics and CPU intensive game and a low end system will just not be able to do it justice, or even run it at all. In fact if you have an average system you may find yourself playing w
ith all settings on low. Having said that, for the high end gamer it looks and sounds fantastic. If you were looking for something new and ground-breaking from this latest instalment then you should look elsewhere, but if you’re a die-hard fan like me and just wanted more of the same then look no further, your search is over.
The Bad: A bit more “arcade” than the original, No vehicles