Call of Duty (PC) review
"Just over the horizon you can faintly make out the wreckage and ruins of Stalingrad. As the ferry transports you and two dozen nervous soldiers to the urban battlefield the commissar reads Comrade Stalin’s latest decree; not a step backwards! The commissar assures you of Mother Russia’s courage, but just as he does, a German Stuka dive bombs on your boat and half of your fellow soldiers lie dead. As the plane turns around for another attack, some soldiers jump out of the ferry in panic. “Tr..."
Just over the horizon you can faintly make out the wreckage and ruins of Stalingrad. As the ferry transports you and two dozen nervous soldiers to the urban battlefield the commissar reads Comrade Stalin’s latest decree; not a step backwards! The commissar assures you of Mother Russia’s courage, but just as he does, a German Stuka dive bombs on your boat and half of your fellow soldiers lie dead. As the plane turns around for another attack, some soldiers jump out of the ferry in panic. “Traitors!” shouts the commissar right before he orders his underlings to open fire on the cowards. At the moment the boat docks it explodes in a massive ball of fire. You barely survive, and when you get a grip of yourself you notice the twisted hell of metal, rubble and gunfire that was once the glorious city of Stalingrad. And now the war really begins…
“Epic” is a word used to describe many games, but Call of Duty is one of the first to truly deserve that adjective. This FPS shooter chronicles the German Theater of World War II not from just one viewpoint, but three. In addition to the American viewpoint present in most games, Call of Duty provides us with campaigns for the Brits and a refreshingly original U.S.S.R campaign. All three combine to make an extraordinary gaming experience.
Most of the levels are squad-based and chockfull of scripted events (a la Medal of Honor). You have no control over your squad mates, but the A.I. is so incredible there really isn’t any need for more control. Your fellow soldiers provide cover fire, hide behind obstacles when being shot at and never act like idiots by doing nothing until they’re killed. The same goes for the enemies who don’t just sit there like targets at a shooting range. They behave intelligently in battle and rarely provide truly easy kills.
In most games if the A.I. doesn’t provide headaches, the controls will. Call of Duty bucks the trend by providing excellent A.I. and intuitive controls. You can only pick up two primary weapons at a time, so you can forget about all those times in other games where you died while trying to scroll to the proper weapon. Not only that but it provides some strategizing by decided which weapons may be useful in the upcoming battles. Attempting to dodge explosions and a rain of bullets never feels cheap or annoying thanks to the responsive controls. To top it all off, the aiming scheme is so simple and fluid that the game never becomes more challenging than it should be. The controls are flawless- truly a rarity nowadays.
According to most gaming publications, Medal of Honor set the bar for WWII games with its stunning Omaha Beach level. If Medal of Honor set the bar, then Call of Duty absolutely demolishes the bar and then pisses on what’s left of it. *ahem* Let’s just say it’s superior to other games. The opening level for the Russian campaign that was described in this review’s opening paragraph is more memorable than almost any level in all of PC history. Immediately following that level is a mesmerizing suicide charge on German fortifications involving dozens of troops. While the Russian levels are definitely the best, the American and British levels are also superb. My favorite level of the two campaigns is the pulse-pounding high-speed chase in which you have to take out oncoming motorcycles, jeeps and German soldiers from the back of a speeding truck. While some levels are blatant “homages” of films like Enemy at the Gates and Band of Brothers, it doesn’t really matter because the action is so mesmerizing in almost all of the levels that there are intense moments that stick with you far after you’re done playing.
However, Call of Duty is not perfect. The first flaw is the weird blend of realism with Doom-style levels. Almost all of the stages involve you and a squad of soldiers taking out enemies, but there are a couple awkward stages that don’t fit well. In these stages you single-handedly take out what appears to be a whole division of German soldiers. It’s just like playing a standard FPS like Quake, not that that’s really a bad thing. It’s just that it feels woefully out of place in a fairly realistic game like Call of Duty. The other downer is that incredibly short completion time. The whole thing can be beaten in about six hours. Granted it’s six hour of incredible gameplay, but six hours is still far too short.
Multiplayer boasts five modes (which include deathmatch and team deathmatch) but it’s obvious the game’s strength lies in the single-player mode. The other three modes lack the polish and fun of various mods for other games such as Half Life and Unreal Tournament. The comparison may be unfair because those mods have been perfected over the years, but Call of Duty pales nonetheless. The multiplayer can still be really fun due to the incredible core gameplay, but it cannot come close to competing the with extraordinary single-player campaign due to the somewhat lackluster modes.
The atmosphere of the game is perfect due to the large amount of troops on the screen at once and the impressive environment. You actually feel like you’re in the middle of a battle thanks to the explosions, gunfire and general disorder that you witness. The sound effects all sound authentic and will certainly make the best of your computer speakers. The voice acting is incredibly professional and never sounds cheesy. Movie actors Giovanni Ribisi and Jason Statham even provide a couple voices. Continuing the Hollywood-quality sound production is a masterful score by Michael Giacchino. Giacchino did the music for almost all the Medal of Honor games and is doing the music for the upcoming Pixar film called The Incredibles. One can only hope his work in that movie is as good as the score he supplied for Call of Duty.
As a group of soldiers and me stormed the Reichstag in the final hours of the war, I couldn’t help but feel that there was one thing that could have made this game revolutionary. If Call of Duty added more historical context to the game it would have easily compared with numerous WWII movies in terms of emotional impact. You really get a sense of patriotism in the levels, whether it’s Russian, British, or American. If some more information was added about all the countries in the war then this could have been a truly fun game and a historical lesson. Imagine if atrocities were educationally presented in the game? It would have been powerful and moving. Even without this added dimension, Call of Duty is one of the most intense, memorable shooters released within the last ten years. Don’t let the short single-player campaign deter you from picking up this game. You won’t be disappointed.
Community review by djskittles (January 25, 2004)
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