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Call of Duty 2 (PC) artwork

Call of Duty 2 (PC) review

"I absolutely loved the original Call of Duty, so I had incredibly high hopes for Call of Duty 2. As soon as the first screenshots came out for it, I instantly proclaimed that the game was going to be awesome and started talking non-stop about it. Iím not usually excited about too many games, but I had a lot of expectations for Call of Duty 2, which Iím sure you got from my first two sentences. Now youíre left wondering if the game lived up to my expectations. "

I absolutely loved the original Call of Duty, so I had incredibly high hopes for Call of Duty 2. As soon as the first screenshots came out for it, I instantly proclaimed that the game was going to be awesome and started talking non-stop about it. Iím not usually excited about too many games, but I had a lot of expectations for Call of Duty 2, which Iím sure you got from my first two sentences. Now youíre left wondering if the game lived up to my expectations.

The short answer: mostly.

The long answer:

Thereís no direct continuation of any of the tales of the soldiers from the original Call of Duty. Instead, you once again assume the roles of a Russian, British, and American soldier as they fight to defeat the Third Reich. The game opens in Russia, late in the German campaign and takes you through the battered streets of Stalingrad, then moves on to Africa, where the British are fighting to push Rommel and his tank divisions out of the desert. The game closes with the American campaign, beginning on D-Day and continuing on as the American soldiers plow through a series of towns until the game ends six or eight hours later.

Yep, like the first Call of Duty, the sequel is still a little too short for my liking. In fact, Call of Duty 2 doesnít stray much from the original formula at all, really. You could even go so far as calling this Call of Duty 1.5, especially if youíre running the game on a computer that canít handle the major graphical changes because it even looks exactly the same if you donít turn on all the fancy effects. With the exception of the newly included smoke grenades and some vehicle sequences, youíre going to be hard pressed to find any huge changes to the gameplay. If it isnít broken, donít fix it, as they say.

The gameplay objectives are simple: youíre given your objective, completing it reveals another problem that needs to be addressed, the problem is addressed, and then the Germans try to take back whatever you took while youíre left with your squad to defend it (ďitĒ typically being a bunker or a hill or a house). Call of Duty 2 feels less rigidly scripted than many other WWII shooters, most notably Medal of Honor, but at the same time, the game felt a lot more linear than I remember Call of Duty feeling (though occasionally you can complete objectives in any order). The scripting works well at creating a combat atmosphere, but I came across a broken script in the game that required me to completely restart a level to progress. As the game has expanded, there seem to be more artificial barriers in your way this time around.

As for the tweaks, the most major one is the new health system. If you get shot at, you just need to run away, hide from your enemies for fifteen seconds and then youíre good as new. Thereís no health bar; the screen just gets red and you start to breathe a little heavier. What happens to all those bullets, Iím not sure, but I hope our heroes have good health plans that cover lead poisoning. I found that while this system allowed for some more heroic attempts (like running into the middle of a field filled with Germans and take out as many as you can and then hiding), it didnít convey any sense of realism. Thereís no real penalty for not rushing at any moment unless youíre playing on the highest difficulty settings. I would have preferred a system like we saw in Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault that had a medic in your squad that could heal you when you went down.

The second substantial addition is the previously mentioned smoke grenades. These work surprisingly well. Laying down a series of smoke grenades as you approach an enemy bunker is an effective way to avoid their fire while trying to take it head-on. Honestly, how many games have given us smoke grenades? Donít they always end up just sitting in our inventories doing nothing? Call of Duty 2 is one of the first games thatís made me want and need to lay down a barrier of smoke. Instead of just a cone of random smoke thatís easily bypassed, the smoke grenades fill up every cubic centimeter of air over a substantial area. Theyíre very sweet.

Even if these additions seem plentiful on paper, they really arenít in the game. Itís not a bad thing; itís just a little disappointing. I would have liked to have seen some more substantial new ideas, rather than just a few gameplay tweaks. Here are three things they could have included: levels set in Japan, levels set in Italy and levels where you play as the Germans. These seem like obvious inclusions that would have set this apart from its predecessor and competition. Itís still a great, entertaining game, but it just doesnít feel like a sequel.

And how do you make a great, entertaining WWII FPS? Create intense, entertaining levels. In one mission, I had to defend the top of Hill 400 from an attack from all sides by the Germans. It was incredibly intense. The enemy was firing artillery at me and my men from off in the distance while their tanks and half-tracks were tearing my boys to shreds. I couldnít stand in one spot for too long without getting destroyed; I quickly ran out of ammo for my guns and had to scrounge up any weapon dropped near me to fend them off. It was a pretty intense level, to say the least. The intensity level is also upped by some smart AI that will attempt to flank you and will brutally beat you back with the butt of their gun if you get too close.

And if that battle wasnít awesome enough, there was an incredible tank segment where you tear up the desert with your treads while blasting through Rommelís Afrika Korps. The tank handled about as realistically as a Jeep would, but Iím not going to complain about the physics because it was damn fun. Firing huge shells at an overwhelming German force, constantly gaining ground, losing ground, and regaining ground as the German troops pushed back was very entertaining. Unfortunately, this was the only real vehicle sequence in the game where youíre behind the wheel, and as one of the most fun missions, it seemed to end far too quickly.

As mentioned earlier, a new graphics engine is packed along with the six discs youíre going to be spending twenty minutes installing. Provided your computer is capable (mine really isnít), you can have some of the best graphics Iíve ever seen in a World War II shooter. The textures are incredible, the detail, the smoke effects, everything at near perfection. Smoke billows out of smoke grenades slowly and swirls around, gradually filling an area with an intense cloud. If a Nazi soldier were a foot away from you, you wouldnít be able to see him. If youíre in my position with a less-than-perfect computer, youíre in luck: the game with run with what is essentially the graphics engine from the first game. Everything still looks good, just not nearly as glossy.

The same orchestrated tunes from nearly every World War II movie have once again been brought back and are turned on whenever the developers feel the need to make you feel like youíre awesome, like right after defending a fort from a massive German onslaught from all sides. It works, as do the sound effects for the weapons and the voices of your brothers in arms.

Call of Duty 2 is by no means a bad game, at all. Itís a great game, actually, and if youíve never played the first one and you move straight into this one, youíll probably want to give it a ďten out of tenĒ yourself. For me, I was a little disappointed. Maybe I was a victim of my own expectations, but I really think it comes down to the fact that this game is essentially Call of Duty with a few bells-and-whistles. While I certainly canít criticize that game, I find it hard to swallow a sequel that does little in terms of improving the core gameplay, is still too short, and costs fifty dollars. If you loved Call of Duty, itís not like you arenít going to like the game, you just might be a little disappointed.

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Community review by asherdeus (July 01, 2006)

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