WORDS BY: Ryan McCaffrey
If this is what the next generation of first-person shooters is going to be like, then you should invest heavily in biotech stocks now because gamers everywhere will be clamoring for pacemakers before it’s all over. Strap yourself in for a nine-hour, tension-filled rollercoaster ride in the guise of the WWII epic Call of Duty 2.
Of course, Infinity Ward’s Nazi-stomping sequel hardly breaks new ground – the proliferation of the genre means that nearly every such game has conquered Omaha Beach – but it’s CoD2’s precise execution that elevates it to king of the WWII castle. It’s obvious the developers calculated exactly what they wanted you to feel in every moment of gameplay, and with each new level it’s as if they’re the carnies manning the Gravitron, sadistically cackling, “Raise your hands if you want to go faster!”
It all begins innocently (and humorously) enough in frosty Russia, where a short training level has you shooting wine bottles and hurling potatoes in lieu of grenades for practice, but once the action formally begins, your senses are immediately bombarded.
In the first “wow” moment – during the very first mission – you’ll scurry single file through a snowy trench, then look up to see tanks rolling by just inches above your skull. Later, you’ll mow down battalions of Germans in one devastating delivery of Flak 88 cannon fire. In fact, the bulk of the gameplay does an outstanding job of mixing scenarios that put you on the offensive, the defensive, or alternately pushing forward only to be resisted and shoved back.
The latter is exemplified by the penultimate American level and is the highlight of the game: You ascend a large hill, smoke-screening your way past bunker-fortified ***, then take the structure at its apex and defend it on all sides from attacking troops and tanks for five minutes while you await airborne aid to swoop in and turn the tide.
Naturally, though, even the most well-crafted and polished action wouldn’t stand for long if it sent countless waves of brainless automatons at you in a straight line. Thus, CoD2’s AI deserves a lot of credit for the overall product’s success. Your opponents will flank, lay down covering fire, and toss grenades (and hurl yours back). Your fellow Allied soldiers will get your back (but never shoot it), and overall, they serve honorably in battle. They’ll even throw smoke grenades to mask your approaches – a key component in Call of Duty 2 – and remind you when you should do so too.
For all its successes, just a few faults mar CoD2’s service record. First, as incredible as the bookending Russian and American campaigns are, the middle British missions – including their tank excursions, which should be cool but instead are plodding – lack the same oomph. Also, those who gave up on the WWII genre only to be brought back into the fold by the tactical elements introduced by Brothers in Arms may be disappointed that CoD2 is “just” a well-crafted shooter whose health system unrealistically mimics the one found in Halo.
Still, most will gleefully revel in the frazzling frenzy of this digital incarnation of the Second Great War. Just make sure you know a good cardiologist before you get started.
+ Dozens of â€œOMGWTFdidyouseethat?â€ moments.
+ Laudable opponent and friendly AI.
+ Stellar 5.1 surround-sound audio.
? Will videogame designers ever run out of WWII source material?