Call of Duty 2
Developer: Infinity Ward
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-8
Words By:

Never in playing one single game has the word “wow” been used so gratuitously. So much in fact that the word “wow” has lost its wow-factor, leaving me to use the more powerful “wow-wee” whenever something absolutely brilliant comes along and leaves me with nothing to say except a string of murmuring and a little bit of dribble. Unfortunately I can’t just say, “Call of Duty 2 is wow-wee” and get back to playing it so I guess I’ll have to dig out the thesaurus….

Call of Duty 2 you will all recognise as the flagship demonstrator of the new Xbox 360’s silky skills, with that African mission being played on every demo rig in the country for the last couple of months. Yes, it’s a WWII FPS but right from the start you know this is something different, something special…

CoD2 is the best-looking 360 launch game I’ve seen running; every huge environment looks detailed right from the war-torn buildings to the discarded bottles in the streets and the planes dog-fighting above. The environments look genuinely uninviting, especially when those pesky Germans are back, this time actually using every inch of cover to make you strain to even spot where the shots are coming from!

Even the little things like grenades look brilliant, exploding in a cloud of debris or sending a soldier flying into the air with some great ragdoll physics. The cream of the crop has to be the smoke grenades though, which have to be seen to be believed. Within a few seconds of throwing one you won’t actually be able to see anything around you and you’ll stumble around like a drunk at Christmas, until you bump into a German who promptly tries to bash your face with a rifle butt - emptying your bowels has never been easier without prescription!

But don’t think it’s particularly the graphics that hit you first in CoD2; it’s the feeling that you’re trapped in something way bigger than you and there’s only two ways out of it (that’s death or glory, folks) that makes CoD2 so damn great. This is created by the sound that is, for lack of a better word, excellent; it compliments the visuals perfectly with pangs and cracks of bullets held together by shouts and curses in various languages and a top-notch orchestral score creating a living, breathing, screaming world.

The AI is clever for both sides this time as both your allies and enemies know how to shoot, hide and generally not die a stupid death. The enemy use cover very well and actually work as a team; one will lay down covering fire while the other reloads and another lobs a grenade right at your feet. You’d be quite impressed if your first instinct wasn’t to run around in circles wondering what the hell to do before diving out the way of the grenade. Thankfully your guys know their stuff too and they’ll make a run while you cover them, throw grenades at the enemies hiding behind obstacles or lob German grenades back at them. The only problem I noticed with the AI is when you’re fighting in enclosed spaces and a grenade drops in front of you: you try to run back through a doorway to safety but it’s blocked by a bloody soldier!

Every mission over the three campaigns feels like a complete tour of duty, throwing what feels like the whole German war machine at you with great firefights and set pieces. Most missions last over twenty minutes, agonisingly drawing out your anxiety before dumping you back into reality at the end, a sweating, exhausted heap. Each mission has you saying, “That’s definitely the best mission ever”; right until you load up the next one…

This longer mission structure not only shows off how much you can stick in one level but also gives CoD2 a more realistic feel, as you really feel like a soldier caught up in a day’s fighting, rather than moving through a scripted environment, ticking off objectives. The way each part of the missions unfolds means that unlike a lot of FPSs, you never really feel like you’re moving along a linear path, until you play the frustrating on-rails passenger missions. Luckily there’s only a couple but having to shoot six soldiers with rocket launchers in a couple of seconds does grate after the 6th retry…

As well as the sizeable single player campaign you’ve also got a couple of multiplayer options, the biggie being online. CoD2’s online section works a lot like Halo 2’s matchmaking system, where you simply search for a game mode and you’ll join any room with free players, rather than making a room and sitting around waiting for people. Unfortunately this means that there is absolutely no way for you to play with your mates online, as you’ll just go into different rooms all the time. In Halo 2 there was a group matchmaking option so I’m a little confused as to why it was left out here. Also, about 80% of the games you play will be unplayable due to random lag, which really starts to grate after you’ve already left three rooms in a row because of it…

Luckily it is possible to find a good room with some amicable players (yes, even the Americans) and have a laugh. The maps are all huge, with more than enough nooks and crannies to hide half of Germany in, which creates a really tense experience as you don’t know when you’ll get it, or from where. If you do happen to snuff it you’re treated to a cool “kill-cam”, which shows the last few seconds of your life through the eyes of your killer. It’s just another little touch that helps the experience along and will have you shouting “I knew he was behind that bloody tank!”at the telly. It’s just a shame that with the online experience they got the little things right but messed up on the more important aspects.

If you don’t fancy playing online then the four-player deathmatches are more your thing and probably more fun, as they work all the time! CoD2 was tested by the family on Christmas Eve and it felt good to cap my brother in the back with a shotgun, only to be sniped by my stepdad from a distant window! Playing CoD2 with four people is nearly as much fun as the daddy of multiplayer, Halo, although with the maps being so large, you can be spending a lot of time running around looking for people.

Call of Duty 2 is the best launch game I’ve seen or played and a good contender for Game of the Year. No other FPS has made me embarrassingly duck to avoid bullets (on a pod in Gamestation, too) or thrown so much at me at once again and again. CoD2 could only be more immersive if it came with a German WWII veteran that shouts “Granate!” and then throws dirt at you. This is as close to perfection as I’ve seen in a videogame and it’s quite simple: if you have a 360, buy this game. Now if only Microsoft got around to letting more of us enjoy their new console…

Best Bits

- Amazing graphics
- Great sound
- Smart AI
- Fun offline multiplayer
- I could go on…
Worst Bits

- The on-rails sections
- Hit-and-miss online mode
- If ever a game warranted a co-op mode...

by: Crazypunk

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