|Call of Duty|
|Developer: Infinity Ward
Release Date: Out Now
Players: Single and multiplayer options
Medal of Honor re-defined the market for WW2 first person shooters, with its realistic maps, cinematic sequences, and reasonably intelligent AI. It was, literally, a blast, but is now showing its age rather, with new mission packs failing to revitalise the game, and disappointing reviews of the latest console instalment (Rising Sun). So with the original heading for budget land, and a new Medal of Honor, this time based in the Pacific, on the horizon, a new contender for the crown appears in the form of Call of Duty. This game, designed and programmed by a group of chaps formerly involved in the original Medal of Honor, seeks to take the player once again through the European theatre of war. This time however, there is a significant plot difference. The game is divided effectively into three separate campaigns, each from a different point of view. In the first, you play an American paratrooper, parachuted behind enemy lines at the start of D-Day. The second campaign has you playing the role of a British soldier, taking part in the famous raid on Pegasus Bridge during D-Day. In the final campaign, it's off to Russia for the battle of Stalingrad, and the opening sequence of this campaign, based on the film Enemy at the Gates, is without doubt the big budget set piece of the game, and is seriously impressive, easily matching the Omaha Beach section of MOH. Another significant difference is that, in many missions, a squad supports you, and they are actually quite helpful, laying down covering fire, guarding your flanks, and yelling out appropriate warnings and commands (they seem to have built-in immortality, coming to life again and again after being shot dead - but don't worry, you'll probably be too busy to notice). Otherwise the mechanics of the game are broadly similar to MOH, with your character proceeding through a series of linear missions, using various weapons, towards a final objective.
Well, so what of the gameplay? Well, I don't know about you, but I haven't seen a bad review of this game yet, and mine is going to be no different! From the start, this game is a complete assault on the senses, both visually and sonically. The opening missions, focusing on the battle for St.Mere Eglise, will have you cowering at your monitor as you face a barrage of enemy machine gun fire and an intense artillery barrage as you attempt to capture your objective. The enemy defence is strong and unremitting, and you will make use of every bit of cover as you advance. At one stage, the bloated corpses of dead cows provide the only cover as you advance across a field (beggars can't be choosers I guess). Once the village was taken, I had to go and lie down in a darkened room for a while - the experience was so intense! It's been said before about other (lesser) games, but Call of Duty really must give a good impression of what it was like to be a foot soldier in WW2. You will not get through the missions by behaving like a psychopath, Doom/Quake style. The enemy AI is 'intelligent' and realistic, and you will have to listen to your squad mates and make best use of cover to get through the various maps. If you really want to up the ante, the hardest levels give you no health packs to pick up, which concentrates the mind wonderfully!
The various weapons appear to be historically accurate, and appropriate to the nationality of soldier you are playing as. No BFGs here! As in MOH, ammo packs are scattered around in most levels, but a neat touch is that you can also pick up discarded German weaponry and ammo, which you will need to get you through some levels, where ammo is scarce and you run out very quickly.
Call of Duty is littered with references to various well-known war movies, which will delight you if you are a fan of the genre. The American Campaign has elements of Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan, whilst the beginning of the British Campaign owes a lot to the Pegasus Bridge sequence in The Longest Day. The initial stages of the Russian Campaign are almost a direct copy of Enemy at the Gates. Although thank goodness it's not a sniper-fest like some parts of MOH. A neat touch in the Russian campaign is that the officers on your own side will shoot you if you try to run away from the mayhem! Isn't socialism a wonderful thing!
Although the vehicles in the game are generally not driveable, the game makes up for this by providing some exciting missions where you either drive vehicles or are a passenger in one, blazing away at the enemy as you drive past. The standard war missions, which are all excellent, are broken up with some covert ops type missions, where you have to storm a chateau, or rescue some of your colleagues from a prison camp. All in all, there is a good mix of different types of missions, with some genuine surprises along the way, with which I shan't spoil the game by telling you.
So that's the single player game then. Now on to the multiplayer game. Well, broadband connection allowing, I am having a ball! There is simply nothing to beat playing against real people, who generally (not always!) are smarter than the average AI. With up to 32 players supported, you can get into the most amazing firefights, with bullets and shrapnel from hand grenades flying around all over the place. This is serious fun, although marred by the usual on-line cheats. The other day I emptied an entire magazine into another player, only to see him calmly turn round and shoot me! So someone's found the invincibility cheat huh? What is it with these saddos anyway? That aside, provide you have a decent Internet connection, with broadband pretty much essential for games where large numbers are involved, the CoD multiplayer will keep you up all night, and adds real longevity to the game.
What of the minus points? Well, some of the single player missions are pretty linear, and give you the strong impression of being 'led by the hand' through certain levels. The vehicle-based missions in particular are guilty here. Still, I don't know how a more freeform game would work, and in any case, the multiplayer game more than makes up for the restrictions in the single player game. Many people have complained that the single player campaign is over too quickly, and this is true, but in part this must be due to the fact that you can't put the thing down!
In terms of system requirements, suffice to say that I was able to get smooth stutter free gameplay with most of the detail options turned on, playing the game on my Athlon 1800XP with Ge-Force 3. Hardly state of the art, I know, but it should be an encouragement to those of you who, like me, have, ahem, 'less than cutting edge' PCs.
So in conclusion, Call of Duty is an immersive and well put-together FPS, with the multiplayer game being, for me anyway, the jewel in the crown that just keeps you coming back for more. We will have to see how it stacks up against the new Medal of Honor game when it comes out, but for now, as far as Wartime First Person Shooters go, Call of Duty easily wins the Victoria Cross. And finally the moral of the story? War is Hell - but it makes for a damned fine computer game!
- Totally immersive and exciting WW2 shooter.
- Stunning graphics and sound FX.
- The best there is at the moment.
- Errmm…. Some single player missions can be a bit 'linear.
- The single player campaign is over a bit too quickly…….but then there's the multiplayer game!