Tears. Blood. Sweat. $49 wireless Xbox 360 controllers going through the television set, and you in a fetal position on the floor after dying on the same part of The Battle for Caen for the fifty-third time on Veteran difficulty. If this is what Infinity Ward had in mind for their Xbox 360 launch title Call of Duty 2, then they sure succeeded.
It was the second game I popped into my new 360, and any underwhelming “I-saw-this-when-it-was-called-Star-Fox-Adventures” feelings I had about Kameo’s graphics went away the second I hopped out of the back of that Soviet truck and learned how to shoot a gun.
Bells and Whistles
That is, graphics, sound, and presentation. COD2 nails all three. As far as launch games go, the graphics are good (better than Kameo as stated above) but not quite PGR3-caliber. Which is fine; what it lacks in perfect photorealism, it more than makes up for in immersion.
Other than not being able to see your feet, you actually feel like you are the soldier. Germans popping out of nowhere will send you jumping out of your seat (especially on Veteran difficulty, when you die in no time), and when you die, your viewpoint falls down and begins to blur, with a war-based quote by a famous historical figure. (However, that would be a double-edged sword: die fifty-three times, and you’ll get sick of the quotes.) The through-the-eyes-of-a-soldier thing hits its high point on the D-Day level; for the few of you that haven’t played the game, I wouldn’t dare spoil it, but it’s something else.
As far as sound goes, the game is loud. The rattling of chain guns, explosions, Nazi screams, the shouting of your teammates telling you to “throw some grenades in those windows!”, there’s quite a bit going on, and it’s all good. Voice acting’s perfect, sound effects are wonderful, I can’t think of a single thing they got wrong as far as audio goes. Music is placed where it belongs, but you’ll probably end up using the custom soundtrack.
The menu screens are decent. Nothing amazing, but they’re not an eyesore and they get you where you need to go. The cinematic presentation of the game is a definite selling point, but I’ve already gushed about that above. Load times are minimal, and what load there is in the single-player is accompanied by a journal of your soldier to give you a little background information. The game loses points for its handling of achievements - there’s not a single online gamerpoint to be found. However, awarding points for clearing the game on Veteran is probably the only reason people try it, so that was a good idea.
This is the meat of the game: a start-to-finish World War II thrill ride spanning ten levels of Soviet, British, and American fighting, interspersed with footage from The Military Channel and one final inspirational speach by Dwight D. Eisenhower before you cross the English Channel.
It starts you off in a Russian training camp, which is where the writing really shines through. A German prisoner will be taken captive, and then you’re off to prevent a sneak attack, and that’s where the action takes off and never quits (well, maybe it slows down during the slightly ho-hum tank missions). You’ll do three Russian missions, and somewhere along that line you’ll unlock the British Egyptian and French missions, and somewhere along those four stages you’ll unlock the final three American French and German missions.
The entire single-player is fantastic, and even when you’re yelling and screaming on the hardest of the hard difficulties (out of the four difficulties, Veteran says “you will not survive” for a reason) you’re having fun. My only real gripe is that the friendly AI is sometimes abundantly stupid, stupid enough to get blown up by grenades and walk in front of your sniper scope the moment you fire. But this is a minor gripe, and other than that, it’s great.
Imagine, if you will, a French player in the final match in the World Cup. He basically starts with the ball on one end of the field and runs with it to the other end. The goalie is distracted. He’s basically got this nailed in every imaginable way. But, at the last second, right after he kicks the ball, he is struck by a meteorite.
That’s a little like the Call of Duty 2 multiplayer. Sure, the ball hits the net, the French team scores, and it’s good for some fun, the point is that it was hit with a meteorite. For the first few months, it was a good bit unplayable, completely lacking lobbies. Even after the hopelessly delayed patch was issued, you still have only eight people per game, and for some reason, I seem to have trouble hitting things because of what appears to be terrible collision detection (though, that could just be me being a sore loser). I’ve never been able to try System Link, but I’m sure if you put 16 people into a splitscreen match it would be an amazing experience.
I think much more highly of COD2 when I consider it a single-player affair, but that’s not the case. Multiplayer or no, it’s still an excellent game, and one I highly suggest purchasing - or, you can always wait for Call of Duty 3 this fall. I’m going to give it an 8, for the sole reason that it’s very good but not quite a 9.
Final Score: 8 out of 10 - Good (how do we rank games?)
(Also, check out our strategy guide!)