Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Good: Enemy AI, Scripted Events, Sound, Multiplayer
Bad: Some boring missions
Does it feel "next-gen": Definitely
Sure, the 360 has handfuls of ports and standard upgrades passing as launch titles, but make no mistake, Call of Duty 2 is as fun and dare I say looks a little better than its PC counterpart. I am not sure how I can explain it, but both the single player experience and multiplayer world feel more at home on Microsoft's new console. Forget Quake and Perfect Dark Zero, CoD 2 is the shooter to pick up now.
Call of Duty 2 tries to do what so many of its peers fail to. It tries to yet again make a World War II story something worth playing. The first Duty provided more of an arcade-like thrill ride versus some of its more authentic peers and its sequel stays the course. Call of Duty 2 is a great rush, but leaves little reason to return to the battlefield.
This time around we get to blast Nazi after Nazi through the eyes of three different nations. The American, British and Russian campaign all feel a little different, as if you really are playing three smaller games making their way to hill 400. It's those visceral instincts that Infinity Ward designs so well for Call of Duty. You always feel like you're getting an authentic experience even though the depth of gameplay is rather rudimentary.
The scripted events you'll encounter are nothing short of breathtaking. Seeing huge changes in the immediate horizon develop right before your eyes delivers a rush few other World War II shooters have. If Call of Duty's intensity went to nine, this one surely goes to eleven.
If there is one element that adds that extra dose of pop-strategy, it's the smoke grenade. Persistent gunfire saturates almost every mission, and the only way to sneak to a point of advantage is to blind the enemy's field of vision with a smoke grenade. The option works really well and does a significant job in spicing up the interactive roller coaster.
The enemy AI is rather impressive. Even on the lower difficulties, most enemies will not rest until they see you gone from the spot where you were first identified. They'll use grenades liberally and if it wasn't for the grenade indicator, you'd die a maddening amount of times. I didn't see a lot of flank work, but I did see a lot of aggressive, yet intelligent advancement.
Your comrades are a different story. They never seem to get out of your way when you're in a pinch. When you're taking cover with your guys in a little shack and a Nazi grenade is thrown accurately, your allies sometimes will not move, blocking any safe passage for you. Moral? Stay away from friendlies in close quarters. I had hoped that the 360 version would have some of these kinks worked out, but unfortunately not.
Most of the levels are designed pretty well until you get to the North Africa levels which include some brain-dead shooting in your tank. The pace of the game slows and starts to get real boring before heading back to one of the European fronts.
The graphics, while being a mixed bag on the PC (yes, with everything turned on high with a pimped out rig), are cleaner and more consistent on the 360. The character models and building models earn the "next-gen" description and the ground textures and terrain textures are complemented greatly by the specular lighting. The sheer amount of particle, lighting and smoke effects that blend together in a pretty riveting package on almost each level.
The music is still wonderfully relevant and emotional. Add the grade A voice work and Spielberg quality surround sound and effects and Call of Duty pack in a Hollywood caliber presentation. And again, it feels much more at home on the big widescreen HD with home-theater surround.
The multiplayer component shines on Xbox Live. It actually will only support up to 8 players online at once, which isn't great, but it's fun. 13 maps are included that seem to tie in effectively with the expected sentiments and oh boy is it an unforgiving killing field. The standard CTF and Deathmatch apply, but we also get two newcomers in HQ and Search and Destroy.
S&D; is a straightforward got-to-object-and-exterminate type of game. HQ is a fun variation of tug-of-war where you must establish your HQ to keep the other team from respawning after they die. HQ objects can be destroyed once established to restore the other team's respawning and the game ends once no one on a team can respawn. All in all, the multiplayer mode will have a following, but the new modes may lose their luster over time.
While waiting to respawn, you get to see your instant replay of how you died from your killer's perspective. It's awesome.
Like its predecessor, Call of Duty 2 is worth playing at least once to extract those great scripted memorable moments and share with your fellow gamers. Not to be a broken record, but it's the best Xbox Live game for 360 right now and it's an easy justification for your hard-earned dough.
First Play: A-
Last Play: A
Overall: 91% A-