The quality of the first-person shooter genre outside of the PC platform has been debated by countless fanboys in numerous forums on infinite parallel Internets. However, it is safe to say that yes, there have been some good shooters on consoles. It is my belief that since the Goldeneye/Perfect Dark era of the Nintendo64, the Xbox has had the most success in delivering quality first person shooters to console owners. Also available for the PC, Call of Duty 2 does its best to fill the Halo-shaped hole in the 360 lineup and performs admirably although it is hardly revolutionary.
Call of Duty 2 mostly emulates the successful mold of its predecessor. Two years later, though, is more of the same enough to make a good game? To keep things fresh, Call of Duty 2 changes and adds key features while still bringing to life the experience of playing a small part in the larger, staggering conflict of World War II. It is a great game because it has taken every thing about its predecessor—graphics, AI, level design, etc.—and made them all a little better, but its ultimate impact is reduced because it has been done before.
As before, the game divides its single player campaign among three soldiers of different nationalities—Russian, British, and American—which allows it to tackle different fronts of the global conflict. You don’t strongly identify with the characters you play, but Call of Duty 2 isn’t worried about plot—the important thing is that World War II is on and there are Nazis that need slaying.
And oh, what slaying there is. Action is fast-paced and frenetic, but still has tactical elements. You can only carry two weapons at a time along with two types of grenades—similar to Halo. Generally, this means one rifle-type weapon and one sub-machine gun. You can stand, crouch, or go prone with each successive position increasing your accuracy while slowing your movement. Also, the crosshair only appears when you stop moving, which forces you to use cover and line up your shots. One way around this is to aim down the sight of the gun, which lets you keep moving and experience the best accuracy possible. The two grenade types fulfill different purposes. You can hold four frag grenades, which go boom, and four smoke grenades, which are used strategically and actually work like they should. You throw them, a thick cloud of smoke is created, and the enemy and you cannot see each other. These grenades are essential tools for assaulting fortified positions and when moving through one of these dark, gritty storms, enemies may not be visible until you’re right on top of them, making charges exhilarating and unpredictable.
At no point in the game will you be fighting alone or against any kind of boss. In fact, you are often surrounded by countless non-player characters to fight with and against, and they display impressive shooting skills and intelligence. Your squadmates are not impotent tag-alongs who shoot blanks, and they know how to flank and find their way through complicated terrain. The Nazi troops do their best to fight for the Fuhrer and will even try and shoot you with a pistol after they go down, which is when the butt of your rifle comes in handy. While that is a nice bit of scripted action, healthier Germans show individual cunning and rely less on the heavy scripting of the first Call of Duty. They know how to charge your position, use cover, and they won’t hesitate to fire if you put yourself out in the open. Perhaps most devastatingly, they know how to use grenades. Thankfully, one of Call of Duty 2’s new features is a grenade indicator that casually points out the relative location of live grenades. Sadly, unlike the NPCs, you cannot throw an enemy’s grenade back. If I could, I don’t think I’d try very often, but it’s stupid to give other soldiers abilities you don’t have.
PC System Requirements
- Pentium(R) 4 1.4GHz or AMD Athlon(tm) XP 1700+
- 256 MB RAM (512 MB RAM recommended)
- DirectX(R) 9.0c compatible 64MB Video Card with DirectX(R) 9.0c
- DirectX(R) 9.0c compatible 16-bit sound card and latest drivers.
- Microsoft(R) Windows(R) 2000/XP
- 4 GB of uncompressed free hard disk space (plus 600MB for Windows(R) 2000/XP swap file)
- 8x Speed CD-ROM or 2x Speed DVD-ROM drive.