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Call of Duty 2: Big Red One

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 16 (Online)
Genre: Action/ First Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

Right off the bat, Call of Duty 2: Big Red One may share the same numerical sign as the recently released PC and Xbox 360 version of Call of Duty, but it is an entirely different game. Big Red One instead follows the console version of Call of Duty: Finest Hour, which was released on consoles late last year. Admittedly, the series' first jump to the console world wasn't a smooth one, a problem Big Red One makes strides in correcting. However, there are still a few wrinkles that weren't smoothed out, so while the second experience is an improvement, it isn't much of one.

Visually, Big Red One goes a long way in selling the WWII experience. Every level is filled with amazing set pieces that remind you of just how big WWII really was. Airplanes zoom overhead and other forces will also take part in large-scale battles, so you never get the feeling that you're a one-man army. Character and vehicle models are rich in detail. The latter are especially impressive when they blow up. Several vehicles can be destroyed in a variety of ways so you don't always see the same explosion over and over.

Sound is one of the weaker elements in Big Red One. War is noisy business, which begs the question as to why the game is so quiet at times. You'll hear the occasional gun shots and explosions, but you never get the feeling that you're in the thick of it all. This is a shame because it ends up hurting the experience considering how great some of the game's visual details are in setting up the war's grand scale. Weapons lack that "kick" of power and sound muffled. In fact, nearly all of the game’s sounds have a muffled sound and are turned rather low. Even after I turned the in-game volume options up, I had to crank my sound system up to hear things at a normal level.


Call of Duty 2: Big Red One follows the exploits of the United States' First Army Infantry Division – The Fighting First (the moniker Big Red One comes from the giant red number worn by members). It is not until you watch the short documentary on the unit's exploits that the game begins to take on a different meaning. During WWII, the Fighting First was the army’s premiere fighting division, serving in just about every major operation of the Great War, including tours in North Africa, Italy and even the D-Day invasion of Normandy. The game's 13-chapter campaign mode follows the unit through it's exploits during the war.

Missions are introduced through black-and-white newsreels that describe the history surrounding each mission. These then give way to entertaining in-game sequences that help to give each mission a personal touch. I also found it amusing that some of the characters you run into during the game share traits with the real-life vets featured in the included “Big Red One” documentary. I don't know if it was just pure coincidence, but for me it actually added something to the experience's authenticity, which is one of the main elements I look for in a WWII game.

A nice variety of mission types are available, so there's always something to do. The downside to this is that nearly every level is heavily scripted, which takes some of the fun out of playing. At times, the game feels more like an interactive movie, which isn't a bad thing, but that doesn't make it a good video game. On the plus side, the number of scripted events does ramp up the game’s intensity; though I still would have liked more open-combat. The sad thing is that the game has all the trappings of a great WWII shooter, right down to a healthy selection of historic weapons from numerous countries. If only the game wasn't so confined it would be a much grander experience. On top of that, the main campaign is also incredibly short, so you can easily make it through in about 9-10 hours.

After playing through the single-player missions, you can try out multiplayer and challenge up to 16-players online. Big Red One offers a variety of standard match types like Capture the Flag, Deathmatch and Domination (which is a variation of the control-point team matches popping up more in games these days). Around 10 maps are available for play, though the online experience leaves much to be desired. Player Vs. Player combat is weak and doesn't stand up to most FPSs available.


A.I. is another of Big Red One's low points. The soldiers making up both sides of the conflict obviously aren't their country's best and brightest. There are numerous times where your squad mates will make death charges at tanks armed only with a Thompson rifle. Yes, some of these deaths are planned, but when you consider that even the non-scripted deaths are usually a result of a bone-headed move, you just have to wonder. A.I. controlled soldiers aren't the best of shots either and seem to have a hard time trying to hit each other even when they're only a few feet from each other.

Game Mechanics:

A large part of Call of Duty 2: Big Red One's missions take place as an FPS, though it also squeezes in a number of other play types. Sometimes you'll man the machine gun on the back of a transport as you travel through enemy-controlled areas, while at other times you'll operate the bomb bay of a bomber. You'll even have to act as a spotter for long-range artillery as they take out German Panzer divisions. Learning all the different control mechanics for each game type doesn’t take that much time and most stick to the same general format.

One troublesome issue I found concerned guns. Even though you have access to a wide variety of firearms, there’s really little difference between one gun and another other than their fire-rate and damage output. Nearly every gun shares the same accuracy, so you can actually snipe far off soldiers with machine guns, which frankly weren’t that accurate at the time. It is not a game-breaking element, but it does, like a few other elements, detract from the authenticity of the experience and makes it feel more like a straight-forward, arcade shooter.

Despite a few flaws, Call of Duty 2: Big Red One is still a fun WWII experience, especially if you’re a history buff. However, the abbreviated length makes it a better rental than purchase unless you’re either looking for another FPS to take on or really like WWII games.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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