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.