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Call of Duty 2

Score: 95%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4 (2 - 8 Online)
Genre: Action/ First Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

Call of Duty 2’s visuals go a long way in selling the WWII experience. Every level is filled with amazing set pieces that remind you of WWII’s epic scope. 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. Levels are large, but they’re not expansive and limit you to a set path through the action. Normally, this would probably register a complaint – but it ends up working in Call of Duty 2’s favor and greatly improves the experience while creating a tension rarely seen in games.

Since this is more or less port of the PC version, comparisons are going to be made. Cases can be made for each looking better than the other, so I won’t wade into that argument; but I will say that the Xbox 360 version does hold the advantage of not having to own a monster PC to get the most out of the game’s visuals.

Unless a game is based around music (Rez, Lumines...), sound usually isn’t that major a concern in regards to game play. Call of Duty 2 changes that by making it vitally important to success during missions. As you run through areas, other soldiers are constantly calling out orders and warnings. They’ll tell you what to expect up ahead, what you need to do next and even tell you where snipers are hidden. This adds a special level of authenticity to the game and helps to bring out the chaos that develops during battles. Listening to everything going on around you is essential to making it through a mission.

This is all capped off by some really great sound effects (especially if your 360 is hooked up to a 5.1 sound system) and a sweeping orchestral score that ebbs and flows with the action.


The main focus in Call of Duty 2 is putting you in the middle of intense situations that force you to rely on your A.I. driven teammates as much as you rely on your own marksman skills. You are not Rambo – you are one cog in the war machine bent on ridding the world of the Nazi threat (as well as a few stray Italian forces that show up…)

The game’s main campaign is split up into three campaigns, each depicting events during the war from different fronts. You begin as a fresh-faced Russian Private defending Moscow and Stalingrad from enemy forces. This is followed by a trip to Africa, where you’ll fight alongside the Desert Rats as a British officer repelling the Field Marshal Rommel’s Panzer division. The final act puts you in the boots of an American soldier in Europe, once again reenacting D-Day. However, this time you won’t find yourself on either Utah or Omaha Beach. Instead, you’ll face the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc.

Breaking the narrative up does weaken the overall story, though it does allow for tighter, more intense chapters, resulting in a better game overall. As with previous games in the series, Call of Duty 2 relies on scripted in-game events to tell the story rather than throwing out a bunch of cutscenes that break up gameplay. This allows the designers to keep you on your toes by constantly introducing new twists and turns to each mission as well as setting up some truly memorable moments, such as a Russian charge against a fortified Nazi stronghold in the heart of Stalingrad…

Pacing is another of Call of Duty 2’s many successes. Building on scripted events, the game constantly shifts between fast, frantic combat situations to slow, methodical shoot-outs from cover. You’ll also find yourself constantly shifting from offensive pushes to defensive stands. This probably won’t go over with fans of run-and-gun FPS's, but that is what Perfect Dark Zero and Quake 4 are for.

Multiplayer is available, though it turns out to be one of the game's weaker aspects. Both 4- (offline) and 8-player (online) games are available, with the 8-player matches making for a slightly more exciting game since the big maps don't really lend themselves well to the smaller 4-player split screen ones. The action is fun, but the modes are by now so standard that there's no compelling reason to play them for very long.


When playing on the default difficulty level, Call of Duty 2 is a challenge, but isn’t overly difficult. A very generous auto-saving checkpoint system keeps you from having to replay large portions of missions multiple times. Harder difficulty levels are trickier given that a single headshot is usually enough to drop you cold – and trust me, those German sharpshooters are good.

Enemy A.I. is extremely aggressive and pretty smart as well. While some do stick to scripted sequences, others will adapt to the situation. Enemy troops don’t just run into a hail of gunfire, but will instead assess how you’re approaching the situation and adapt, sometimes even outflanking or sneaking up behind you. During a stand-off with two German soldiers, I actually had one “disappear” (I presumed he was dead), causing me to focus all my attention on the remaining soldier. Of course, he wasn’t dead and had somehow found a way to work his way around the burned out building and attack me from the side…

Game Mechanics:

The lack of a health bar is one of Call of Duty 2’s more interesting gameplay additions. After taking enough damage, the screen will turn red and blur, indicating that you’re about to die. This forces you to pull back and find a place to “wait off” the damage. Yes, it may be a tad unrealistic, but it also enhances the playing experience. Your time isn’t spent searching for med packs, but concentrating on the action, allowing the game’s intensity level to never drop. And, since the game is squad-based, constantly stopping to rest and heal could prove costly since your squad will eventually move on without you – adding yet another dimension to a mechanic that, at first seems like it would make the game too easy.

Aside from that, Call of Duty 2 is your standard FPS, though with a more realistic twist. You’re limited to only being able to carry one rifle and one sidearm at any time, so you have to think about what guns fit in your current situation. Rifles are better for long-range combat, though you’ll want a machine gun when you’re in a confined area. You’re also given two types of grenades, frag and smoke. Of the two, smoke grenades become the more useful, especially in urban conflicts where you’ll need to become a hard target for snipers, or when you’re outnumbered and need to make a quick getaway.

The Call of Duty series hasn’t seen quite the success on consoles as it has on the PC. This makes Call of Duty 2 that much better of an experience. Not only is it one of the best WWII shooters to hit the market in recent years, it is also one of the better launch titles on the 360. Unless you’re only interested in run-and-gun shooters, Call of Duty 2 is an experience you won't soon forget.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Sony PlayStation 2 Call of Duty 2: Big Red One Nintendo DS Tony Hawk\'s American Sk8land

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