Call of Duty 2

Call of Duty 2 boxSo, now that I am caught up with my movie *reviews* I can catch up on my Xbox 360 game *reviews.* Again, these aren’t reviews in the usual sense of the thing, they are just my observations or thoughts on the game. I guess you can still argue that makes for a review, but whatever.

You may remember that getting my Xbox 360 setup and running normally was a chore. It still isn’t quite right, but I can play games and Call of Duty 2 (CoD2) was the first one I finished. I played thru the campaign on the Hard (or Hardened) setting, which is the 3rd highest or just below Veteran (I did not play on Xbox Live at all). I did this on the advice of Ed who started his campaign on Veteran but found it impossible to finish the end of the Russian part of the campaign, which comprises the first three missions of the game.

The game was broken up into three sub-campaigns (if you will) where you play as a Russian, British or American soldier. Out of the three, I found the Russian campaign to be the most enjoyable of all of them. Probably just for the landscapes filled with snow. The Russian weapons were also pretty good overall, especially their sub-machine gun. That last area that was tripping up Ed on Veteran was still a huge bitch on Hard.

The British campaign took place in the deserts of Northern Africa. At one point, you get to drive a tank on an offensive against German tanks and artillery and I found this to be woefully easy. I found the missions to be okay overall, but mostly just entertaining because I liked listening to the British and Scottish accents (“MacGregor!!!”).

The American campaign of course started off with a D-Day invasion, just like the Medal of Honor: Allied Assault series, which I thought actually did a better job of it. Although, neither quite captured it like Saving Private Ryan. Anyway, the American stuff was okay too. During this part of the campaign, we actually had a crossover back to a couple British missions since that squad was now operating in Europe.

The game as a whole was good to play. The graphics were exceptional of course. I think this owes a lot to it being a port of a PC title, but they still managed to look next-gen even on my standard TV. This was the game I saw on the Xbox 360 kiosks in BestBuy and CompUSA being played on HDTV and my jaw dropped each time. It really looks that much more amazing.

The gameplay itself was okay, but definitely not great. The WWII genre seems to have gotten real popular since the original Medal of Honor (MoH) bowed on the original Playstation. Dana and I spend New Years Day 2000 playing that one over Ed’s house for many, many hours. I don’t know about him, but I was recovering from a hangover and was spot-on with headshots anyway.

Anyone that has played a MoH game knows the AI sucks and the game play is linear as all hell. They took the Doom concept of “monster closets” and turned areas of maps into “German closets.” Unfortunately, CoD2 hasn’t diverged much from that same model. While this game’s AI is pretty good, it still suffers from some very linear game play and a variation of the MoH German closet. The enemies keep pouring out at you until you reach certain invisible waypoints on the map, so maybe it’s not a closet, but is it a “German hose?”

I don’t appreciate games that play like this. Basically you’ll find yourself stuck fighting endless enemies in certain spots until you decide to say F-it and make a run for it by charging across a section of map to make it stop. I suppose in some aspect, this makes a little bit of sense for this particular game because I imagine in WWII, this is what you had to do sometimes. There wasn’t a ton of support to be had when pinned down, so calling in air support or artillery wasn’t as common as in future wars. Then again, I don’t think the Germans had a limitless supply of cannon fodder to stream out at you all the time. I guess, the situation would be fine if it were realistic for the situation, but it just always wasn’t.

The other thing that bothered me, and this game is certainly not the only one to do this, is when you are forced to die-and-learn to get thru situations and maps. If I have to die 20 times to figure out how many enemies are going to be in a house, block, whatever or where to move on a map or find a sniper, then where’s the fun in that? Okay, that last sniper example is fine because you shouldn’t be able to easily spot snipers until they fire at you, but at least move the guy around between deaths so that you can’t find him by dying 20 times over and then finally nail him because you now know where he is, you dig?

Anyway, I don’t think this is just a product of the game being a shooter either. I’ve played other shooters where I could make my way thru the game without the die-and-learn approach. In fact, the series that excels at this is Halo. The stealth games like Splinter Cell and even Metal Gear Solid to a lesser extent do a very good job of allowing you to figure things out without dying or alerting enemies. To me, this makes it more realistic and fun.

So, even though the limitless enemy and die-and-learn thing bothered me, I still enjoyed the game and I recommend picking it up. It is probably the best of the early 360 shooters and for the most part, it even gives you a decent story by following around a set of characters and having some historical footage cut-scenes and narration. OMG – Did I learn things about WWII while playing a shooter video game? Yeah, I guess I did. Take that History class!

One thing I did get a great laugh and “yeah, that was cool” feeling was during a cut scene at the start of one of the British levels. You are riding shotgun in a Jeep towards a town. Not that this is new, but you can look around with your character as the cut scene plays so you aren’t stuck with a canned view. Anyway, just as the Jeep came thru an alley onto a street, I turned my head to the left to watch a truck plow into the driver-side of the Jeep, kill my driver and stop us cold in an ambush. It was perfect timing. The thing that then sucked was the map started and I got killed 20 times before being able to figure out where all the enemies were coming from and move onto the next waypoint. Oh wells.

I will say that the game definitely gave me a feeling of thankfulness for not having to fight in a war like WWII, or even one in the present day for that matter. Kind of that same feeling you get watching Saving Private Ryan. It takes a certain level of bravery to be a soldier and my hat off to all those soldiers that have served or currently are serving in the armed forces of the US and our allies.

Okay, maybe not those Frenchies. Bunch of surrender monkeys those guys and I am 1/8 pure French.