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CoD Ė Fish and chips or Nazi death?
The fact that World War 2 games seem to have become so generic is testament to the great war films that have been released in the last three or so decades. To be comparable to a variety of cinematic masterpieces is probably testament primarily to Infinity Ward. The developers of the Call of Duty series surpassed Medal of Honour in the Hollywood presentation of WW2 with their original incarnation. Now the time has come to view their latest rendition Call of Duty 2 (CoD2), to see whether it packs as big a punch as its older brother, or if it unfortunately strolls into the gaming landmine of another money spinning sequel.

The original Call of Duty grabbed a massive bag of accolades when it was released in 2003. It was graphically stunning, surpassing any and all rival WW2 games, played like a dream and further more was seeking to push the boundaries of videogame entertainment that one step further. It was one of the first games to really make you feel like you were playing out your favourite scenes in the movies. It was sexy, adventurous and handled like a Ferrari, you played one action packed mission after another, were given more than you could handle and then some more. It was gaming justice that critics and consumers alike heaped praise on, and it deservedly sold very well and picked year end gongs that put it in the same bracket as the Ďuntouchableí Half Life series.

Click to enlargeTwo years later and one might say we are ready for another dosage of top quality WW2, Hollywood entertainment. I knew I was ready: I wanted my ear drums to be assaulted by exploding grenades and rumbling Tanks, I wanted to see unrivalled graphics and smooth as butter controls system. I wanted addictive, well balanced multiplayer and a multi-direction, multi-cultural storylines and missions. I want, I want, I wantÖ And if all of these things are satisfied then I promise I, and everyone else will be extremely happy, and once again Call of Duty will win tons of awards and World peace will finally be captured. Infinity Ward have delivered all of the above and much, much more and so I should be weeing myself with excitement about telling you how good this game isÖ shouldnít I?

Such is the logic of the world we live in, I am not weeing myself with anticipation about reviewing this game. I do feel a surge of warmth around my lower belly and upper thighs but it is only the feeling of mild contentment. I canít fully understand why I donít feel revelatory after completing the game, all of the factors and ingredients are there to make the equation work. I hope in explaining the inís and outís we might come to some conclusions as to why this game falls short of itís masterpiece older brother.

Click to enlargeIf you played the first game the same format is in place. You play three campaigns: Russian, American and British as you try to remove the evil tyranny of the Nazi Empire from Europe. Locales are beautifully constructed and truly absorb you. The opening snow covered ruins of war torn Russia make you shiver with cold before you are soaked in the burning heat of the Northern African desert towns, snow replaced by sand which is then replaced by the mud and dirt of Normandy in the American campaign. There is no denying how visually magnificent these environments are and your ability to interact with them. Hurdle broken walls, climb ladders into clock towers, the worlds feel well made.

This is all well and good but a pretty postcard does not always make for a well written message and that seems the case here. The characters, and their stories, are not as strong as other games on the market and the lack of any real necessity to keep squad mates alive, as they regenerate forever anyway, does not promote the kind of continuity that was present in Brothers in Arms. Something that the one man army specialists amongst you will have no problem with, but I found depreciated the value of virtual life that is fundamental for me in portraying the Ďrealí feel of war.

Which leads me on nicely to one of the other most significant changes made - CoD 2 has adopted a Halo like regeneration into the game. An addition that is, for me, completely bizarre but one that works surprisingly well in keeping the game fun Click to enlargeand running smoothly. Fight or flight however is never an issue for the player, it simply becomes fight and flight as you dispatch enemy after enemy before retreating to a quiet corner, recharging your health and repeating the process. I must admit it does make a nice change from the monotonous levels of other games where it becomes more a case of keeping the health bar partly full rather than experiencing the astounding nature of the game itself. However, the strategy of the gamer still becomes questionable and that necessary feel of reality becomes more distant with the seeming invincibility of your character. At some of the more difficult times I chose to simply run around in circles, dodging Germans, while my infinitely regenerated squad killed them. Not something I recommend you do to enjoy the game but something that highlighted to me the lack of necessity for me really being there, my squad mates could have done it without me anyway.

Upping the difficulty in the game does provide a more substantial challenge and this reviewer recommends experienced players skip the first two settings and aim to play through on hard. There arenít any massive leaps forward in computer AI, itís the similar formula of giving the player less health, but playing the game through on normal as I did, it would take the average gamer no more than a day of gaming to see CoD 2 to completion.

One thing that CoD 2 has by the bucket load is action in all shapes and sizes. Tanks literally role over your head as you cower in a trench, bodies ragdoll into the air as grenades go off, buildings explode, planes fly by. There are far, far too many great moments of action in the game for them to be listed in a review, which isnít the point anyway as you want to go out and experience them for yourself. Click to enlargeNeedless to say in my opinion the action scenes rival, neigh, surpass even those of Half Life 2. The instant visual fixes the game provides you with on nearly every level are almost matched by the audio quality, which is good Ė especially the lack of repetition of phrases your squad mates blurt out - but not great. Perhaps with a brand new soundcard the audio experience might have been better but I found that I only ever got the full affect of the sounds if I was facing in the direction they were coming from. Something no soldier would feel comfortable about, especially one as inept as I. I want to be able to hear my German enemy screams loud and clear, especially when they are behind me after I have left them in a trail of dust, fire and blood.

The multiplayer game must also get a mention, there are a variety of modes as in the first game and they all play well. My personal favourite is modelled on Counter Strike with allies destroying German fortifications and Germans attempting to defuse bombs. Everything is smooth and loading times, as with the single player game are extremely fast, especially when compared to other game such as Half Life 2 or Battlefield 2, something I assume was factored in when making this game for the Xbox 360. A mention must also go out to the man who designed kill-cam, a superb idea that shows you a video replay from the eyes of the man who kills you. You die, and then you watch a replay of yourself die through the eyes of your killer as he makes that headshot against you Ė splendid.

I feel after summing up the game I have clarified my own thoughts on where its shortcomings lie. Itís not that the game isnít a good one, it quite obviously is and in fact itís the best World War 2 game ever released. However, much like Audley Harrison, despite showing promise it has failed to deliver a knockout blow. The first game set such high standards that it was always going to be hard to follow, let alone exceed. The sad fact is that this game, despite bringing copious amounts of fun to my life for the few hours it had in my hands, it never made me care about it. Despite being spectacular it was never different, it wasnít groundbreaking and if anything lacked in areas, such as storyline and individual interaction where other games have evolved. Itís still a great game, just not one I will be thinking about in a yearís time, which will probably be when Call of Duty 3, the next money spinning sequel is released. If youíre after the best World War 2 fix on the market at the moment then this is your stop, just donít expect the earth to move.

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