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World War II has always been one of my favorite genres when it comes to games. My father is a veteran of World War II and I always enjoyed listening to his stories about both the good times and the bad that he experienced during that war. I read a lot about the war in books and magazines as well.
Recently World War II has become the setting for a lot of movies and mini-series like Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers. These have given the genre a newfound popularity much like it enjoyed shortly after the actual war ended.
On the game side, Electronic Art’s Medal of Honor and the subsequent updates and expansion packs have ruled the nest for years. When Activision announced that it would challenge that role with their new Call of Duty series, many people were skeptical.
But after playing Call of Duty both in single player and multiplayer, I can say that it beats Medal of Honor for my favorite WWII shooter.
Let’s start with the game graphics. Each level is painstakingly created to look like the actual environment. Broken towns in France look very different from broken towns in Russia for example. The architecture, the soldiers and the general “feel” of the environment is different in a way that you would never expect of bombed-out structures.
Some of the environments are incredibly fascinating as well. In one mission in the single-player game you have to sabotage the German Battleship Tirpitz. You first don a German uniform and are given free access to the ship until your cover is blown and you have to start shooting. I took time to walk around the decks and found the game’s battleship remarkably similar to pictures and models I have seen of the real ship. It was fun for me to run around the decks, checking out all the primary and secondary guns. When later I had to fight my way back out, it was even more fun.
The missions themselves are highly varied and never get boring because of this. Sometimes you will be infiltrating an enemy facility, other times you will be riding in the back of a truck trying to clear your way though enemy territory. As such, some of the missions kind of let you set your own pace, while others force you to race along at a breakneck speed.
You even get to play in the army of different countries. And the weapons and tactics of the various armies be it British, American or Russian are accurate and varied. The Americans for example, rely on paratrooper elite squads a lot while the Russians perform massive frontal assaults with officers shooting their own men who react too slowly. The British do a lot of commando behind-the-lines types of raids.
I think the developers watched a lot of World War II movies, as the different missions often times look like scenes from those movies. The Russian missions are very similar to Enemy at the Gates, right down to the opening moves and the eventual reliance on snipers. One American mission looks like the episode of Band or Brothers where the company has to assault German gun positions behind the lines on D-Day.
The enemy artificial intelligence is some of the best I have seen. Enemy units will craw, dive for cover and try to flank you. If you throw a grenade at them, they will scream and run trying to get out of the area. They are also very accurate shooters depending on the weapon being used and your distance from them. You can breathe a little easy if an officer with a pistol is trying to hit you from across a field, but turn the corner on an enemy with a sub-machine gun or not see a sniper hiding on a rooftop and you might not survive the encounter.
The multiplayer aspects are very well done. There is a good variety of maps that come standard with the game and the team interface is easy to use. Calling for votes like to change the map or kick an unruly player from the server is quite easy as well. Also, Activision is adding new downloadable maps to keep the game fresh.
Like the single player game, the multiplayer game is smooth and easy to control. It won’t take long to learn the various characteristics of the weapons and to choose your favorite and begin to master it. There was always a lot of players online when I logged in to test the game, a testimony to the strong community surrounding this title.
Call of Duty is the complete package. You will have a lot of fun playing the single player missions because of the varied nature of both the missions themselves and the fact that you serve in different armies. Call of Duty earns a perfect 5 GiN Gems and makes a great extension to any shooter gamers collection, and a must-have for World War II fans.
John Breeden II is the Chief Editor of GiN. While a forward thinking man he admits to a fondness for older video games. You should have seen him at Videotopia. John can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org.