The Greatest Generation's Game
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It can be difficult making a sequel, or even an add-on pack, to a popular game. It's almost like a company is being set up to fail. With the bar set so high it becomes difficult for a firm to fulfill the expectations of the rabid fan base of the previous installment. Nonetheless, Activision came out with Call of Duty: United Offensive"sequel to the very successful Call of Duty.
And they succeeded. CoD: United Offensive is the equal or better of the original in all ways. It's harder, grittier, colder, and more lifelike that the first. There's simply no element of the old game that the new one doesn't outperform. I enjoyed CoD: UO in ways I hadn't imagined with CoD.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not liking this game simply because it's bloody or action-packed. I like this game because it makes me impressed as hell at the men who went through the Battle of the Bulge and won World War II and therefore made me and everyone I know possible. Without their courage we wouldn't live in a comfortable world that allows young men and women to only PLAY at making war instead of having to live it.
CoD: UO truly kicks home all the thousands upon thousands of ways that things can go wrong in war. Even on small, discrete missions that are featured here and there are an enormous number of ways for a player to suddenly die with no warning. And we're not talking some 'DOOM III' monsters hiding in wall cabinets either.
In CoD: UO it's quite simply a matter of never being able to let your guard down when on a mission. If you do"you're finished. You'll miss that one Nazi under the table or hiding under the bridge and then it's all over.
Thank God that here, at least, I could just go back to the last save point and try not to repeat my mistakes.
This is a difficult game. Several of the scenarios hammer home that as well and skill and courage to succeed one also needs a bit of LUCK (sometimes more than a bit) to survive and complete the mission.
It's a useful lesson for players to learn. There's one darn level that took me more than a week of intermittent playing. Crossing a bridge with a Panzer firing at you on the other side is even less fun that you, the reader, might imagine. If you play CoD:UO, write into me and let me know how you did on that one.
I also heartily approve of the attention to detail the artists and designers put into the game. Without being overly graphic they still provide a necessary level of realism that makes war games set in the real world, and real events so much better than their more fantastic cousins down the block.
Are there deep pools of blood and pieces of bodies? No. But seeing the open, staring dead eyes of a German soldier after I killed him, brought home to me the fact that war isn't actually a game and that I should be grateful (again) to just play a simulation instead of having to go through the real thing.
I liked this game. I don't usually like such things, I admit. I'm known here at the GiN HQ as somewhat of a curmudgeon about games. I find most of them childish and without any great meaning.
But I enjoyed CoD: United Offensive on many different levels. It's a solid, upstanding game that can be enjoyed both for its action and gameplay and for the deeper truths that the player can derive while playing it.
And that's what great art should do. It should both illuminate and challenge the viewer to consider their place. And this game does that.
Bravo to all involved.
It earns 4.5 GiN Gems for extending a really amazing game in new, if difficult ways. The original CoD is required to play.
Nate Wooley is Game Industry News Publisher. Having an expertise on games based firmly in the classics, Nate occasionally feels qualified to comment on any new game that has that 'classic' feel. You can contact him at : firstname.lastname@example.org.