Friday, 16 December 2011

Call of Duty (PC) - Guest Post

An epic tale of one cat's war against everything.

(Especially your bandwidth. There's a lot of pictures today... and you can click them to view them at 1280x1024!)

Hello! I've never played a Call of Duty game before! I figured it started off way back in the nineties on the PlayStation, but I must have got it mixed up with Medal of Honor because I'm told this one was released in 2003. Shows what I know about first person shooters.

D-Day. Private Martin's really landed himself in deep crap.

Dropped behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France, Martin's job as a pathfinder is to set up a beacon to guide the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne in. He seems pretty calm from the sound of his narration.

Outskirts of St. Mere Eglise, France. June 5, 1944. 2330 hrs.
Chucked out a plane in the middle of the night and blown off course, he's now by himself and he has absolutely no idea where he is. (Let's assume he can't read the captions.)

According to the objective marker, I'm supposed to be heading to the right around these houses. I'm going to keep my head down and move very, very slowly. It's very quiet. There could be teeny, tiny Nazis hiding around any one of these walls or in any one of these windows.

Hold up, Martin! This soldier is guarding the path ahead. Is he on my side or not?

If he's on my side, shooting the only ally I have for miles would be an extraordinarily stupid idea. If he's not on my side, he's going to shortly notice that I'm a GI instead of a rifle-wielding rock.

Wait a minute! He's not showing on my radar! In the tutorial, my allies were shown as green triangles on the radar! Line it up, and in one shot he's dead.

I hope nobody heard that.

There's a radio in this house playing music, but there's nobody here.

As I approach the door at the back of the house, the game gives me a very clear message that I never have to open a door that isn't already open. This means no pressing Use on all the walls trying to find the one that opens and no allies getting stuck inside moving doors!

The objective marker lead to a pal of mine who seems to have got himself tangled up in a tree. He's dead.

Lucky for me that I found him, because he's the one who had the beacon I'm supposed to be planting. Not so lucky for him that I couldn't get here sooner to help.

I very sneakily pop my head around the side of a bunker (lean buttons!) and quickly shoot the two men inside. They must have been having some kind of party in here. They're surrounded by crates of champagne and... medical kits?

In the field in front of the bunker, a giant ghostly marker shows where Martin has to place the beacon for the paratroopers. As soon the beacon is placed, there's a deafening roar of engines and explosions as the sky is filled with planes, paracutes and smoke.

Martin has just turned the war on.

With my main mission complete, I do the only sane thing: immediately hit the deck and crawl over to the nearest wall and curl up into a tiny ball until it all goes away.

There's a dozen jackhammers blasting at me from every direction and there's soldiers falling over everywhere. Going anywhere seems like a terrible idea right now.

Well, I did bring them all here, I suppose it's only fair that I do my fair share of the work. My approach is to move very, very slowly and shoot soldiers as soon as I can see any column of pixels appearing as I move around the side of a wall.

I'm having a hard time telling my guys apart from their guys. I think my guys are a sort of greeny-grey and their guys are a sort of grey-grey. Martin also has Shinigami eyes (external link) which let him see the names of friendly soldiers if he looks at them directly. They're not as helpful as they sound because my reflexes make me click on them before I have time to acknowledge any text appearing. I need to pay more attention to the radar.

We cleared that house without incident! I think we're off to a good start. Surprisingly, my comrades seem to be as good at this as I am. They're eager to dash off and have more adventures due to dogged professionalism, battle high or just plain crazy. I'm a little more cautious, staying at the back of the group as they prepare to clear another house. Wisely, they're staying low and moving very slowly around cover.

I've decided that my role here is to stay behind everyone and provide cover from long range. I've swapped my Kar98k for an M1 Garand. The Aim Down Sights button is very easy to use (this may be the first FPS Friday game that has ADS!) and the enemies obligingly collapse in a very satisfying manner when I click on their foreheads.

My men have a habit of storming buildings as a group right across my line of fire while I'm trying to pick off enemies through the back window through a door, through the front window of the house. It's a miracle I haven't accidentally killed anyone on my side (to my knowledge, at least).

(I have a small hypothetical moment where I direct Martin to execute one of his own squad in cold blood. He doesn't fire. Thank the heavens.)

Mission complete.

No time to rest. We've got to capture the village of Ste. Mère Eglise!

Jesus Christ, fellas! You don't need to rush! We've already lost the element of surprise! Slow and steady wins the not having your head shot in race!

They must have heard me, because they're all waiting for me in front of a wall leading to a wide open street. At least of three of our guys died running here. I'm sticking to the floor like glue.

My men are talking amongst themselves. I think they're leaving it to me to clear the path in front of us. There's Germans hiding in these doorways and windows. Good job I'm a great sniper, and getting better all the time.

The enemy aren't half bad either. It's 50/50 whether they miss with their first shot, but I'm dead if I don't take cover or take them out before they fire a second time.

Several enemy kills later, my team decide to push ahead and take positions inside a house on the opposite side of the street. There's a mounted gun shooting at us from the far end of the street to the right.

I was surprised that the enemies weren't infinite and I didn't have to rush into the open space myself and cross an invisible finish line to advance the plot. I shot the bad guys, the team told me when to go.
I head inside the house myself and try to snipe the machinegun position from there. No dice. I within two feet of the window and there's bullets noisily ricocheting off all the walls. I keep forgetting I have grenades!

Maybe it's because in modern games the grenades are the only thing that can kill enemies quickly, whereas in Call of Duty, everything can kill enemies quickly.

We're not heading down the street after all, we're heading straight through and out the back of the house my team took. They should really tell me these things.

There's nasty men hiding behind fences ahead. I can take them from here. In fact, I think I can take them from here without even aiming down the sights!

This place looks purpose built for Martin to break a bloody stalemate with fast-paced, cover-based combat. Bizarrely, I can just walk through it all unopposed. I think I killed so many men from inside the house, I exhausted all their reinforcements that would have otherwise been waiting for me here.

Guys! GUYS!

Fine, you all shoot to the left and I'll take care of all the guys in the church!

Is it a bad time for me to stick my hand in the air and ask exactly what it is we're doing here? Are we just shooting everybody we see until they're all dead?

Whatever it is we're doing, I really feel like we're making progress. I shoot some guys, the other guys shoot some guys and we all run off to another alley.

We might be going round in circles for all I know, though.

Ahh... we're blowing up anti-aircraft batteries! I shoot a man in the back as he tends to his machine.

The fellow to my right has decided to let me do the shooting so he doesn't do the dying. Still, he's not too happy about it.

If you think I'm running out into the middle of the street to shoot you, you're dead wrong. Heck, you're just plain dead!

If you tried this with any of the guns from... well... ANYTHING, you'd hit nothing but air*. That is if the game was kind enough not to invalidate your bullet entirely once it reached its maximum existence range.

(*Except Red Faction!!)

They only warn you once.


Wahey! The batteries are destroyed and the world is safe once again. That's a complete lie. We took half a village. But it's a start!

Yesterday, we took the village, today we have to defend it. I think it's a lot to ask of seven men, but they do have mecha-neko Martin, so maybe they stand a chance.

The boss says that there's going to be tanks coming our way. I've got to go to the church and arm myself with an anti-tank weapon.

Eeeek! This is not the church. Where am I going? I am lost. Back up, Martin!

Unable to see an exit from the backstreet I've found myself in, I turn around and shoot each one of the enemy soldiers in the head in turn.

Damn. That's cold, Martin.

I seem to have found myself a way away from the church I was supposed to be raiding. I hope the plot waits long enough for me to get back there, but I trust that my men are competent enough to deal with anything that comes up while I'm otherwise indisposed.

Blimey, how often do you say THAT in a game?

I hear gunfire from within the church where the anti-tank rockets are being kept. I hardly ever use 'em, but this looks like a perfect opportunity to use a grenade. With perfect aim, I get it straight through the middle window, just in time to realise that the reason I know that there's anti-tank rockets in there is that my men have already secured it.

I hang my head in shame and brace for the inevitable Game Over as the grenade blows my men up.

But it doesn't. There's a bang, but no Game Over. When I go inside, my men appear to be all fine, taking cover and shooting out of the back windows. Either the squad are made of stronger stuff, my grenade bounced right out of the church, or they had the good sense to run out of the way of the German grenade that just flew in the window. I couldn't see from where I was standing, but it would have been nice if the squad was smart enough to notice the incoming grenade and avoid it themselves.

Out of the back windows of the church is a veritable massacre. My men did a fine job of killing half the Axis army and I made short work of the rest. On we go.

What on Earth kind of gun is this? It's an assault rifle with fully-automatic and semi-automatic modes, a 20 round magazine and a big whocking scope on the top.

The local firearms expert tells me that this is an FG-42, a late-war German paratrooper rifle (Wikipedia link).

This gun suits me right down to the ground. As long as the squad don't decide to run in front of me, I think I've got this battle in the bag.

After shooting all those guys, we're in another street. One of my men yells 'Tank!' and I turn to the right to see the front of the turret start to appear from behind a wall. I thought ahead and made sure to take a second Panzerfaust, just in case. A twiddle of the mousewheel and the tank is in flames before it can even turn the corner. Too bad.

I start heading back to the church to get another rocket to deal with the next tank when I notice my squad have taken the initiative and decide to use their own methods to defeat the tank while I'm busy.

I love you guys.

I know we've already cleared out this specific street, but there's no harm in not standing there in the middle of it like that.

We're going left here to see what's through that gap in the wall. The squad stack up against the wall, either waiting for me to join them to clear the way. But I have a better idea.

How about I snipe the guy in that tower before he starts turning my pals into dead men.

What do you mean you couldn't see him from here, guys? C'mon, pull it together!

My men do seem to be enjoying themselves down there. I'm going to stay right here on this hill. I know I just said it's hardly the safest plan to sit here, but I think I've already got all of the bad guys who were ready to fire; anybody who wants to shoot me at long range will have to run across my field of vision somewhere and I'll be able to pick them out and kill them before they get set up.

We were taking over that field in order to nick some poor Frenchman's wheels. Oh well. It's for a good cause.

So that's... three large fries, two burgers, one box of chicken bits and three large sodas. Hang on, hang on, I'll write it down.

Because we're super awesome at getting things done, Sgt. Moody chooses Private Elder and myself to join him on a wild ride through France to find an Allied base to report in and get more orders.

The poor Private looks half asleep.

Martin explains where we're headed next. It's hard to take seriously when you realise he writes in the same font that Strong Bad uses for Teen Girl Squad.

It's a crazy, on-rails driving section! I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing, because these guys aren't falling down. I'm a lot better shot when I'm not driving and shaking around the place. I suppose I should be shooting randomly and giving them something to think about, but they're too dead set on shooting me to worry about me shooting them.

Hey, this is the only part of the game so far that's had music!

I get killed.

The Sarge drives the car into a dead end to avoid a tank, and then has the bright idea to reverse into the tank. I'm half asleep myself after not paying much attention, so I struggle with the controls and fail to jump out the car before the tank blows me up.

This exact moment happens to be a checkpoint. Go game!

I thought I was out of ammo for this FG 42, but some of the guys here drop them. Marvellous!

Is this the same church from before? It sure looks similar.

There's a wild moment where we have to fight our way through the town to try and find a replacement car for the one the boss wrecked. There's men running at us from behind this barrier, but they're no match for my sniping skills. I hold the right mouse and click on each of them and they all fall down in one hit.

It's possible that the game designers intended this to be more desperate than it was, but they didn't consider the fact that I'm RoboCop.

It's only after I turn around to get in the car that I find I was supposed to use a mounted machinegun to spray bullets instead. Sounds a bit reckless, if you ask me. Give me the right gun and I'll work magic.

I don't like how the car keeps swivelling around underneath me. I've almost shot these poor bastards at least a dozen times.

A short driving scene later...

And we're at a friendly base in moments. The Sarge runs off to get us some orders and the Private takes a moment to reflect on what he's done.

He's probably just realised that hard work is its own reward.

We drove six miles through German checkpoints to find an Allied base and all our efforts resulted in little more than 'Destroy more artillery.'. Back to work.

They even took my awesome gun away! Bastards!

Well, no use whining about it. The M1 is just as good, really. I wonder how well I can do if I never aim down the sights. I stick to the tactics that have served me well so far.

1. KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN. *bullets whistle everywhere*

There's a lot more of them than there are of us.

This guy didn't keep his head down.

We actually have a demolitions guy with us this time! Good idea, HQ!

It's all a bit too much for our Medic. He doesn't want to run out into the wide open space to drag an injured man back. It's selfish, but if the other side have a sniper as good as I am (and they ought to, because I'm using one of their super guns again!), then he's got every reason to not want to become a bloody heap. The guy he's worried about didn't just trip on his shoelaces.

(I wonder if helping the Medic actually has any effect other than it being what you're supposed to do. Probably not. This isn't a squad-centric game.)
While Sarge Moody runs off to rescue that guy, I cover him by shooting all the Nazis that are running in from the right. There's DOZENS of them. I take them all out with one shot each, but I'm still running out of ammo. By the time Moody gets back, there's a pyramid of bodies lying in the field.

Phew! Everybody's safe. Huzzah!

And for some reason I have to blow up the rest of the guns. That must be because the new demolitions guy didn't keep his bloody head down!

Okay, first of all, I'm not moving an inch until I'm absolutely sure the path is safe.

The Germans are desperate to man the mounted machinegun next to the artillery. Every time I kill one of them, another one runs in to take his place. Another dozen men later, and they get finally get the hint.

Oh... we do have a demolitions guy after all. He was busy doing the same as me but on the other side of the field. That's cool!

I should have asked him to bring me back some more FG-42 ammo while he was out there. I'm down to my Thompson now.

This house is charmingly detailed considering there's nobody here to shoot and nothing in here I can use.

Can I shoot the two pixel wide enemy soldiers from a second story window with a Thompson in semi-auto fire mode and kill them all with one hit?


Please excuse my over-enthusiasm, but I'm so relieved that this Thompson is nothing like the one from Bioshock. It's not a creaking, broken, inaccurate, useless piece of crap. It's a serious killing machine.

I hope the Germans aren't too attached to this cannon because BANG!

Short version: Martin did the thing, D-Day was great and everything was smashing.

The briefing for the first mission had a real photograph of General Eisenhower meeting the troops. A couple of the other levels have got real photos from the time as well. I'm not convinced that this is one of them.

The next mission has me rescue somebody called 'Captain Price' who is apparently 'pretty important'. No idea. Let's leave it here for now, because I think I've wasted enough of your bandwidth.

I'm sorry that this post is so long and that I don't talk about the gameplay much. I can't think of anything to say!

Give me a minute, I'll think of something. Right, here goes:

You can carry tons of ammo and there's lots of ammo lying around. The enemies drop a lot of ammo. The guns are loud, they all sound different and there seem to be plenty of different types of them. You keep your guns from level to level most of the time. The aiming is easy, practical and fun. Enemies die when you hit them, and you can hit them from great distances if you're not dancing like a fool. At all times, the game felt as if it were presenting situations to me that I could deal with however I chose, rather than requiring my actions to fill in the blank in the exact way that the level designers envisaged. You can run into the streets and spray automatic fire all over the walls like a madman, stick to the machinegun nests and rain inaccurate hell on the enemies as they run at you, hide behind a box and let your squad do the work or sneak around corners and shoot people one at a time like I did. There's no regenerating health, but there is plentiful medkits if you look in the places where they're likely to be. There's no cover system that applies arbitrary bonuses or penalties depending on what buttons you're holding down, and you don't have to hold down a button to stay in cover. The enemies aren't infinite and my squad wasn't useless. I didn't have to defend my squad from themselves to avoid a Game Over. The squad didn't yell my name every five seconds or push me into enemy fire. The interface didn't appear and disappear randomly in a distracting manner. No vignetting. No screenful of pulsing red shapes when you get hit. No auto-aim.

I didn't ever want to chuck it across the room or eat the disc. Perhaps the best first person shooter in the universe ever.

And I don't even LIKE first person shooters.


  1. Why are the top few rows of pixels messed up on these screenshots? I assume that it's a fault with the game screenshot-button?

    1. Mecha-neko was the one that played this one, but I just tried taking some screenshots myself using the in-game screenshot key and they turned out the same way. It doesn't look like that while you're playing, and changing the res fixed it, so I don't know what happening there.


Semi-Random Game Box