I remember liking this one when it first came out, but it's been a long while now since I last saw it and the military shooter genre wasn't quite as played out back then. The single player campaigns in COD games get a bad rap these days and I'm curious to see whether my fond memories of this one will evaporate in the harsh cynical light of the modern day.
(Click the pics to expand them into exciting new resolutions, usually around 1280x720.)
After the intro finished I spent a couple of hours setting up all 7000 crouch and aim buttons in the surprisingly extensive key remap screen, then started up the first mission and got another video to watch!
The year is 1941, Europe is in crisis due to Adolf Hitler being a bit of a dick (not the video's exact words), and the Nazis have decided that they no longer appreciate having Soviet Russia as a neighbour either. The Axis forces invaded the country with a blitzkrieg attack, claiming vast amounts of territory and forcing raw Russian recruits to face off against experienced soldiers to defend their home.
DECEMBER 16, 1941. MOSCOW.
Of course that's just my assumption. The way things are laid out so precisely here, this very well may be a well preserved Russian diary exhibit in a WW2 museum.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and Call of Duty the First, I think I know my way around a rifle by now.
Oh shit, the other soldiers got around to the rifles first and now there's no guns left for me. That's what I get for holding [Tab] when I should've been hauling ass.
In fact I bet my Commissar himself personally emptied all those wine bottles just to give us something to shoot at. The teddy bears though... well I just hope he raided an abandoned toy shop.
Couldn't they find any rocks?
The cutscenes in this definitely seem to be based on the Half-Life school of game design, with the drama taking place around my silent protagonist without forcing me to actually pay attention or play along all that much. Though I believe my boss may have mentioned something here about me having to go off now into combat and fight squads of well-trained veteran troops.
Guess the tutorial is cancelled then?
As I rig the enemy truck to blow and walk away from the explosion like a big damn action hero, one of my fellow recruits mentions that he thought were supposed to be in training. The Commissar turns up to explain that "There's no better training, Comrade, than fighting to survive," and that's the end of the first level.
DECEMBER 2, 1942. STALINGRAD.
It took me a while to catch on to the fact that this level is actually set an entire year after the first one, in an entirely different bitterly cold winter. All Russian levels in WW2 shooters must take place in the snow, you see! Or else we might get confused and think we're fighting in France or something.
THREE STEPS LATER.
Sgt. Stasya Ulyanova on the other hand wasn't so lucky, dying immediately in the hail of gunfire.
Once a few more enemies had been taken out, my squad automatically ran out ahead to find cover behind that wall and I decided to take it as my cue to single-handedly storm that building across the street. I'm sure they'll be right behind me.
Here's another one of the game's new features: smoke clouds. I can throw down a smoke grenade to give myself a safe path across dangerous ground and it seems that the enemies can use it themselves to hide from my sniper scope.
Incidentally I had to sacrifice my rifle to pick this gun up as the game only allows me to carry two weapons at once, though that's been a 'feature' since the first game.
Yeah, I'm going to need a better plan here aren't I?
I ran straight up the field towards the oncoming horde, ducked into a house, and threw my entire stash of frag grenades into the charging enemies coming my way... and it worked. A dozen enemies propelled into the air by multiple blasts, flying in every direction in perfect unison, and I didn't get a decent screenshot of it.
Nothing I can do about it now though really, aside from running out there into the open in front of the enemy machine gunners to check the bodies for more grenades, so that I can try it again when the next wave comes along.
To be fair, one of my dudes might have even shouted at me to flank them, I honestly wouldn't know. They shout so much stuff that I've begun to unintentionally tune half of it out. Works great for atmosphere though.
Still at least it saves us the job of storming the place, and now we have plenty of rocks for grenade practice.
They've... given me nothing to complain about here. It's a proper functioning level select, just like I always want in every game. Thumbs up and kudos to the developers.
OCTOBER 29, 1942. NORTHERN EGYPT.
There are ways to tell them apart, for instance pointing a gun at soldier will either reveal their name in green or turn my crosshairs red, depending on how likely they are to start swearing at me in German. But hesitating for a moment to check for things like that is a sure way for me to get a bullet in the face.
NOVEMBER 6, 1942. EL DABA.
I didn't realise quite how pale and brown it's all been until now. So that's why people call these games grey/brown military shooters. It's not entirely dissimilar to the look of a certain WW2 movie starring Tom Hanks in fact.
I've been paying attention to the level design, trying to figure out how much freedom the game's actually giving me to run around the battlefield, and to be honest it's not actually as restrictive and linear as I expected. Sure we're usually all running to some end goal instead of exploring every corner, but it's not just a straight line to the end and I'm often allowed to go wandering around the streets.
Not in this case though; this bit really is just a narrow straight line filled with enemies.
This friendly fire bullshit is actually my main criticism of the game so far, though I can't say with absolute certainty that it isn't entirely my own fault. For all I know I could have a below average ability to distinguish between two similar shades of brown pixels in a chaotic war zone, and no one else has trouble determining friend from foe. I should probably be glancing at my minimap radar every now and again to double check who I'm running up to, but I usually forget that thing's even there.
Back to the last checkpoint then. There's another thing I should mention: the game has no quick saves.
It also features scripted set pieces like this that play out occasionally as the level progresses, but I've never once felt like yelling at an ally for getting in my way or at the game for forcing me to do something. I've got an arrangement with my guys: I handle most of the shooting and they open all of the necessary doors, and that's worked just fine so far. Well, apart from this one time.
That guy in the background carrying the box is actually the mysterious soldier from the that screenshot earlier, so I feel happier knowing that I am unlikely to be playing as him at any point.
MARCH 11, 1943. TOUJANE.
By the way, just to give you an idea of how the combat generally plays out in these situations: at this kind of range I generally depress the trigger of my machine gun and wave it around like a magic wand that makes everything on screen instantly die. I have heard of the concept of firing short controlled bursts, I just don't see how it applies to me.
Or I could just lob over a grenade or two, they love that. Don't worry, I'm sure one of them will be carrying some to refill my stock.
By the way, I've got this on the default, medium difficulty (like everything I play for the site), so I don't know if easy mode turns off friendly fire or if hard mode turns off checkpoints. I'm definitely getting tempted to find out though.
MARCH 30, 1943. MATMATA.
The gun is so slow that by the time I've figured out which way the aircraft are coming from and have got the barrels lined up I'm either shot dead by a sniper on the wall, or I get blown up by that grenade that's landed right next to me.
Though I suppose the smart move would be to get back off the gun and then sort those particular issues out before shooting at the planes. Yeah, I think I'll give that plan a try.
I'm not quitting this, there ain't no way I'm letting this level beat me. I just need to step away for a few minutes and take a break. I just need to calm down a bit is all, do something mind-numbing and low stress... like browsing wikipedia.
Hmm, despite the title it turns out that Call of Duty 2 is really the third game in the franchise. Well I suppose you could also include Medal of Honor: Allied Assault as a kind of Call of Duty 0, but I'm talking about a true COD game for the PS2 and Xbox called Call of Duty: Finest Hour made by Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z developer Spark Unlimited (with Exact handling a Game Cube port). Just to confuse things further, Treyarch also began their own run of Call of Duty games at this point, starting with a console exclusive called... Call of Duty 2: Big Red One.
Here, I've drawn up a helpful chart to
Right, now I've recovered my zen I can get back to that bloody anti-aircraft turret.
Okay, let's try this again. There's a checkpoint here so I don't have to replay much to get back to shooting. The thing is, it saved while I was on the gun with a grenade at my feet, so I have to deal with that each time or get immediately blown up.
This wouldn't even be any fun at the best of times though. Why do devs keep putting these bloody turret sequences into their games anyway? Star Wars was 36 years ago guys, move on!
That's it, after this stage I'm going back to Russia. It may be -20C and I may have to eat rocks because I threw all my potatoes away, but at least the Russian Army would never be cruel enough to make me man a turret.
You can click any of these images to make them bigger by the way, in case you missed that tiny message at the start of the article.
Okay then, I will now express my final thoughts on Call of Duty 2 in the form of a wall of text.
I believe that the Call of Duty games are acclaimed more for their multiplayer gameplay than their single player campaigns these days, as they've gotten more cinematic and more scripted to the point where the player is basically just along for ride. This isn't like that. This is a proper bloody first person shooter and I enjoyed (almost) every minute I've played of it so far.
In fact I went back to replay a couple of the levels I disliked to get better screenshots of the things that pissed me off first time around, and found that I couldn't. Those issues had dissipated in the meantime as I got a better handle on what was actually happening on the level and why I kept getting friendly fire game overs. If you see Nazis manning an MG-42 nest facing away from you, it's probably not an invitation to take part a turret sequence y'know. (Fuck that anti-aircraft turret bit though... and fuck the one that turns up in Call of Duty 1 as well for that matter.)
The game basically looks at World War 2 in the same way as I've looked at the game here, taking a series of disconnected snapshots and showing them off to give an impression of what it was like, though I don't think anyone involved in making this had any intention of selling players on the concept of war. It's more of an anthology of events than a continuous story and that hurts it a little as there hasn't been a feeling that it's building towards anything. It's just 20 something short tales of blokes that shot Nazis.
Oh right, there's two other things that I should probably register my opinion about: regenerating health and the two weapon limit. Honestly, I reckon they were both... a pretty good idea actually IN THIS CASE. Searching for health kits would add an extra complication the gameplay doesn't really need, as it's not about exploring a level or managing resources at all. Having to sneak through a level with 5hp left playing it cautious until you can find the next medikit wouldn't suit it, and that's fine. The weapon limit works as well as there's only basically two kinds of enemies in the game: ones that are close, and ones that are far away, so once you're prepared for them any extra guns would be a bit superfluous. To be honest I felt that dragging around 500 guns at once in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault was more of a hassle than a benefit.
The multiplayer on the other hand... wouldn't know, never tried it!
If you'd like to say anything about the game, point out how I'm totally wrong, back me up when I've been right, or leave any other miscellaneous feedback, then feel free to do just that. The comment box stands ready to convey your opinions to the internet.