Sunday, 23 March 2014

Call of Duty 2 (PC)

Today on Super Adventures I'm playing a Call of Duty game, in an effort to make every other game on the site look more unusual and obscure by comparison.

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.)

The game begins with an intro video showing various scenes of soldiers doing exciting things, presumably rendered with the game engine with the colour filters set to 'washed out'. We're still in World War II for this one by the way; the series wouldn't make the jump to the modern era for another two years.

In between all the action footage the camera hangs on this bloke for a second and I'm kinda worried now that I might be playing as him at some point. Abraham Lincoln might have been able to pull off that beard, but the 16th President of the United States this guy is not (unless there's one hell of a twist in the third act.)

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!

They must have been running low on cash at this point though, as it seems that they've taped their mission intro footage straight from the Military Channel.

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.


Interestingly the game starts with me playing as a one of the Russian recruits, a rifleman who's never so much as held a rifle before, even though he's quite clearly placed one down next to his diary.

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.

Of course because I'm a raw recruit I have to do a mandatory training level first before they'll let me into the actual game. C'mon man, I'm a veteran of 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.

Fortunately there were still some guns left for me in a nearby storage room so I get to play outside with the others after all. I've gotten myself a good quality rifle, though it's nothing compared to the extravagance of this firing range. The British and Americans recruits are no doubt shooting at paper or wooden targets right now, while I get to destroy elegant porcelain cutlery and fine wine.

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.

The Russians are also pragmatic enough to realise that using actual grenades in training is a bit of a waste. Though throwing their food away probably isn't genius level thinking either considering it can't be so easy to come across right now.

Couldn't they find any rocks?

Still, they gave me a dedicated 'lob potato' button, so I'm going to good use of it at every opportunity.

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?

Well so far this isn't so different from the original Call of Duty. My squad and I have been sent on a tour of some ruined buildings, which requires me to shoot at a fair amount of tiny camouflaged figures hiding behind walls in the distance. Fortunately the enemies don't seem to be too quick on the draw and my morality-sensitive crosshairs turn red when they're pointed at someone working for Hitler, so it's not as tricky as you might expect.

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.


With all the fuss being made about there being female soldiers in Call of Duty: Ghosts I was kind of surprised to run into a woman here in my squad. In retrospect I guess I should've realised they were only bothered about multiplayer.

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.


Oh crap, I just assumed that this whole building would be under Russian control. Fortunately I am unusually resistant to bullets, thanks to my (new to the series) Wolverine-style healing ability that lets me recover from any wound in just seconds.

Sgt. Stasya Ulyanova on the other hand wasn't so lucky, dying immediately in the hail of gunfire.

I ran up to the window and found plenty more Nazis across the street to shoot at. In fact I'm starting to wonder if there's any end to them, though to be fair that's more due to my recent experience with Allied Assault's infinite Nazis than anything this game's done wrong.

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.

This building has some great views from up here. Somehow Infinity Ward has managed to make the war torn ruins of a city look like something you could stick on a postcard.

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.

Aha, I see you, you bastards. Now I can take them down one by one as they charge up to me in an unstoppable horde across the open field. Well it's a good scheme in theory, but I'm starting to wonder if I'm going to be able to send out enough bullets in time.

Yeah, I'm going to need a better plan here aren't I?

Well shit, that's just annoying.

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.

In fact I'm getting kinda sick of being shot at by enemy machine guns so I'm going to creep around the side and flank them. I appreciate how the game made me feel like this was my idea, despite the path being very obvious.

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.

A few charges placed at key structural points later and the building is now rubble! Though I kind of skipped over my missing briefing this time due to reasons of impatience, so I can't be 100% certain that we actually came here to blow the place up. It looks like a fairly important building... well, looked like I mean.

Still at least it saves us the job of storming the place, and now we have plenty of rocks for grenade practice.

Hey, I get to select my next mission! The American levels are locked off right now but I get to either continue as the Russians or play as the Brits in Egypt. Each mission is broken into 2-4 individual levels so there's a lot more to the game than it looks, and I'm allowed to replay each sub-level individually instead of having to go through the entire bloody mission again in a block like in Allied Assault.

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.


Well this isn't working out quite like I'd hoped. I've got the freedom to run around the map, completing objectives however I feel like it, but I can barely see a thing and even when I can see an enemy I'm not even sure they are an enemy until they start firing at me. If I shoot the wrong guy I get a "Friendly fire will not be tolerated!" game over screen, over and over again.

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.


Ah, so the game does have a bit of colour in it! Kind of.

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.

Gotta love how using iron sights completely obscures all the people I'm shooting at. Not a serious complaint really, it just doesn't do my screenshots any favours.

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.

WHAT? You've got to be shitting me, there is no fucking way that guy was on my side. Or maybe he was.

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.

Oh dear, that door breaching didn't quite work out as this gentleman expected did it? I guess I can confirm that the game does feature blood, though it doesn't exactly revel in the gore.

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.

Hey it's fan favourite Captain Price (grandfather of fan favourite Captain Price), thoughtfully collecting wine bottles to send to our allies in Russia so that they may at last restock their firing ranges.

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.

This level seems to be a lot more open, letting me run wildly around around the streets, scaring the shit out of Nazis. Sure there's some barbed wire fences around to keep me contained, but there's a reasonable illusion of freedom.

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.

Ah. Well, there's one downside of letting me explore freely: it means that there's a decent chance that the squad I gun down around the next corner will turn out to be one of my own. Instant game over and I'm kicked back to the last checkpoint... which isn't actually that far back to be fair.

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.

Well I can't say that I'm 100% behind the level designer's decision to end this set of missions with a turret sequence. Mostly because it is really pissing me off about now.

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.

There we go! The only thing that puny grenade is going to do to my AA gun is keep the seat warm for me. Now I should be free to run back over, sit down, get the thing pointed the right way, and start shootin' down some planes already.

Oh for fuck's sake.

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 help make you as bored as I am right now help you understand how the games all fit together, beginning (confusingly) with developer 2015's Medal of Honor: Allied Assault:

There, now it should all make perfect sense! Well, apart from Call of Duty 3 being a console exclusive. Fortunately Treyarch remembered that the PC existed in time for Call of Duty: World at War and the CODBlops games, and the series has been the same on both consoles and computers ever since.

Right, now I've recovered my zen I can get back to that bloody anti-aircraft turret.


AGH, YOU FUCKING TURRET SHOOTING MINIGAME, FUCK! Wow that's... a suspiciously fitting quote.

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!

YES! I survived the explosion, I killed the bloke on the wall shooting at me and I successfully got my gun facing towards where incoming planes are coming from! I am finally ready now to BEGIN the turret sequence!

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.


Relax, I'm just looking at bombers fly overhead through the fog from a crack in this pipe I'm crawling through. A moment to chill out and enjoy the scenery.

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.

I'll turn this off now, but I just couldn't resist taking a couple more screenshots in the snow. These graphics may not be eight years behind the cutting edge as I'm writing this but I think they've held up pretty well.


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.


  1. Hang on, there were no BroDudes in World War II? This can't be a proper Call of Duty.

  2. Hey, you know that first weapon you get, as a ру́сский? That is a Mosin-Nagant, and you can have one too.
    Go to Big 5 or another large-chain sporting good store that sells firearms.
    Pay the person there about $100.
    Wait (if in California)
    Now you have one too.

    Kicks HARD, but you can hit a quarter off of a hooker's аскрак, and it will stop a car if you know where to shoot. Hell, the Inuit use them to kill polar bears, and they are often used in poaching rhinos due to the sheer power of the 7.62x54r round, which is able to pierce their armour plating with an FMJ (mil-surplus) round.
    Go buy one for the price of two new games and learn how to clean it; the primer is corrosive if you use FMJ.

    1. It's only $100 for a decent rifle? Man, I could spend the the price of three games and also get some dishes to shoot at while I was out. Maybe a couple of bottles of wine as well, so I could get a respectable firing range set up.

      But I'd have to move to America first, as firearms are banned in my country. First person shooters are pretty much the closest I can get right now to owning a rifle. It's probably better this way though, as I've got enough hardware lying around already that needs cleaning. Plus if I ever find myself needing a weapon I've got plenty of good solid throwing potatoes stashed away.


Semi-Random Game Box