For the past several years, First-Person Shooters based on the themes on and surrounding World War II have saturated the market. The gritty realism that these games portray has definitely struck a chord with PC gamers, giving them something much more realistic and believable than the sci-fi/fantasy based shooter that initially proliferated within the market. Being able to take part in a truly historical 'good vs. evil' struggle with realistic weapons, situations, and characters for some reason seems that much more fulfilling than that with your average shooter. Call of Duty, the latest release from Activision does just this; providing gamers with an unparalleled form of FPS WWII gaming with its mix of intense gaming and true to life gameplay scenarios.
Like many of the current WWII shooters on the market, CoD puts the player in the shoes of an Allied forces solider, pitting him against the forces of the Axis war machine in a life or death struggle. Using the ground weapons and tactics found in the years just before the war's end in 1945, players will find themselves fighting it out across the landscapes of Europe, including France, Germany, and Russia in battles and situations that actually took place during the various conflicts that made up World War II. What makes this particular title stand out from the crowd is in its particular form of gameplay. CoD gives players the opportunity to view the Allied push into Germany through the perspective of its three main participating armies: the Americans, the British, and the Russians. Each army has its own set of maps, objectives, weapons, as well as a few other unique and special situations, partitioning CoD into three different avenues of gaming.
The forces of America are the first set of maps that players will enter into (including the opening tutorial missions). Players take on the role of Private Martin, fresh out of basic training and ready to fight for the Allies as a member of the United States 101st Airborne Division. Parachuting into the outskirts of Normandy, Martin has to engage enemy ground units, secure vital positions, and try to destroy anti-aircraft guns: all in order to prepare for the upcoming D-Day invasion. While the standard FPS combat scenarios are present (gunning down enemy forces, running for your life, etc.) the game developers at Infinity Ward did an excellent job mimicking the events prior to the invasion of Normandy. Simply put, nothing went as planned by the Allied Generals, and it shows in the game. Players will be tasked with regrouping with their comrades as well as remnants of other divisions in order to complete their set of objectives. As a Pathfinder, you'll even need to keep enemy ground units at bay holding your position and staying alive long enough for a counter to run down that marks the air drop of reinforcements.
The highlight of the Allied portion of the game comes in the form of a running gun fight in an old French built Citroen two-door car that seems barely able to run, let alone carry three men. As your commanding officer drives insanely across the French countryside in a desperate attempt to deliver an important message to your reinforcements in the next town, you and another solider are charged with the task fending off the Nazi forces chasing after you. Foot soldiers, trucks, armored vehicles, and even tanks will chase after you relentlessly as you exchange fire with out the side, back, and front windows. Again, this has to be one of the most intense and exhilarating combat scenarios I've ever faced in a WWII FPS. Not only that, but it was fun as well. Just as things start to settle down on the American front, players are whisked away to the second set of maps found in Call of Duty. This time around, players take on the role of Sergeant Evans, a member of the British 6th Airborne Division. Set up as another support viewpoint of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, Evans and his British compatriot's crash land near their first objective, the famed Pegasus Bridge which is a strategic location during World War II needed for transport of heavy equipment and troops. Securing this location isn't the only task the Brits have to face: they'll also see action as they fight to secure the Edus Dam, and even infiltrate and attempt to disable the famed German Battleship Tripitz.
What's really interesting about the British point of view first of all is how the story surrounding the events unfolds. While the American storyline and characters seemed slightly gung-ho yet innocent in nature, and even slightly unorganized as a fighting unit (as told to us during the intermissions between levels), this new storyline is the exact opposite. The British forces seem clear of mind, determined, and anally organized in their plans and operations, right down to the nicely typed mission info sheet that is provided to you at the start of each level (compared to the American version which is hand written). Prim and proper attitudes that have made the English…well, English, exudes from this particular storyline.
Probably the most singularly cool aspect of playing the British army is the ability to take command and control of heavy weapons placements. One mission allows players to man a large caliber German artillery gun, giving them the ability to lob the destructive shells at the advancing Nazi army and Tank regiments while defending a strategic location. Another mission allows you the opportunity to take down German aircraft (as well as ground soldiers if you're lucky) with a huge 4 barreled Anti-Aircraft Flak Gun while your countrymen commandeer a transport aircraft for your escape. Again, this is a nice break and truly enjoyable respite from the standard FPS gaming style and really diversifies the overall gameplay.
The third installment of Call of Duty was not only the most intriguing part of the game, it was also by the far the most compelling. Taking on the role of Alexei, a conscripted soldier forced to fight in the Russian Infantry; players really come to understand what a horrific experience it must have been for the real world Soviet soldiers during World War II. Unlike the other two members of the Allied Force depicted in the game, the Russian side doesn't even allow you to start off with a weapon. Instad, you get thrown a pack of ammo from a supply clerk yelling over the constant sounds of gunfire and mortar strikes. He states to the desperate crowd of Russian fighters, 'One man takes the rifle, the other the ammunition. When a comrade with the rifle falls, you take the weapon and use your ammo!". If that isn't bad enough, you also learn that your own men will turn and shoot you as a traitor if you don't enter the battle soon enough. Add to that a game of chicken you have to play unarmed against several German machine gun nests and sniper positions, and you'll soon understand why the Russians had to be tough during this bitter period of their history.
Throughout the missions and levels found in the Russian part of CoD, you'll find yourself running for your life, outmanned, outgunned, and always searching for more ammo. Not only that, but you're also be bombarded with all sorts of propaganda from both sides of the conflict: Nazi and Russian. The Russians goad you into giving your life for the 'Motherland' in order to defeat the evil fascist Nazi regime. The fighters of the 3rd Reich on the other hand try to convince you to give up the struggle, and that their fight is against your corrupt government and not against the poor, starving Russian soldiers. They have no animosity towards the poor, hapless Russian peasant forced into the conflict against their will. Of course the enemy will still shoot you on sight if they see you, regardless of what you hear on the loudspeakers. Still, it's a real eye-opener to the situations that the Russian Infantry had to deal with during this time, I must admit.
As with the American and British portions of the game, the Russian side also has its own unique battle sequence, taking the gameplay away from the standard FPS combat found in CoD. For the Soviet fighting force, players are allowed to take command of their very own tank, fighting it out with Nazi Panzer Divisions and deadly ground troops armed with tank killing panzer-fausts. Again, this change up of the gameplay found in CoD was quite entertaining (if slightly expected after seeing it in the other two Allied army missions). Though controlling the tanks took a little practice, we soon learned that taking out a enemy unit with a well placed blast from the tanks main cannon was quite fulfilling. Pretty much the only complaint I had after running through the tank missions was that they were too quick: we needed more time to really get the feel of this specialized form of combat made popular by the Russian Army.
Beyond the individual gameplay elements of each of the three armies found in Call of Duty, the overall aesthetics found within the game remained true throughout. For example, the quality of the game's graphics were just brilliant. The various war torn locations and background settings found in the game were extremely realistic and authentic looking, right down to the propaganda posters found in Nazi barracks and headquarters to the ruined Soviet built utilitarian apartment buildings outside of Stalingrad. The weapons found in the game were also extremely realistic, allowing true WWII history buffs the chance to utilize many of the rifles, guns, and other armaments from the era without actually killing another living, breathing human being. Speaking of the weapons, the designers of Call of Duty quite a few realistic combat qualities to the overall gameplay, including barrel sight aiming, prone positioning combat, and real-time reload characteristics. Add to that the ability for a player to pick up any and every weapon on the battlefield from a fallen character, and you'll find that your combat choices can change in an instant (keep in mind you can only carry two rifle-type weapons at a time, however). The most entertaining and unexpected aspect of the game, however, came in the form of the 'shell-shock' experience you would get after getting thumped by a closed ranged mortar round or bomb explosion that didn't actually kill you. Instead, players have to muddle through a slowed and surreal visual frenzy, mimicking the confused state a real-life soldier would have to experience. Though it doesn't last that long, it does make moving and combat extremely difficult, making you and easy target for an advancing enemy unit.
The only real faults I could find while playing Call of Duty were minor annoyances at best. For example, while the character designs (included uniforms, insignias, etc.) were quite realistic, the character models themselves were rather blocky and cartoonish at times, especially when moving in the semi-crouched position. The squad based combat that was toted prior to the games release also isn't all that it was cracked up to be: you can't really command the other members of your team that participate in a mission. Instead, they end up as backup help for your, firing at who they want, and traveling for the most part where they want to go without any input from the player whatsoever. The multiplayer aspect of CoD was also not as invigorating as I would have liked. Although the maps and missions were plentiful (including minor team based combat, Death Matches, and goal oriented situations) there wasn't the full fledged class based multiplayer gaming that other WWII FPS title such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Medal of Honor offer.
Beyond the small problems that came up, I have
to say that Call of Duty is just a phenomenal game. All of its inherent
elements, including gameplay, storyline, sound, and graphics are just above
average. Fans of the WWII based shooter are going to love the accurate and
gritty portrayal of the historical actions and events leading up to D-Day and
the invasion of Berlin. The change up of gameplay from the American, British,
and Russian viewpoints of the overall combat is a nice change up for the games
progression, giving players something a little different than the norm. Again,
Call of Duty is an excellent game that I recommend to any fan of the shooter
genre as well as the history buff looking for a little computer gaming action.