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But neither the graphics nor the sound would make this a great game if it all wasn’t so brilliantly orchestrated. Call of Duty 2 effortlessly manages what Medal of Honor has tried to do for years, and what Quake 4 tried desperately to replicate on planet Strogg: create a fast-paced, cinematic experience of warfare that never lets up for a second. The pacing is stunning. Call of Duty 2 throws enemies thick and fast at you, yet it never feels as one-note repetitive as F.E.A.R. or as clumsy and mindless as Quake 4. It’s just a more varied experience. One minute you might be pushing Nazi forces back through the streets of Stalingrad, the next you’re infiltrating a contested station through a narrow pipeline, shrinking back as bullets riddle the metal, the shafts of light marking how near you came to death. Later on there are also some enjoyable if short-lived episodes of tank-to-tank combat, some great skirmishes in North African towns, and a spot of really-extreme rock climbing. It’s not really a case that there’s anything here you haven’t seen before, but have you seen it done so well? Probably not.
Admittedly, the game does rather lead you by the nose. Some missions give you a choice of objectives, but these basically come down to “should I blow up this place first, or after I’ve blow up the others?” The size of the maps mean it doesn’t quite have the ‘corridor’ mentality of the early Medal of Honor games, but there are times when you can definitely feel the walls keeping you hemmed in.
Still, it’s amazing how well the game prevents you from thinking about this by giving you too much else to think about. As you and your comrades surge forwards, encountering pockets of resistance then falling back to a defensive position, you really won’t be worrying about the lack of secondary objectives or why half the doors can’t be blown open. Instead, you’re just busy worrying about survival.
In this sense, it helps that the enemy AI is pretty good. The Nazis aren’t as smart as F.E.A.R.’s railing-vaulting, always-sneaking-up-behind-you thugs, but they’re fully prepared to charge, reposition, outflank you and grenade you, so if you insist on charging in like its still Wolfenstein 3D, then you’re going to die. A lot. Remember – concealment is you friend, so if you must rush into battle, make sure you use those handy smoke grenades wisely.