If you’re smart and use cover then you probably won’t die so much. That’s because CoD2 audaciously does away with health, medipacks and the whole quickload/quicksave setup of most FPS games with a simplified system where, if you get hit several times in succession, you’re dead. If you get the “heavily wounded” message in time and make it to cover, then your health regenerates.
In theory, this should break the game. After all, it gives you a license to blast Jerrie to bits, then run around the corner and snigger while your health builds up. Yet in practice, it does quite the opposite. The mechanism simply keeps the action flowing while encouraging you to make use of available cover and if you’re stupid or slow on your feet, then you’re still not going to succeed. While it lends a slightly surreal touch to the proceedings, is it any less realistic than the ability to reload to a point just before you got your damn fool head shot off? Not at all. In tandem with some well-placed checkpoints, it just keeps you immersed while preventing you from getting too frustrated.
CoD2 even triumphs in multiplayer, with effective Capture The Flag, Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes, and its own equivalent of Counter Strike: Search and Destroy. Your relative vulnerability – in comparison to Quake 4 or Half Life: Deathmatch – keeps things tense and thrilling, and the maps are perfect for the sort of ambush and duck-and-cover gameplay the game promotes.
Call of Duty 2 is not going to please everyone. It’s not as sophisticated a multiplayer offering as Battlefield 2, and not as realistic a single-player game as Brothers in Arms (though for me, the latter always felt a bit too hardcore). All in all, however, it’s a fantastic sequel and a straight-up awesome game. Perhaps it doesn’t do anything new, but it does what it does with such polish and breathtaking élan that you can’t really quibble. In an ideal world, this really would be the last word on World War II games, because I really can’t imagine anyone doing it much better than this.
Call of Duty 2 might not quite redefine the World War II action game, but it gives you a damn good reason to fight the good fight one more time. If you want the year’s best first person shooter, this is it.