Killing Nazis is great fun – computer games and movies alike have made a fortune off this simple premise, but Call of Duty was one of the first games not to glorify it for a cheap buck. Scenes such as the Russian siege of Stalingrad, where legions of conscripts – some bearing flags, some unarmed – can be seen charging German machine guns and getting mowed down, are genuinely moving and give strong emotional insight into the tragedies of war. Which is why the cheap, linear, arcade-y feel of the third party expansion pack: United Offensive, was such as disappointment. Motto of the story: if you want something done right, do it yourself.
Infinity Ward is the genius behind the original and while the expansion pack never quite got the hammering it deserved, it knows the franchise got off lightly. This is made apparent by the developer’s mission statement that the sequel be told once again from the perspective of a soldier in a squad, not a lone Rambo figure armed to the teeth.
Whereas the original Call of Duty was also based on a heavily modded version of the Quake 3 engine (incredible, but true), the sequel is powered this time around by the company’s own proprietary engine and the first screenshots look superb.
Like the first game, you’ll be able to play in campaigns for the British, Americans and Russians, but what has changed is that you will not have to play each campaign in its entirety before you can switch to the next. This works for me because you won’t have to play from 1940 to 1945 for one country then suddenly be jumped back three years to pick up with another. It gives a greater sense of a war waged simultaneously on multiple fronts.
Greater enemy and squad AI is the other promise in COD2, with tactics such as flanking and laying down suppressing fire now a crucial part of the game play rather than a hit and miss affair. In addition, a technology called the “Battle Chatter System” is designed to integrate what soldiers say much more closely with what is occurring on the battlefield.
The final innovation in COD2 is visibility, with smoke, sandstorms, blizzards and even reflections having a huge impact the combat. Check out the shots above to see the rich detail being poured into this.
As you can probably tell, I’m really rooting for this follow up. War games based on actual events have a moral responsibility to get their portrayal right and COD2 promises to be an important corrective step for the series. Expect it in Q3, courtesy of Activision. Lock n’ Load Private!