Call of Duty 2 for PC Review

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I guess you could say the original Call of Duty is a landmark title. After all, it is the foundation for one of the most successful video game franchises in history. In my opinion, it’s one of the best World War II shooters of its time. It’s also a very simple shooter, at least as far as the single player is concerned. It’s a shooting gallery but a fun shooting gallery. It was followed up by a sequel that aimed to be bigger and better and was actually my gateway to the series way back when. Developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision, Call of Duty 2 was released for PC in October, 2005 and Xbox 360 in November of that same year. For this review, I played the PC version. This review will primarily focus on the single player portion of the game which lets players experience various World War II battles through the perspectives of different soldiers. The game does come with a multiplayer component which, as of this review is still active. I found numerous servers to join but a lot them were primarily populated with bots.

The single player consists of three campaigns; a Soviet campaign, British Campaign, and American campaign. You’ll defend Moscow from German forces, engage the Germans in North Africa, and take part in the Normandy Landings and the battle for Hill 400. Call of Duty 2 is another entry clearly designed to offer a cinematic experience with action-packed set pieces and some obvious Hollywood influences.

Call of Duty 2 is a lot like the first game. Each soldier or protagonist, minus the tank commander functions the same and if you strip away the World War II setting, it’s not hard to see that this is another simple shooter. A lot of running and shooting. Run around, shoot the enemies that appear, stay behind something to avoid damage. That’s the gist of it. But there’s two things that make Call of Duty 2 feel different than its predecessor. One, is regenerating health, and two, is more open-ended environments.

In the first Call of Duty, the player needed to find health kits to replenish health. That’s gone in Call of Duty 2. When the player takes damage, they lose health and after taking enough damage, they die. However, if the player is hurt but manages to avoid taking additional damage for long enough, their health will automatically regenerate. It’s hardly realistic but it is a game changer. This basically means you’re not forced to be careful at any point ever. You can charge into any battle head-on without any concern for your own safety and the consequences are minimal. Three things can happen. One; you’ll survive and continue to push forward. Two; you’ll survive but lose some health which will simply regenerate. Or three; you’ll die and be thrown right back in at the last save point and the game does autosave frequently.

Regenerating health also affects the pacing to some degree and I would say Call of Duty 2 is a little faster-paced than its predecessor. The action never lets up. It’s just boom boom boom all the way to the end, and because of the regenerating health, you can just go with the flow without ever worrying about hitting a wall due to health reasons. As a result, you could say Call of Duty 2 feels a bit easier than the last game. Don’t get me wrong, Call of Duty 2 can be a trial and error experience and harder difficulties means more challenging gameplay. No matter what difficulty you play on, carelessness can result in death and cover is crucial for survival. But dying typically doesn’t set you back very far thanks to the frequent autosaves.

Call of Duty 2 is a linear game and you’re always told where to go, what to do, and how to do it. Thinking is not always required. However, many environments are open-ended which means there will be multiple ways to approach encounters and some missions task you with multiple objectives that can be completed in any order. The environments in these missions are typically open with plenty of space to maneuver and different paths and routes to take. Granted, this doesn’t change the gameplay all that much, as in a mission won’t play out drastically different if you take one route as opposed to another but it is nice to have multiple options.

You’ll get your hands on typical World War II weaponry and the gunplay is pretty good, overall. Guns feel satisfying to fire thanks to good audiovisual feedback. But Call of Duty 2 is not a super gory game. You won’t be blowing off body parts or splattering blood all over the environments. Puffs of blood appear when characters are shot and that’s as far as the gore goes. What is cool, though, is that wounded or downed enemies can still shoot at you and some will try to crawl away. You’ll even see injured foes limping around the battlefields.

Smoke grenades can prove to be very useful in single player. The smoke emitted will conceal your movement, great for getting passed enemies and avoiding damage. The smoke also makes it easier to advance towards machine gun nests, tanks, or other enemy armor. Grenades in general seem to be in infinite supply. You typically start missions with about a handful of frag and smoke grenades and can replenish your stock with ones you find in the environments. The Germans are very grenade happy to the point it can be both frustrating and comical. They will lob grenades frequently and, luckily, an indicator appears on your HUD when you’re near one. It’s not uncommon for two or more grenades to land at your feet or in your vicinity and because of how often they lob grenades, I was always on the move during firefights.

Call of Duty 2 is a game designed to make you feel like you’re just a small part of something bigger. The protagonists are just soldiers doing their jobs and are always accompanied by other soldiers, AI friendlies. Despite having to complete all the objectives on your own, you’re not doing anything solo. It’s often wise to stick with your squad and straying too far can result in death. Both the friendly and enemy AI are adequate. They run around, shoot at and kill each other, and friendlies can distract foes from targeting you. They also get in your way from time to time which can be annoying and it becomes more problematic in tight spaces.

Most of the time you’ll be running and gunning as you complete various objectives. You’ll have to destroy things, repel German forces, disable tanks, provide covering fire, capture locations, and defend areas and there’s one mission in the British campaign that has you driving a tank, using it to destroy enemy Flak positions. The run and gun action will be broken up by set pieces and scripted sequences like gunning enemies down from an armored car and directing artillery fire.

Encounters are clearly designed to look and feel exciting and that’s what carries the game because when you really get down to it, Call of Duty 2 is basically another shooting gallery. It has to be flashy otherwise I think it would be very boring. You push forward, shoot the enemies that appear, rinse and repeat. Call of Duty 2 focuses on combat and is designed to reflect the “cinematic intensity” of battle. Compared to its predecessor, the more open-ended environments give you a little more freedom on the battlefields, but the formula is basically unchanged.

It’s the audiovisual presentation and all the shouting, gunfire, explosions, and planes flying overhead that add some flash to the experience. Call of Duty 2 features numerous scripted scenarios and situations that are obviously designed to get you excited and immersed into the simulated experience of war. When you advance towards the enemy using a tank as cover. When you duck and run through a trench as bullets zip around above you. When you have to snipe enemy mortar teams from atop a building. When you have to use an MG42 to gun down the waves of Germans closing in on your position. It’s these kinds of situations that I’m talking about. Situations that add a bit of variation to the otherwise repetitive action.

Call of Duty 2 will take you to a good variety of locations around Europe and Africa. The environments are linear and the star on the compass on your HUD indicates where your objective is located so getting lost is basically impossible. The game guides you through the experience. Even with the more open areas, each level or map keeps you and the action contained which does help keep the pacing consistent. You’ll move through various buildings, bunkers, barracks, tunnels, and trenches. Battles will take place in a mix of open and tight spaces and the more open-ended areas typically contain a lot of buildings, structures and objects.

Visually, Call of Duty 2 does look better than its predecessor and does good job at conveying a war-torn feel complete with rubble, bombed out buildings, craters in ground from explosions, and areas on fire, all of which helped immerse me into the atmosphere. For it’s time, Call of Duty 2 featured a good amount of detail and impressive visual effects and I still really enjoy the smoke effects in particular. It was a great looking game. The pop-in can be an eyesore and some of the animations look a bit stiff now but for the most part, the visual presentation still holds up pretty well. The audio work is also impressive. Gunfire is loud, explosions are booming, planes roar as they fly by and the action is accompanied by an excellent soundtrack. On the technical side, I did encounter some crashes after changing some settings in the menu so I consulted the game’s PCGamingWiki page for solutions. After I resolved the issue and got everything configured, I didn’t run into any problems and the game ran smooth.

Call of Duty 2 is special to me because it’s the first game in the series that I played. I think it was the first game I played that let you aim down sights and I always thought that was cool. Little did I know it would become commonplace in the genre. I also think it’s the first game I played that featured regenerating health which is also a common mechanic in games today. It’s interesting to see how things change over the years. But enough nostalgia. After playing through it again now, I think it’s still a solid shooter and one of the better World War II shooters out there. It does feel a lot like the first game but I welcome the new additions and changes. My favorite being the more open-ended environments. It’s primarily a linear game but having more freedom on the battlefields made me feel less restricted to some degree. It’s faster paced, it looks better, and it’s easy to pick up and play.

I would recommend Call of Duty 2 to anyone that enjoys the first game or World War II shooters in general. It’s got a lot of shooting, a lot of explosions, and a lot of action. Ultimately, it’s a simple shooter that doesn’t require too much thinking. Definitely check it out.

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