|Dev: Infinity Ward|
|Release: October 29, 2003|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Blood, Violence|
by Josh Wirtanen
At this point, Call of Duty is pretty much a household name. But this wasn't always the case. Call of Duty actually had a rather humble beginning as fledgling IP out of a brand new company, Infinity Ward.
Call of Duty was originally released as an answer to EA's World War II megahit, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. In fact, Infinity Ward at the time was made up of people who had worked on Allied Assault. But CoD wasn't just an Allied Assault ripoff; it managed to take a lot of elements that were starting to emerge in first-person shooters at the time and hone them to a level of polish that no other FPS had yet managed to accomplish. Call of Duty was basically a culmination of the FPS as a genre up to that point, almost the same way that the first Modern Warfare game was several years later. After playing the original Call of Duty back in 2003, it was simply undeniable that the FPS was changing, growing, evolving.
One of the most important things the game got right was the ADS (aim-down-sight) feature. Call of Duty wasn't the first game to allow your character to bring a gun up to his face for a down-the-barrel view, but this feature was so well-implemented that once we experienced it in CoD, we didn't want to ever return to a pre-ADS world. CoD basically popularized ADS, and now, it would be pretty difficult to find a modern FPS that doesn't use it. (With the exception of Left 4 Dead, that is.)
Call of Duty was praised for its graphics back then, although they don't hold up these days. Looking back, it's hard to believe how dull the color scheme was. In our current gaming generation, there may be jokes about how all modern FPS games are just various shades of brown, but Call of Duty was the brownest of them all.
Even more than its graphical strength, however, the game was praised for its phenomenal audio elements. Gun sounds were loud and crisp, and in a great touch that brought you deeper into the experience, you could hear the bullets whizzing by your head. Call of Duty raised the bar for FPS sound effects, and maybe even for volume—it was loud.
The single-player campaign did something pretty inventive for the FPS genre at the time: it let you experience World War II from three different perspectives. You played through three somewhat connected narratives, taking control of Private Joey Martin of America, Sergeant Jack Evans of England, and Alexei Ivanovich Voronin of the Soviet Army. Each character's storyline was fairly short—you could easily finish all three segments of the campaign in about ten hours—but this POV-shifting paved the way for some really interesting plot devices in the later CoD games. Modern Warfare is a particularly good example, as this perspective-hopping led to some unexpected twists, like getting to experience the death of certain characters through their own eyes.
An expansion, United Offensive, would launch just under a year later, making a major addition: vehicular combat. In United Offensive, you could drive tanks and jeeps, even in multiplayer modes. Since United Offensive also added the Capture-the-Flag mode, jeep driving became an essential part of developing a good team strategy. One map in particular, Rhinevalley, made exceptional use of the terrain to make Capture-the-Flag modes incredibly intense with vehicles. There was a fairly large distance between flags, and a giant hill right in the center to lower visibility. There were several various ways to navigate this terrain, be it crossing over the hill on foot or driving all the way around in a jeep. Each method came with its own risks and rewards, and knowing which to choose when was key in winning matches in Rhinevalley.
Of course, while CoD's single-player campaigns have put you in the driver's seat several times through the years, modern Call of Duty games have crossed drivable vehicles off of their multiplayer formula.
The Original Call of Duty may not have introduced the gaming world to a whole lot of new features, but it took the FPS and brought it to the next level. It managed to combine several emerging gameplay elements into a blend that felt like it got just about everything right. As we all know, the Call of Duty series is still going strong; in fact, it's one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time. But it all began with one little PC title set in World War II, one that is well-deserving of a spot on our list of the best World War video games ever made.
CCC Editor / Contributing Writer