XBOX 360 REVIEW: CALL OF DUTY 2

War! What is it good for? Absolutely nuthin! Except for having some fun on the Xbox 360. by Vaughn Smith

December 12 , 2005 - Developers desperately tried to make the Vietnam War the "it" war of 2004 at least in terms of video game franchises but unfortunately it was missing an integral ingredient: World War 2! Gamers gots to have their WW2 and with so many different series available on the PC and consoles dedicated to the Axis & Allies, the competition gets harder to beat each year.

Infinity Ward was the runt of the litter when it came onto the scene with it's little known Call Of Duty series, which attempted to take a bite out of the market from already popular franchises Commandos, Battlefield 1942, Medal Of Honor and Wolfenstein (to name but a few). To their credit, they succeeded in quickly establishing Call Of Duty as the new benchmark to beat. Now a little older and a little wiser, the Call of Duty series ups the ante in terms of visuals and action while once again allowing the Russians, the Brits and the Americans to tell their sides of the stories of war.

Unfortunately most of the good "battles" have been played to death (Omaha Beach anyone?) in the previously aforementioned series and Call Of Duty 2 doesn't blow the doors off in terms of historically significant clashes that you haven't already played, but when you're hiding in a foxhole fighting for your life, these kinds of things don't really matter a whole helluva lot. What CoD 2 does deliver is white knuckle intensity that rarely let's up and let's face it - that's why you want to play it in the first place. To that very end, Infinity Ward succeeds with flying shrapnel. It's just you and the war. Us vs. Them. Good vs. Evil. And if it wasn't taking place in the comfort of your living room, it would be terrifying as all get out. The encompassing objective of each mission, be it British, Russian or American, is to turn the tables on the Germans and end their occupation of the areas you'll be fighting in. CoD 2 is a constant battle for the upperhand rather than an epic clash.

Don't get too attached to your brothers in arms on the battlefield as some of them won't be coming back. It's definitely a surreal moment to watch one of your comrades dragging the body of a wounded soldier. You tilt the camera down to look into the blank stare and actually feel empathy for this digital creation. As in real war these moments don't last; it's not long before the bullets start whizzing by your head and you have to push on to fight the good fight striving to keep your vital organs in their right places.

CoD 2 plays identically to the PC version released last month aside from the obvious mandatory controller usage which you'll have to adapt to if you've never played a console FPS before. The locales you'll visit are Stalingrad, Africa and France respectively and each environment presents its own version of a living hell.

The fighting in CoD 2 is nothing short of intense. The bullets, explosions and frantic yelps from comrades rarely let up and most of the time you're unfairly outnumbered, but that's war for you. I mean, come on. What are you going to do...sit down in your foxhole and write a nasty letter to Hitler or Rommel telling them to lay off? The various difficulty levels which range from 'shooting gallery simple' to 'one shot and you're dead' will allow you to determine how realistic you want this war to be. For the most part, CoD 2 is as as realistic as I would expect war to be. One moment your brother in arms is telling you to get down and the next minute he's gone. Explosions rock the ground shaking your perspective sometimes to the point of dizziness, the throaty low rumble growl of an approaching enemy tank will strike terror into your heart while everwhere you look smoke, debris and fire will engulf you. There are incidents of blood but you'll be spared the more grisly visual details of war such as severed limbs and mutlitated bodies. There is an ever so slight gentle reminder that you are, in actuality, still playing a game and that's the health regeneration. If you do happen to be in the line of fire, Infinity Ward allows you to "get to cover" which will miraculously cure those nasty bullet wounds to the temple and chest you've incurred, as long as you don't hit get again within the time the screen is red (which indicates you've been hit). You'll also be given a radar screen which will show you where the bad guys are hiding or the location of your current objective as well as how many bullets/magazines/grenades you've got left. It suspends the belief a little, but after all it is still a game.

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System: PC, Next Gen
Dev: Infinity Ward
Pub: Activision
Release: Nov 2005
Players: 1 - 8
Review by Vaughn