Saying United Offensive is just another expansion pack for just another FPS is like saying Hurricane Jeanne is just another hurricane. Both are forces to be reckoned with and at least in the case of United Offensive it's definitely more entertaining...although its equally possible to lose your home, family and friends due to the sheer amount of time you'll spend playing it (at least online). Such is the life of a gamer on the edge.

Gray Matter, known for the highly acclaimed Return To Castle Wolfenstein appears to be showing off here. Simply put they've done their homework. The original COD was developed by upstarts Infinity Ward and was heralded as the second coming of FPS action games by critics and gamers alike. No small feat in the era of the immensely popular Battlefield 1942. However as the saying goes: There is room at the top, it's the bottom that's crowded. Capitalizing on absolutely everything that made the orignal COD a smash and taking it up a few Emeril notches, Gray Matter has given anyone with a hankering for some WW2 hijinks to hunker down in a foxhole.

Even with all of the improvements in place, United Offensive will be familiar to anyone who played the first installment. The campaigns play out from the allied perspectives of the US Battle of the Bulge, Russia's Battle at Kursk and the British during the Invasion of Sicily.While most of the game takes place from the familiar on the ground FPS perspective you know and love, vehicles have been added (tanks, jeeps, motorcycles) as well as missions which involve taking the gunner position on a B-17 Bomber which is one of the most intense and electrifying missions I've played in a war combat game. It's no surprise that vehicles were added to this expansion seeing as most of us were expecting them to be present in the first COD, but the popularity of Battlefield 1942 and its expansion Secret Weapons made it a lock and the game is better for it.

Along with 13 new mission, 11 multiplayer maps and new vehicles, 14 new weapons have been introduced including the ever popular flamethrower and the stationary machine gun which will help cut a swathe through the ever advancing German army. It's oddly satisfying to look an enemy soldier in the eye as you let fly with a blast of hot gas and flame. Just be careful not to set the trees on fire.

Often time players are eager to jump right into the multiplayer arena and ignore the single player campaign, fearing the levels are nothing more than waves of enemies with no depth. While the single player game can be completed in a weekend for someone with a decent amount of skill, you'll be hard pressed to find a moments peace. Packed with tons of scripted events and well placed variety in the missions, I only found my interest waning during the Kursk mission which I found to be the weakest of the three with the US mission placing first.

Although most of us will never experience war, games like Call of Duty, Battlfield 1942, Medal Of Honor et al certainly give one the minutest taste of what it might have been like (in all due respect) - at least in terms of visuals and noise. No game will ever recreate the feeling that any moment could be your very last. The visuals of COD:UO bring you to the front lines of WW2 with its incredible particle effects and explosions while the pounding sound effects of war haunt you long after you've played it. If you have a subwoofer, send the kids away for the weekend and play this game cranked. It will induce a feeling of stress that you can't experience if you're trying to let the rest of the family catch some Z's.

Jumping into a multiplayer game is definitely where it's at once you've had your fill of the single player campaign. While I haven't played all of the multiplayer maps as of this writing, I can tell you that each new map is huge compared to the original. For this very reason "campers" will not be able to sit around and pick people off which was rampant in COD. Instead snipers will have to be on the move and on the lookout for tanks that won't mind sending a nice explosive shell in your general direction. A further innovation of the multiplayer game is the ranking system which rewards for team play. Often times online games are breeding grounds for loners and mavericks who are only out for their own entertainment. The ranking system starts fresh at the beginning of each game and those who fight for the team will be justly rewarded with cool items such as a few extra grenades and depending on your skills, the ability to call in an airstrike. Wait until you see and hear that in action.

The only negative I can level towards UO is the game engine doesn't always want to hold up its share of the bargain, even with a PC with higher than the minmum requirements. But since this review was conducted on only one PC (AMD 2200 With 522 MB Ram, GeForce 3) I can't be sure everyone will run into the same slowdown that I deed. You might have to tweak your visuals, which could be a damn shame considering the game looks so great.

What you've got here is a pricey expansion pack worth every little penny. If you've got the original game and a PC slightly above the recommended PIII 800 MHz, 256 MB RAM and a supported video card - ATI Radeon, nVidia GeForce and Matrox Parhelia - there shouldn't be anything stopping you from joining the Offensive. Hitler needs his ass kicked and you're just the gamer to do it.


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Dev: Grey Matter
Pub: Activision
Release: Sept 2004
Players: 1 - online
Review By Vaughn