Call of Duty is a new first-person shooter for the PC from Activision that attempts to take the World War II crown away from the Medal of Honor series. Going with the idea of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” Activision hired Infinity Ward, a company made up of ex-Medal of Honor programmers, to design the game
Recommended system requirements on the box
1 GHz processor
256MB of RAM
GeForceFX or ATI Radeon w/128 MB of RAM
1.15GB hard drive space
512MB DDR400/PC3200 RAM
Radeon 9800 Pro 128
SoundBlaster Live! Value w/EAX (mmm…surround sound)
With the tagline “No One Fights Alone” the game adds a team element by having you fight alongside a group of fellow countrymen that survive from mission to mission. Call me a freak, but you can't help investing some emotion in these guys. I even remember crying out "NOOOO!" when one Private, who had saved me a few seconds earlier with his BAR, ran around a corner too fast and was hit in the head by a sniper (then again, I used to get too involved with my squad when I played X-Com). Call of Duty attempts to bring more realism to the genre not only by adding squadmates, but also by making hiding and taking cover a necessary element of survival. You must be able to crouch and go prone behind buildings and in trenches in order to have any chance of staying alive.
The single player game is made up of three campaigns encompassing the three main countries fighting for the Allies in 1944. Realizing that there was no point in trying to top the spectacular Omaha Beach level in MOHAA, the American campaign starts with you as one of the paratroopers that dropped behind enemy lines in the hours before the D-Day invasion. Most of the American missions center around the capturing and defense of the French village of Ste-Mère-Eglise.
In the British missions you are member of the 6th Airborne in charge of capturing and defending the famous Pegasus Bridge (“Ham and Jam!”). The first mission starts off excellently as you and the rest of your platoon nervously sit in your glider waiting for the eventual landing and battle, and it culminates with you taking control of a flak cannon and using it to take out German tanks coming towards the bridge.
Interestingly, both the American and British campaigns contain levels that are nothing more than rail-shooters. In the American version you hang out the window of a beat-up French car trying to deliver news to the commanders back on the beach. While you try to clear out German roadblocks with your Thompson, Pvt. Elder sits in the back making wisecracks and the gruff Sgt. Moody drives around. The British mission has you standing in the back of a truck trying to take out the Germans with a box full of Panzerfausts. Surprisingly, these levels are highly entertaining and the world around you is created so well that even the seemingly mindless act of aiming and shooting is a lot of fun.
Everything was coming together to create a nice rollicking action game. Very simple and straightforward.
Then came Stalingrad.
When I first saw that the game included a section taking place on the Eastern Front I was pleased. I’ve always thought that the importance of the Soviets in the war has always been given the short shrift in the popular media, and anything that gave us a change of pace from the standard “Americans fighting through France” is always welcome.
The opening Stalingrad level is the most amazing thing I have witnessed in a video game. My jaw literally dropped. In the first five minutes the designers are able to convey the horror that one must have felt fighting on the Eastern Front. The calm sense of dread that permeated the troop transport crossing to Normandy in Medal of Honor is replaced with utter terror as your boat full of Soviet conscripts crosses the Volga. I am reluctant to go over the entire sequence, hoping that you will discover it for yourself. I am willing to say that it moved me, which might sound strange, but if a movie can do this why not a game?
My only qualm with the single player is that I beat it IN LESS THAN EIGHT HOURS! That was on regular difficulty and I was not trying to blow through as fast as possible. The game itself is spectacular, but for $50 there needs to be more gameplay out of the box.
Multiplayer is still a bit rough. Coupled with the standard deathmatch, there also several team-based game types such as Capture the Plans and Search and Destroy that require different objectives to be filled. While these are fun, the problem is that the designers took a page from Counterstrike in that if you get killed, you remain dead until the end of the round. All of the games simply turn into team deathmatch since it's just easier to take out the other team than to complete the objectives.
There need to be more multiplayer maps. The game only shipped with about six maps, and one (V2 Rocket Base) doesn't work well because every match simply devolves into a sniper-fest because it is so wide open. The Germans are also at a marked disadvantage in multiplayer due to their inferior assault rifles. While this may be historically accurate, it throws off the game balance.
I expect all of this to really take off once the SDK is released and the modmakers can get their hands on the game.
The Call of Duty engine is based on a heavily modified version of the Return to Castle Wolfenstein engine (which itself was a heavily modified Quake III engine). Graphically the game is nothing to write home about, but it more than gets the job done. This still doesn't justify the hefty system requirements. Where does all that horsepower go to? There are a couple of glitches and clipping issues, and you'll even see someone floating a few feet in the air every once in a while. The clipping also sometimes messes up your tactics; it's kinda hard to hide when your gun is poking through a wall. Although they are not major issues, they make an otherwise top flight game look sloppy.
Call of Duty is an amazingly fun and stirring game, easily one of the best FPS I have ever played, however the short single player game cannot justify its purchase at full price. If you wait a few weeks for the price to come down (and hopefully by that time multiplayer community will be going in full force) you will not be disappointed.