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Call of Duty 2
"Call of Duty" (both this and it's prequel) and "Medal of Honor" have the similar concept of using realistic modeled weapons and vehicles in battles based on real WWII events, but COD is more based on working with a squad to back up you, while MoH tends to be more about going at things solo. As such, the COD gameplay, particularly in COD2, is almost Halo-ish in how it plays. The controls and general gameplay work like any FPS on a console, with move and look on the analog sticks, and weapon fire on the right trigger. COD allows you to crotch and go prone, which is good for hiding behind walls and other low obstacles to stay out of the light of sight. You can also look along the sight of the weapon or through the scope if it has one with the left trigger. Smoke and frag grenades are also available. Like Halo, you can only carry two weapons at any time, though you can swap with any weapons left or dropped in the field, usually necessary as the ammo for your initial weapons will run out, but it will be very easy to find German ammo around. You also don't have a health meter or the like; instead, if you take enough damage, you'll start to see red at the edges of your eyes, meaning that unless you rest and recover, you could easily die from one more hit. By getting to cover and resting, your health will shortly restore, and you can get back out and fight. Grenades are a different story, as a close hit can kill you outright, but you're given a warning about where the grenade fell realitve so you can move yourself out of trouble.
As mentioned, COD2 is more of a squad based game than solo missions. You don't lead your squad, as you're usually following orders from your commander, but you'll have a good handful of fellow soldiers that assist you. Generally, you need to be the one to make the move from one spot of cover to the next, which will trigger both your soldiers as well as the enemy to reposition themselves, but once you get to cover, all of your teammates will help to lay down fire and assign in getting rid of enemy targets. Objectives are called out through commanders voices (subtitles help a lot), but are also shown on a mini-compass that points you in the general direction that you want to head. There also may be times that you are called on to set charges or another specific goal, which you do have to do on your own, but these are short deviations from the overall goal.
The game is actually well set up in difficulty with a nice steady learning curve and not requiring you to have played through the first COD game. At the start, you tend to be on the side with lots of cover and high positions to be able to take out the opponents, but as the game moves forward, you start to find yourself on the opposite end, working your way through narrow routes with lots of high places for the enemy to fire down at you. You have to learn to strategically use cover and slowly work up, making sure your squad stays close, in order to be successful on the last few missions.
The major annoyance with the game is that much of the time, you needed to really hit a enemy twice to bring him down. A first good hit or volley of hits may drop your foe, but he could be struggling to get back up, or even just pulling out a pistol to take one last shot. It was very easy to think that you got a target down, walk past the body, only to find yourself pistol-whipped and down when that guy got back up. While somewhat realistic and makes you play a bit slower with some patience before advancing, it made it difficult to survive at times when you are defending and swamped with advancing Germans.
One thing that I found, not so much of an annoyance but a feature that I never really used, was that there was a large number of weapons that you could pick up, but the distinction, at least for me, between the weapons, was minimal; my aim (along the gun) with both types seemed to be about the same. There were rifles that were accurate but needed to be reloaded after each shot, and machine guns with limited ammo magazines but less accurate targeting. However, most of the situations in the game were well suited to the machine gun-type weapons, save for the few times that sniping or anti-tank guns were needed, and thus it was just a matter of getting one of the German machine gun types and going to town.
COD2 also features multiplayer mode, either through XBox Live, System Link, or Splitscreen, though the latter is limited to 4 players and standard Deathmatch. The other modes include Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, a Counterstrike-like operation, and a new mode called Headquarters, where you capture a point and attempt to defend it while also trying to stop the opposing team from doing the same. The servers keep track of your performance and thus can allow you to join matches with similarly skilled players.
There's nothing really wrong with this game, but like many other FPS games, there's very little unique to the game beyond it's attempt to bring a realistic WWII environment. And because there's little new the overall game, COD2's main failing is lack of unique features. There are some thrilling moments with how the game's set up, but maybe about 70% of the way through, I was just focused on finishing because of more the game being the same over and over with just harder challenges. There's not so much of a plot to the game as well, though I can see if you are a WWII enthusiast, you could get the enjoyment out of it.
The game is visually well done on the 360, with an engine that only hiccups a few times despite the number of active and passive objects on screen. The cities and towns are well modeled and provide "natural" cover for you through ruined walls and debris. Explosions from grenade, mortar attacks and other events are quite realistic, though this gives a lot of greys and browns; it does help that the Russian and Africa levels have lots of white and yellow to balance the greys out. Character animations are good, a careful eye being useful to determine the enemies' intent. The only thing I was surprised not to see was a minimal physics engine to see the effect of explosions on small objects like pans and furniture, though given that these objects are used to create linear paths through the levels, it's understandable.
The sound is good, with the realistic sounds of bullets flying by your head, grenades landing and exploding, and the aftereffects of deafness and ringing if one goes off too close. Your squad will chatter and help direct you to targets, but the actual commands are a bit too soft to hear over everything else, though you can show subtitles to help out here. Appropriately, there's no in-game music (only for the menus and cutscenes)......
Overall, Call of Duty 2 has very few technical problems, and does a rather good job of guiding the playing into playing as part of a squad as opposed to a lone soldier in order to succeed at the game as well as in multiplayer. However, it offers little new in terms of an FPS, which is my only major disappointment with the game. Thus, it may not be of great interest to the causal gamer, but will definitely fit the bill of anyone into war simulations or hard-core FPS players.