World War II has proved to be the favourite background for first-person shooter titles over the last couple of years and so it´s no surprise that Call of Duty sees you battle against the Nazis once more. Developed by a new studio, Infinity Ward, the game is very reminiscent of Medal of Honour: Allied Assault, which funnily enough is a title that many of the COD team worked on. However this game introduces some serious improvements and an overall cinematic glean which makes for a great, immersive game-play experience.
The game has a decent single player mode which should amuse you for a couple of hours but the real fun to be had is in the multiplayer battles. The single player campaign is played from the perspective of British, American and Russian troops with the opposition all German. It takes you all the way through from the beach landings to storming the Reichstag in Berlin. The whole experience is very cinematic with some great visual effects and the most atmospheric sound I have experienced in a war game.
The controls are well developed and honed from various FPS´s adhering to the WASD standard and assimilating Q and E for peeking round corners, SHIFT to crouch and CTRL for prone (to lie down). This all works as it should, you have a smaller target reticule when crouched than standing and smaller again when lying down so you become more accurate but you can´t move as quickly. Right mouse makes you bring the gun up to aim but movement is severely restricted, this was an innovation I liked in Vietcong but here the default control is a toggle so instead of having to hold it down you push once to aim and again to stop aiming which isn´t as good.
The weapon set is very good encompassing a wide variety of guns from the competing nations. My personal favourite is the Russian PPSh which holds a massive clip and is great for spraying roomfuls of Nazi scum. There are also fixed heavy machine guns which are devastatingly effective, rocket launchers, grenades, sniper rifles, handguns and a variety of machine guns.
The single player campaign is worth playing through to get accustomed to the game. Some of the set pieces are beautifully directed and really get the blood pumping, such as the Stalingrad River crossing where you disembark and have to run up the hill amid tracer fire and smoke without a gun, picking one from a body further up in the ruined shell of the city. However some of the levels were a little too predictable and really reminded me of Medal of Honour, irritating features like making you play through a map in one direction and then back through the same route to face a whole new bunch of freshly spawned AI.
Some of the finer points of the single player game for me were the choices of battles and the adherence to historical accuracy. For once we are reminded that the Russians played a huge part in overthrowing the Nazis. Satisfyingly the end assault on Berlin is carried out by the Russians, as it really was. I loved the propaganda announcements in Stalingrad with the Germans trying to entice starving Russians to switch sides for some food and a blanket and storming the square in Stalingrad alongside Russians waving huge red flags was great.
There are some fantastic visual and audio effects in the game. The concussed motion and slowed down sound when a grenade goes off near you is a powerful effect which is sadly lacking from the multiplayer game. The flares when the guns fire are great, although at times on the heavy machine gun you can´t see a thing. There are also some beautifully rendered maps ranging from bunker systems in snowy forests to ruined cityscapes, smoke in the distance and always the sound of chattering gunfire.
The multiplayer is mostly very enjoyable, navigating the map you must learn to be very wary, mad dashes across open ground will often get you killed. There isnít much more squad play going on here than in most FPSís on the net but on occasion it works and people will stick together which always proves to be most effective. The map design is very good, a refreshing break from the blocky symmetrical maps of Unreal. Each map looks authentic and offers a variety of routes, often forming bottlenecks and strategic points to battle over. The spawn system is quite strange and I still haven´t quite sussed out exactly what it is doing, usually you spawn closest to your team-mates but on occasion I have spawned behind the enemy or far away from the action which can be quite frustrating. I think the best mode is Team Death match but you can play Search and Destroy or Retrieve as well which is like Counterstrike in that you have to retrieve or destroy certain objects around the map.
I don´t think this game represents a breakthrough in the genre but it does tie together all the best features from recent war FPS´s and presents them in a very stylish way. Each of the components seem to be polished to a high standard, the range of weapons, the amazing sound, the multiplayer map design and the overall art style combine to produce a great game that fans of the genre should not miss.