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Call of Duty 2

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Time for another bombshell - Call Of Duty 2 has vehicles that you can freely drive around levels. "Yes, it's true - that's one of our missions, where you'll be skidding a jeep around," adds Infinity Ward's president, Grant Collier. "What's more, there are several different vehicles that you'll drive, as well as tanks in the single-player game. Another one would be the Bren gun carrier - I don't think we have a screenshot of it yet - it's a British vehicle that was used a lot in North Africa. It looks a bit like a square box on treads, without a top! But it was very effective."

Moving onto the other kinds of missions you can expect to play in Call Of Duty 2 - there'll be the big set pieces that the series is renowned for (see 'Desert Fox Hunt'), but Collier comments that there won't be any of the solo missions from the first game, such as the destruction of the anti-aircraft guns on the Eider Dam. "However, we do have sniper missions where you're sneaking around a level taking out targets. Also, while we won't be copying United Offensive, we're doing a lot of really exciting new gameplay stuff. They'll be as cool as the levels where you're taking over an aircraft gun turret and shooting down enemy planes, but not the same sort of thing."

Plus, you'll return to the locations of some popular battles from the first Call Of Duty, with brand new missions - such as a very different campaign in and around the battle for Stalingrad, and other conflicts on the Eastern and Western fronts. "We're enhancing these locations the same way we're improving the whole game - making them non-linear, introducing better AI, vastly improving the graphics, with real-time dynamic lighting and weather effects," says Collier. "In the Stalingrad levels it's snowing, and you'll witness real attention to detail - soldiers, when static, will be shivering, and you'll see their breath in the cold."

Just take a few seconds to study the exclusive screenshots, and you really begin to appreciate the results that Infinity Ward has achieved so far with Call Of Duty 2. "To produce something that looks impressively superior to the first game, without compromising on the epic, Call Of Duty battles, we've developed our own proprietary graphics engine that can support open areas, many characters, a cinematically ambient world and high frame-rate all at the same time," says Infinity Ward's chief technology officer, Jason West.

"We now have real-time dynamic lighting, all the surfaces are specular- and bump-mapped for more realistic textures in the environments, and we have a new particle and weather system." With this technology, Call Of Duty 2 can create convincing thunderstorms, snow blizzards, volumetric fog and sandstorms, all of which will have a direct influence on gameplay and the AI of friendly and enemy troops. A new weapon - smoke grenades - has also been introduced, that can be thrown and used to conceal your squad on the battlefield, who will react accordingly.

"Another, more subtle aspect, is that we don't have to place buildings on a strict grid, as we had to with Call Of Duty," continues lead artist Michael Boon. "We're going for a much more organic look. We've done a lot of research on location in France and North Africa, taking close to 10,000 photos, and found that the look we wanted - wind-swept roads, buildings that have been patched up and repaired over hundreds of years - needed to support that. When we came back to the US, we had to throw away our early test levels and textures, but the difference is amazing. Having first-hand experience of the environments, the history and culture, ensures the levels feel incredibly realistic and distinct from each other."

As for the question of whether Call Of Duty will implement physics and true ragdoll bodies being tossed through the air using the new engine, it appears that this was something, like squad control, that the team considered, but decided to reject. "We looked into that kind of stuff," comments West, "but with our gameplay it doesn't necessarily fit as nicely as it does other types of games. In Call Of Duty we like to set up our handcrafted battlefield, so the player can thoroughly enjoy it."

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