Big Red One, the vaguely rude sounding subtitle for Activision's latest Call of Duty current gen franchise. You can also say it to make it sound like you're reading out a football result: Call of Duty 2... Big Red... One.
However just because it's done by Treyarch and isn't Infinity Ward's all-singing all-dancing full-on PC and 360 sequel, don't think that Big Red One is by any means a lesser title. How do we know? Well godammit we've played the beggar, out in Poland no less and in the shadow of Hitler's wartime eastern front bunker. A dam' fine looking game it is too, being a prime example of the late flowering often seen in the latter part of a console's life cycle. Among the highlights are amazing visuals, rich and hugely varied gameplay and a battlefield so immersive, you'll swear you were marching in the footsteps of the mighty Big Red One - the US 1st Infantry division - itself.
We convened a council of war and sat down with developer Treyarch's Creative Director Christian Busic, to hear about how Call of Duty 2: Big Red One, could change the face of current-gen warfare forever.
What was your thinking behind the design of Big Red One?
Christian Busic: I wanted to do something different. It was important that we didn't just have a sequel to Finest Hour. We thought "What could we do to give the fans of the Call of Duty franchise something different?". There's a lot of WW2 shooters out there, and I think you're remiss as a developer if you don't improve over previous iterations. For me, it had always been that I wanted a more personal experience and I was definitely in the vanguard on this.
Our motto was "No-one fights alone" and it could have been interpreted in many different ways. We had an opportunity here - instead of making five SKUs of a different product, why can't we have a different slant? Someone who has a PS2 or Xbox can go out and buy Big Red One, then pick up CoD 2 on an Xbox 360 or PC and get a completely different game.
But what was your main design goal?
Christian Busic: Well we talked to the veterans and they said "That apple pie stuff is just crap. It's all about the soldier next to you." So we said, we're going to make one campaign, and we're going to follow these characters. Then the next problem was who?
The number one goal was stepping away from the original game. What does Call of Duty gain from three campaigns? We thought we had a hit because we had different environments, different enemies, different weapons. Myself and one of the design leads started going through the history books and kinda stumbled across the Big Red One [the US Infantry's first division].
He came in and said "I got it, I got it". I said "What that Sam Fuller movie?" Then I had look at their list of battles. I mean, not only were these guys everywhere, but they were famous and I didn't realise. I thought, "No-one has done this yet, we've stumbled on a gem."
So the history really fed into the game design?
Christian Busic: The BRO were the first US troops into North Africa, the first to engage enemies in World War Two, they fought Rommel and they fought with tanks and against the Vichy French. Their first mission and they were tasked to secure an airfield because it was a Vichy French air field and there were Allied planes coming in because they were low on gas and those fly boys were going into the drink if the BRO couldn't secure the airfield.
So we're like "Great, awesome". We then find out that they were in on the invasion of Sicily because Operation Torch was such a success, They're like "Okay, let's liberate Italy. That'll cut off Hitler's supply here, and open up a road into Europe." General George Patten, who helped with the design and planning of this mission, found out he was going to be in charge of American troops. The first thing he said - and this is a direct quote - was: "I want those first division sons of bitches, I'm not going in without them." That's how famous they were.