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Call of Duty 2

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While we're on the AI though, I ought to highlight a slight concern that may hinder what I consider to be COD2's unstoppable rise to greatness - the much vaunted battle chatter system. In its more mundane parts, it works and works well - if a little over-reliant in the North African chapters on having Cockneys shouting stuff like "Die you dirty Jerry-rotter!". A f**k or two would have been nice.

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But I digress. While fighting through a Russian city mission, itself a work of wonder, and attempting to reassemble a broken communications cable, my comrades were getting extremely twitchy. "Over there!" they cried - although I was cowering beneath an exposed desk and couldn't see them pointing. "By that broken wall!" they shouted - even though we were in a ruined city and all the walls were broken. "They're coming from the East!" they screamed - even though I wouldn' know which way East was if I was standing on a beach in Eastbourne. Perhaps when playing through completed code I'll start to learn the way the chatter relates to gameplay a bit more - maybe then it'll convince me. But until then the jury is sitting in another room and eating sandwiches, paid for by you, the tax-payer.

EASTERN PROMISE
But let's have a poke around this Russian level I'm outlining, as it's pretty special. The helpless feeling of being ill-equipped and, indeed, unarmed that COD nailed so hard in the opening Russian chapters certainly wasn't on show in the level that I played - if anything, the game encourages you to swap between friendly and enemy weapons far more than either its progenitor or its pro-progenitor MOH: Allied Assault. Then again, there's more chaos and thereby more bullets needed to deal with it - at least in the chunk of warfare I played.

At the start you're doing stuff like creeping into what in pre-war would have been the basement of a gutted house, and looking up at three outcrops of what were once floors, each packed with Nazis. It becomes clear that Infinity Ward has taken its established melding of war-torn images and iconography with level design on a few more paces than its last tour of duty.

Moving on though, despite suffering heavy losses, myself being the culprit of an accidental friendly kill on more than one occasion, we pushed the enemy back far enough to restore the communications line - and the word was given to take sticky bombs and return to the scene of my earlier hiding-under-a-desk escapade, to deal with patrolling tanks that had cut in behind our advance.

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Crouching behind scenery, running, ducking and throwing smoke grenades to mask my progress, I made it back. Sneaking up behind a big metal thing (I'm not going to pretend I know what kind of tank it was - it was German and had guns on it), I attached my explosives to its tracks. And this is where it was hammered home to me, even more than my initial North African scrambles of shit-pantery, why I'm set to adore COD2. Other games would be content to say, "Wow. There goes the tank in a big explosion. Level over. Have a banana. And a medal." But that's not enough for Infinity Ward. No, the tank is still just as dangerous as it ever was.

Its tracks blown off, it still nigh-on pulverized me as I scampered from the scene, and while it was merrily spraying the desolate block of flats I took cover behind, it was only when I nudged myself very slightly around a corner that I saw two Allies sprinting up to it, leaping on top, wrenching open its lid (Will, tanks don't have lids - Ed) and chucking a grenade in - the ensuing explosion killing one of the poor Ruskies as he ran away. Scripted yes, genius also.

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