Call of Duty
Written by John Yan
on 11/10/2003 for
What do you get when you take Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, turn it up a few notches, sprinkle in some great levels, mix in some fun missions, and up the graphics some? Why you get a great title in Call of Duty, of course! Yes, this game is by a lot of the guys who programmed Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and it’s the same theme but the game just achieves a lot more by doing the little things right.
For starters, you don’t just play one protagonist. You actually will take control of three different characters from three different countries. The game is split into three acts separated by the three countries you will represent. You’ll start out, like in Medal of Honor: AA in training and move onto the demo that was made available. As you progress through the game you’ll experience driving a tank in a platoon, taking out snipers in buildings, holding off the opposing force as you secure the building, and take part in a crazy car ride that just blows away the one in MOH:AA.
The game utilizes a heavily modified Quake III engine and I do mean heavily modified. From reports, the crew at Infinity Ward has reworked the engine from the ground up to produce this game. I didn’t think you could take the Quake III engine any further but Infinity Ward seems to have really worked at customizing the engine to their needs.
Call of Duty calls on you to be the hero but this time, you won’t be alone. Squad combat is the big thing in this game and you’ll be followed or following soldiers to take out the Nazis for 95% of the missions. MOH:AA had squad combat but it was few and far between. Call of Duty thrives on it and does it well. And another first for me at least, you won’t be the point man all the time. I don’t know how many times in various squad-like first person shooters where you are always told to be the point man. What if I don’t want to be? You can’t expect me to ALWAYS go in first. Well, most of the missions have soldiers plodding ahead with or without you. It’s always good to follow them though and help keep them alive as the more you have on your team, the easier the missions are. And you’ll also pick up some reinforcements on some missions in case your whole platoon is wiped out.
With AI squad mates, the occurrence of friendly fire would seem to be high right? It’s hard to not shoot first and check on if it’s a friendly later when a few shots can end your life. Call of Duty helps curb this by showing the name of your squad mate in the reticule when you point towards him. Most of the time your gun will stop firing so if a squad mate does happen to wander into aim while you’re trying to mow down some Nazis, your gun will stop firing. There are times when a bullet will hit your companions and it seems to happen more so when they are far off or your reticule is near their extremities such as hands or feet. On the missions where you drive tanks, your gunfire will not hurt your platoon. These design decisions does help you keep your companions alive a lot more if you’re quick on the trigger.
Speaking of missions, each act has some very memorable moments. If you remember the driving mission in MOH:AA as you drive along slowly taking out the enemy, the mission pales in comparison to how it’s done in Call of Duty. You’ll be riding with two other soldiers and the ride is fast and furious. You’ll be spinning around corners, driving through barricades, and even be chased by bikes. The speed at which you are driven around trying to shake the Nazis from your tail will get your blood pumping. It’s an intense level and offers some great moments. If you’ve ever seen the movie Enemy at the Gates, the Russian missions will be familiar to you. You’ll start out with no weapon, on a boat ride that’s similar to one in MOH:AA with other boats and soldiers dying as you reach your destination in Stalingrad. You’ll be handed some ammo and no weapon. Like Omaha Beach, you’ll have to rush up the beach and get some cover. You’ll be able to pickup a weapon from a fallen comrade in later missions, but the rush of hiding from enemy fire and being a decoy for a fellow sniper is a great experience. Another mission that one ups the MOH:AA one is when you command a tank. Again, you’ll be in a platoon of tanks and the action is pretty intense. Experiencing the battle with some computer allies makes it a lot more fun. You won’t always be wielding a gun in first person mode as you’ll also need to take control of some anti-aircraft guns or some other turret weapon in some missions.
The AI for both the enemy and your allies isn’t too shabby. Enemies will actually take cover and sometimes stay there to ambush you. They also try to poke their head out a lot instead of exposing their body to take a look or open fire at you. It takes a little more accurate shot and some more strategy to root some of the Nazis out but it’s nice to not have them charge at you guns blazing. Your comrades will also take cover when possible or maneuver to try and get a better shot. Their shooting is very competent and offer good cover fire. The enemy snipers are no longer God and can pick you off from a thousand yards away. On the level where you have to take out snipers, you won’t get nearly as frustrated as in MOH:AA as they’ll miss a good amount of time if you’re very far away. They’ll also hit you of course, but you’re given a chance to take them out. While they do hide in some very tight areas, you’ll usually be able to spot them by a muzzle flash. And they all won’t be aiming after you if you have some squad mates running with you. It’s nice not being picked on even by every single opponent and it makes the game a lot more enjoyable when you feel that your allies can take care of you and themselves. They aren’t perfect and will get caught up in situations where you’ll say to yourself, “How could you not see him and why didn’t you open fire?” but for the most part the game does pretty well.
The modified Quake 3 engine’s graphics are top notch. It’s not outstanding and jaw dropping, but what Infinity Ward has done is add many little details. For starters, the faces of the soldiers are different and not carbon copies like in a lot of games. They offer some good expressions, like the frightened faces of Russian soldiers on the boat ride to Stalingrad. You’ll see anti-aircraft fire lighting up the air in the distance. On the run up the beach, you’ll see a good number of soldiers around you trying to reach a safe area. It’s a more impressive site than the Omaha Beach scene in MOH:AA. The chaos that happens around you with bullets kicking up dirt and soldiers dying is visually awesome. Character animations offer some good variety as you’ll see your squad ducking down behind obstacles, leaning against walls, holding their heads as they are bombarded with mortar shells, and hand gestures to each other. Speaking of mortar shells, if you are too close to one when it goes off, the screen becomes very blurry and the sound gets very muted. Everything seems to slow down and you’ll feel like you’re disoriented for the short time that it happens. It’s a neat effect and helps portray the shellshock experience you might get if you’re too close to an explosion. It gives an interesting sense of vulnerability that makes you panic just a bit if there are enemy soldiers near you when it happens. Like I said earlier, it’s these little things that make the game fun to watch and play.
Equally impressive are the level designs. From the tight spaces to the open areas, they are all done well and offer some good architecture. There’s usually some place to hide or some obstacle to take cover behind. It’s a very object populated environment and the textures used help give each level a very polished look.
The sound is done well in this game and it’s one of the few games I kept the music on. It has a very good soundtrack and the parts where you feel heroic in helping defend an area or take out a large group of Nazis is further enhanced by the great music that accompanies that section. Ambient sounds also help enhance the mood of the game. Some levels feature gun fights that are off in the distance. It helps give a sense of other battles happening around you while you do your mission, making the environments more realistic. It also has some top quality voice talents in Giovanni Ribisi of Saving Private Ryan and Jason Statham of The Transporter.
Like Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, the game is pretty short. And like Max Payne 2, it’s a fun short ride. You can probably finish it in a sitting or two and the only reason it took me as long as it did was replaying some areas over and over again where you can die quickly. Otherwise, you can breeze through the game in relatively short fashion. There’s a multiplayer component to extend the life of the game. Even with the short length, I was excited to go back and play again after initially finishing it. It’s a game where I can seem myself replaying the single player portion a few times. It’s that fun and it’s one of the few games where I found myself starting at the light of day only to wonder why it’s so dark outside after I decide to walk away.
There is some interesting design issues with Call of Duty. There are no doors to open, none. Any door that opens will be opened by some AI unit whether friend or foe. The environments, while littered with objects, aren’t interactive. You can’t destroy objects and it’s a little disappointing after playing Max Payne 2 where the destructible objects and their physical interactions not only made the world seem more real but offered some gameplay aspects. There are some minor destructible environmental areas but nothing that really stands out. And this game begs for cooperative play which is not included. I would’ve loved to have gone through this with a friend or two or three. Alas, you’re only provided with team versus team or deathmatch play.
A variety of multiplayer options are here for you to play with. The standards are there such as deathmatch and team deathmatch. Fans of Counter Strike will be familiar with Search and Destroy where one team plants an explosive and the other prevents the destruction of the objective. Behind Enemy Lines is an interesting take as a large number of Axis goes against a smaller number of Allies. Killing an Ally player will turn you into an Ally and more points are earned by staying alive as an Ally along with dispatching an Axis enemy. A capture the flag like option is Retrieval where you find an object and take it back with you. There are some modifications that can be made to the server such as a ban on sniper rifles and the anti-tank rocket. A nice feature that would have Bart in fits is that when you die, you get to see through the eyes of your killer. You can root out a sniper this way and should keep camping down as you can’t hide forever and take out a large number of people.
I played this game on an Athlon 2500+ with an All-in-Wonder 9600 Pro. At 1024x768, the game ran pretty smoothly throughout and I never did notice any slowdowns. Even with a good amount of characters charging the beach, the game moved along without problems. I was impressed with the detail presented in graphics and scripted elements while experiencing smooth gameplay.
Call of Duty is a great PC title and very fun to play. It’s taken the good aspects of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and ups the fun factor immensely. It’s blast when playing in a squad. After experiencing the game that way, it’s hard to go back to war titles where you are the single protagonist who takes out the entire army. While it’s short, it was a very fun experience. It’s also one of the few first person shooters that made me jump from ambushing Nazis. Infinity Ward did a great job with the title and I can’t wait to see a follow up to this game.
It's got great action sequences and squad combat rules. Call of Duty is a fun game. It's a bit on the short side and you can complete it in a day or two. Multiplayer does lengthen the shelf life but you'll want to play the single player over again after you finish it.
Rating: 9.3 Excellent
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.
I'm married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.