Of the numerous WWII-based first-person-shooter titles on the market today, nearly everyone is in agreement with the opinion that the Call of Duty PC titles are at the pinnacle of this particular genre. Unfortunately, while PC gamers have been fulfilling their wartime fantasies more often than they would care to recall, console gamers have been starved of quality in this particular genre branch, ever since the early Medal of Honor titles on the PS1. The first console Call of Duty title in particular transpired to be a completely derivative, phenomenally poor looking title that most weâ€™re all too eager to forget about.
So when a second Call of Duty title was set for release on todayâ€™s major consoles, more than a few eyebrows were raised. The PC title brought some truly dazzling set pieces and astonishing visuals, ultimately setting the standard for the console version. And on first impressions at least, things seem to be looking fairly good in that respect.
Itâ€™s easy to see that a large portion of the developersâ€™ time has been spent cramming as much detail into the various areas youâ€™ll be fighting in as they possibly could. While the PC version may have that extra level of graphical sheen, this GameCube incarnation canâ€™t be considered any kind of slouch in the visuals department. While backdrops have an extra level of detail over the previous console Call of Duty title, your fellow comrades in particular now consist of much more detailed character models. Sadly this impressive start doesnâ€™t continue into the aural offerings, with the sound feeling much too hollow, and lacking any real punch. Causing a tank to explode in theatrical fashion and billowing flames should make for an aural feast. Instead, youâ€™re only disappointed with what your actions proceed to sound like.
Despite these fellow soldiers being more than willing to fight alongside you, thereâ€™s no opportunity to instruct them where to head, and where to focus their fire. Thankfully the AI included does give each man something quite weighty between their ears, but moments do occur (admittedly infrequently) when they become mightily reluctant to focus their fire where you would perceive to be the best option, or give you a helping hand elsewhere on the field of battle. This lack of leadership however can ultimately give the game an almightily shallow feel, especially when recent examples of well implemented tactical awareness (Brothers In Arms: Road to Hill 30, for example) worked so well. Itâ€™s all the more jarring when the title seems eager to convince you that you are no more than a tiny cog in a huge war machine, yet during play you canâ€™t help but feel that gameplay harkens back to the â€˜one man against the worldâ€™ days once again.
To combat the potential boredom created by the traditional one-man army run-and-gun gameplay, various missions will see you commandeering numerous vehicles. As interludes to the main progression of the on-foot missions, these sections are a huge plus. Offering some hectic fire fights â€“ and one plane-based set piece that youâ€™ll want to enjoy time and time again â€“ they give the unerring feeling of being â€˜at war.â€™ They do have their drawbacks however, as they only accentuate the lack of intensity during the on-foot battles.
While the playerâ€™s keen eye may see you dropping the enemy like flies, your fellow squad mates and even the enemy seem to be much more than a single step below your own standard. Many a time while youâ€™re clearing a house youâ€™ll find both friend and foe firing at each other from mere meters apart, and failing to land a single shot. Itâ€™s this kind of lack of quality that canâ€™t help but remind you that youâ€™re playing a simple game instead of taking part in one of the most destructive conflicts in history.
Unfortunately, Call of Duty 2: Big Red One ultimately doesnâ€™t stand as the true dawning of a new console FPS era as weâ€™ve hoped. The omission of any kind of multiplayer aspect for the GameCube version in itself takes away a large portion of the titleâ€™s potential longevity, particularly when the single player section wonâ€™t take any more than a weekendâ€™s worth to plough through. While it lasts, Call of Duty 2 offers some glorious set pieces and some hectic sections of gameplay. Itâ€™s just a shame that if there were a handful of extra missions and a multiplayer option, we might have had a real winner.