Call of Duty 2: Big Red One Review

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Graphics: 7.0
Sound : 8.0
Gameplay : 7.5
Multiplayer : 7.5
Overall : 7.4
Review by Andy Levine
Not be confused with Call of Duty 2 on the PC and Xbox 360, Call of Duty 2: Big Red One is an entirely different game available on the PS2 and Xbox. The Big Red One, a name given to the United States' Army's 1st Infantry Division, travels throughout North Africa and parts of Europe during the game’s 13 mission campaign. While it does show signs of improvement over the original console version, Big Red One doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from the many other WWII shooters already out.

Big Red One has a series of typical WWII settings. The campaign starts off in a barren region in North Africa, and shortly thereafter it’s onward to Italy. Of course the invasion at Omaha Beach is covered, and lastly the Germans are dealt with. This genre has already been done to death and unfortunately there isn’t anything here that’s groundbreaking or innovative. Familiar objectives show up again, such as fending off incoming enemy forces or providing protection for your allies. To help break up the common run-and-gun battle mechanics, turrets can be used both on ground and in planes when appropriate, and there are even times when you get to fire antiaircraft guns. Unfortunately, the campaign is linear and filled with scripted events, making it a dull experience the second time through. The artificial intelligence on both sides is pretty pathetic and it seems as if the computers simply don’t know how to fire a gun. Whether you’re trying to invade a village or protect an airfield, both your allies and your opponents aren’t capable of hitting their targets, eliminating the need to take cover and making battle feel more like a shooting gallery. The entire game shouldn’t take more than 10 hours to complete, and while there is some diversity at times, the gameplay as a whole is too straightforward to truly immerse the gamer into the battlefield.

Big Red One has some basic design elements that make it a noteworthy title, but the actual shooting mechanics could stand to use some polishing. The constantly changing environments allow for entirely different types of battles as the game progresses. For instance, the openness of the North African levels favor accurate snipers, while the cluttered streets of Germany are all about close quarters combat. The levels also have character; occasionally you can view airplanes fighting it out overhead and can see other troops fight battles elsewhere, making it seem like you aren’t fighting the war all by yourself.

A fairly in-depth arsenal has also been included for each nation, but nothing new to WWII shooters. Guns include the powerful BAR, accurate Thompson, and the quick shooting MP44. However, the guns are devoid of any substance, and even though the animation clearly shows a weapon firing it just doesn’t feel like it. The submachine guns are too accurate at long distances which almost nullify the need to ever use a rifle. Still, Big Red One does have a few shining moments where it shows how it could’ve potentially been a great game. The drama that leads up to a massive firefight can make you want to enter the battle with a vengeance. After being ambushed by German troops, you can’t help but feel like you need to pump every one of those Nazi jerks with lead. You won’t find too many battles of epic proportions though, but occasionally you’ll be faced with a substantial wave of foes to keep things interesting. Overall, nothing new or innovative is offered here, but the diversified environments mission types help make the game feel less tedious.

Once the single player portion is over and done with, online multiplayer for up to 16 players will deliver a challenge that the scripted campaign is capable of producing. As always, the standard game modes like deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag are included, as well as domination mode where specific locations must be held. You can play on 11 different maps derived from the campaign, all maintaining some sense of individuality. Tanks can finally be piloted this time around, but the levels don’t allow for too much maneuverability. When used properly they can deal large amounts of damage, but they are too vulnerable to hidden soldiers with anti-tank weapons in the smaller environments. The on-foot combat is nothing to marvel at either. Each weapon class has its own strengths and weakness for each map, so you don’t have to worry about overpowered campers ruining your fun. There are plenty of hidden alleys and routes to take to sneak behind enemy lines so there’s never a dull moment. However, if you simply come face-to-face with an enemy the fight can be a little dull. There’s no stat tracking and the game doesn’t even support voice chat which is a letdown, but the online modes offer something entertaining to do once the single player campaign loses its appeal.

Big Red One comes across as a nicely presented game with some impressive visuals and memorable moments, but it doesn’t have enough to make it stand out from the rest. The character models and vehicles have a fair amount of detail (although the textures are a little muddy and have their fair share of rough edges) and the special effects always get the adrenaline flowing. Seeing the wings of an airplane get ripped off or having a tank explode in an inferno is quite rewarding. If an explosion occurs nearby, your soldier will be knocked to the ground and experience blurred vision and hear a high pitched ringing, which is always a pleasant touch. The soundtrack doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before, and the voice actors don’t do anything to go beyond their role. For the most part, Big Red One does have some cool visual effects at times, but generally the presentation is only on par as far as WWII shooters.

In conclusion, Call of Duty 2: Big Red One for the PS2 doesn’t do anything to reinvent this tired genre. The collector’s edition comes with a bonus disk filled with extras including some interesting interviews with veterans of the Big Red One Infantry Division, so WWII buffs will have something to look forward to. Although a few interesting mission types and creatively designed environments make this title seem impressive at times, the majority of the game doesn’t differ a whole lot from what’s already available.