Call of Duty Review

World War II is certainly a popular setting for first-person shooters. If you’re not shooting at terrorists on your PC these days, odds are you’re shooting at Nazis. I’ve played just about all of these WWII shooters, and they’ve run the gamut from abysmal to some of my favorite games. After playing Call of Duty, I have to say that it is one of the best of them all and a leading candidate for game of the year honors.

Screenshots
Crossing the Volga at Stalingrad.

It’s hard to point to any one single aspect of Call of Duty as the reason that it is such an enjoyable game. It’s not a particularly innovative game, but rather does an excellent job of bringing together all of the best facets of World War II shooters and wrapping it all in top-notch level design. Who cares about innovation when you’re having so much fun?

Rather than put you in the shoes of a single soldier throughout the game’s campaign, you get to play as three different soldiers in three different armies in sequence over the course of the campaign. You’ll fight from behind the lines at Normandy to the streets of Berlin as an American paratrooper, a British commando, and the lowliest of all WW2 combatants, a Russian foot soldier. There’s no story tying the whole thing together, and not much of a story outside of soldiers’ diary entries shown at the load screens. Instead what you really get is a series of action-packed missions that roughly follow the timeline of the war and give you a chance to partake in some of its major engagements.

If the game's missions could be described in a word, that word would be intense.  Right from the start you'll be in the thick of things, outnumbered and facing withering fire from the enemy.  In just the first few missions you'll have to assault bunkers, take out Wirbelwind Flakpanzers protected by machine gun nests, and face the devastating fire of a Tiger tank's cannon and machine gun.  If you think that's tough, wait until you reach the Russian missions.  In a sequence obviously inspired by Enemy at the Gates, you'll have to cross the Volga river into the heart of the maelstrom in Stalingrad ... and do so without a gun.  Throughout the campaign the game doesn't let up, moving you from one action-packed mission to the next and throwing one surprise at you after another.

The game's levels are made even more challenging and exciting to play by the amazing AI of both the enemy and your squadmates.  Enemy soldiers really know how to use cover effectively.  In many games, taking out an enemy behind cover is like shooting at a jack in the box, you know exactly where they'll pop up and all you need to do is time your shot.  Not so in Call of Duty.  Enemies will fire, duck, and then fire again from a slightly different position.  They'll also work together to make things difficult for you, for example by replacing a fallen comrade behind a machine gun.  The AI is far too smart to fall prey to gung ho charges - you'll have to be smart about how you mount your attacks and look for opportunities to flank the enemy.