Call of Duty, by Aspyr
Posted: 24-Mar-2005

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Aspyr Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: GAMES

Overview
Call of Duty is a first-person shooter that takes place during World War II. The game missions take you through the history of the war, placing you in several familiar battles (and some that are not so familiar). From D-Day to Stalingrad, you adventure through various European countrysides, taking turns fighting for the Americans, the British, and the Russians. "Whether cut off in a village in Normandy, battling to re-take Red Square, boarding and sinking a German battleship, speeding down German-held roads or rescuing Allied officers from a German stronghold, the dangers are more than any one soldier can overcome. To make it through, you'll need your buddies around you, and they'll need you."

Features

  • Play through 24 epic single-player missions on four interconnected campaigns, or go online for Axis versus Allies team-based multiplayer action.
  • Intense battlefield moments put you in the heat of the action, capturing the chaos of battle like never before.
  • Together with your squad, take on Nazi forces through a variety of authentic combat missions.
  • Move through the ranks, taking on more dangerous missions such as sniper missions and ambushes until you are promoted to tank commander.

Evaluation Machines

  • iMac, 1.2 Ghz, 512MB RAM, OS 10.3.7, behind firewall
  • G4 Quicksilver, 1.47 Ghz upgrade, 640MB RAM, OS 10.3.8, direct to internet


Installation

Call of Duty comes on a DVD, and installs two games: one for Single Player action, and the other for Multiplayer action. They run as separate applications, but each has buttons to automatically connect to the other. You will be required to have the DVD loaded in your computer when playing, and when venturing off into multiplayer action, the first time will require you to enter a Call of Duty serial number. There's a lot of data that gets loaded on your computer (1.15 GB), but the installation is relatively easy.

Gameplay

When you first start Call of Duty, the first level takes you through a training ground. The training begins with how to control your field of vision, and continues on to show the basics on how to maneuvre and use weapons. This is also a good time to determine if the controls are comfortable for you. I went back to the menu and went into the preferences to change a few controls (changing the keys for movement, action, and a few others). What's good is that the game recognizes your changes, so that back in training when it explains to use a key to perform an action, it specifies the key you assigned (versus the default key).

I was immediately impressed with the graphics and the terrain, even in the training level. In one task you must crawl under barbed wire while a soldier fires over your head. The realism in the graphics is amazing, and the sound effects further enhance the effects. And it only gets better once you get into the heat of some serious battles. One last word on the training level: don't shoot the guy telling you had to do things. First of all, it's not very nice, but in terms of gameplay, it is the same as when you are killed. You'll have to restart from the last saved point.


Call of Duty - Training level

When you start a game, you can choose to play as a Greenhorn, Regular, Hardcore or Veteran. I always played as Greenhorn, which became very apparent once I got into some multiplayer action. The term definitely applied! More on the multiplayer mode later. For the single player mode, the greenhorn setting provide me all the challenge I could hope to have. I was definitely never bored. I can only imagine what the tougher levels may be like.

Each level in the Single Player game starts with a chapter screen while the level is loading, usually with mission info either handwritten or in a typed memo. These notes and memos, along with other war memorabilia in the background, really added to the feel of the game, enhancing the visual and historical experience. It sure beats looking at nothing but a progress bar while the level loads.


Call of Duty chapter screen - Training level


Beyond the chapter screens, graphics, and mission text, it was really the battle scenes themselves that provided the most intense feeling of what war might actually feel like. In a few of the missions, you venture off on your own, such as when you have to take out the guns on a dam, or rescue a British commander from the Nazis. However, in most of your missions you must learn to fight alongside several of your brothers-in-arms, learning how to utilize their skills as well as learning how not to shoot them by accident in the heat of battle. Unlike most first-person shooters, you do not stand out as the hero, nor do you have special strengths and skills (except for your own ability to aim and fire under pressure). Whereas I usually felt like the focal point in other first person shooters, in Call of Duty I felt more like a part of a team. Additionally, a lot of the missions really left a lasting impression on me, especially the first really intense battle I encountered. In the first set of levels you are fighting as an American, and in one level my squad was approaching a building that was held by the Nazis. There were Germans perched in nearly every window in each of several buildings, all firing on us with various rifles and even a few machine guns. My guys [the Americans] were running left and right, ducking behind fences, commanders shouting "stay down", many soldiers dropping, some wounded, some dead, all with the sound of gun fire whizzing by my ears. The game did an amazing job at creating the "hell" of war in gameplay, including the confusion and chaos, and learning how to stay controlled under extreme pressure. I could almost smell the dirt and gunpowder in the air. You also learn how horribly easy it is to shoot your own men by accident when under such extreme conditions. While this certainly is not like the real thing where real blood is being shed and real lives are being lost, this is the closest I've come in any game experience that had me thinking about a lot of aspects of war that you don't typically consider. In that light, this is definitely the most intense first-person shooter I've ever played.

The storyline for each of the levels were fantastically scripted, presenting chronicles of many true to life events that occurred during World War II, such as the D-day invasion, special forces operations, and the battles in Stalingrad. It even included some levels emphasizing how the "sniper" made a big difference for the Russians in fighting off the Germans (think of the movie "Enemy at the Gates"). Many of the levels also started with maps giving you a sense of where you are fighting. At the start of each level you are given a primary objective, and these objectives can change or expand during the level. During gameplay, you can always review your objectives by using the Tab key. Likewise, your compass (shown at the bottom left of the screen) always marks the direction of your primary objective at any given time. At the top of the screen are subtle outlines of the weapons you have, including the current weapon in use, and at the bottom right of the screen are ammo counters. The on-screen controls are very simplistic and uncluttered, leaving most of the screen to show the fantastic graphics and landscapes. In Call of Duty, you get to run over rolling hills, jump over barracades, crouch behind bushes, crawl through holes in crumbled down walls, and much more.

To help you with health, and with the absence of a medic in the game, there are health kits placed throughout each of the levels (little green boxes with a red cross on them). The placement of these health kits were just right in my opinion, bringing me to the brink of death many times before I could find more health. Of course, I died several times before finding a health kit as well, and death always brings you to a screen where a famous war-related quote is displayed. From this screen you can click on Continue, and it takes you to the last saved point in the game. There are certain areas in each level where the game saves itself automatically, and you could always save at any point by pressing the F5 key. I liked the fact that you could save at any point, because there are some battles that once I got through them, I knew I didn't want to have to do them again. That's when I'd quickly jump on the F5 key.


Fighting off the Germans, finding a health kit

Call of Duty provides you with the chance to try out several different kinds of guns and rifles, American, British, Russian, and German. In some cases, after you've run out of your own ammo, you have to exchange your weapons with weapons left behind by fallen German soldiers in order to keep fighting. Oh, and don't always assume that a fallen German soldier is dead. Oftentimes you only wound them, and they will get back up and start firing at you. Some might even limp away after being shot. You might feel a little guilty shooting a soldier limping away, but you better believe that if you don't, they will find a weapon and turn around and try to kill you.


Fighting in the trenches against the Germans

The physics of the soldiers, weapons and vehicles in the game were remarkable. Everything is in true 3D, and the character graphics were smoothed and detailed. The weapons felt gritty, with just the right kick when shooting, as well as very realistic sound effects. The realism was so good that I almost expected to have an occasional weapon jam on me (like they might in real war). I never did experience a weapon that jammed (although I ran out of ammo plenty of times). For the stationery machine guns, there was not a run of bullets that fed the gun like you might expect. Instead, these stationery guns basically had unlimited ammo. I really didn't find that to be a hinderous to the game. At some points, it actually felt like a relief to just sit on one of those guns and fire constantly without the worry of running out of ammo. Certainly not realistic, but for us "greenhorns", it was a welcome break. These stationery guns didn't provide that much of an advantage because their position was rarely key to the battle, and often there wasn't anyone to shoot at (because you had overtaken the German position already to get your hands on the gun).

Besides shooting, flanking, ducking and running, some other tasks involved placing explosives, shooting down airplanes with a monster gun, using rocket launchers to take out tanks and trucks, riding passenger in cars and trucks while shooting at other vehicles and soldiers you encounter along the way, and operating a tank.


Operating a tank in Call of Duty

When I completed the single player missions, I wanted to try out the multiplayer games on the internet, but my iMac was behind a firewall, and whatever ports the game used were blocked and I was unable to play. After a few months, I got the game installed on a different computer that was not behind a firewall, and finally got the chance to see what it was like to play on the internet with other live players. I was definitely outplayed, living up to my title of "greenhorn", but I improved in skills much faster playing against other players. The more experienced players new the maps better than I did, as well as knew the best techniques to use in battle. If you didn't want to jump right in, you could actually watch from the "sidelines", or even watch from the eyes of any of the players in the game. This was a great way to learn the map and various techniques. All in all, I really enjoyed the multiplayer battles. It was also good to see that there were a number of servers that I could find to join (often, especially for Mac games, it's difficult to find other players on the internet).

The other thing I discovered after the few months away from the game is that there is good replay value in Call of Duty. I started the singe player mission all over again, and enjoyed it just as much the second time around as I did the first time. There were some things I could remember from the first go around, while others I had forgotten. It also gave me the opportunity to do things better the second time around, and each level was different enough from others that replaying these levels never felt tedious or repetitive.

The user interface was quite stable. There were only a couple of times where the game seemed to slow down a tad due to all the action, but for the most part it always played smoothly. The mouse control was very good as well, much better than a few other Mac OS X shooters that I've tried. One annoyance I ran into was that each time I quit from the game on my G4, most of my desktop icons were all stacked on top of each other in the top right corner of my screen. This was relatively annoying the first time, but after painstakingly adjusting the icons to their proper position and having it happen again and again made it extremely frustrating. I finally created a new account where I didn't care about the desktop, and only ran the game from that account when on my G4. I did not have this problem on my iMac.

It's hard to choose my favorite aspect of Call of Duty, because there were so many. The way you had to work with your fellow soldiers was one of my favorites, as well as the historical backdrop of the story. The 3D landscapes were amazing, as were the sound effects, all adding to the realism of the game. There were a number of special effects that further enhanced the experience as well, such as the wounding of soldiers, throwing grenades at an enemy and having him throw the grenade back at you, and the "stun" effect when a grenade or bomb went off near you. Your motion gets blurry, your hearing becomes muffled, and you stumble in a slow motion movement. This effect was eerie and frightening, adding to the overall chaos of fighting in war.

Summary
Aspyr's Call of Duty is an action-packed first-person shooter that takes place during World War II. The graphics and sounds are incredible in recreating the scenes of war, and the game physics provide an awesome sense of what it might feel like in war. Unlike other shooters, you must really learn to use your fellow soldiers to succeed in your missions. In some of the fierce battles, there is so much firing in both directions, soldiers running, dropping, and yelling, that it becomes a real challenge to maintain composure, not shoot your own comrades, and focus on your mission. The game delivers on the adrenaline rush, as well as the experience of how frightening and intense war scenes can be. Gameplay was smooth and stable, and the game interface was very responsive, including excellent mouse control. The only thing issue I ran into was that when I quit the game, all of my desktop icons were hosed (although this only happened on my G4, not my iMac). I was also pleased there there were several servers available to join when venturing out into multiplayer games on the internet. The other thing I liked about Call of Duty is that there is enough variety in levels that it has good replay value. If you ever wondered what it might feel like to be in World War II, experiencing the challenges, chaos, and confusion of battle, and venturing through a variety of vast European countrysides, Call of Duty is the closest thing you will find next to actually being there. I highly recommend this game to any first person shooter fan or any history buff.

Pros

  • Brilliant graphics and realistic sound effects
  • Landscapes, physics, and missions provide incredible sense of being part of World War II
  • Intense and chaotic battles to challenge and excite you
  • Cool spectator options in multiplayer matches

Cons

  • With some Mac configurations, the desktop icons were hosed after quitting the game
  • May generate too much adrenaline for some (especially those that don't enjoy first person shooters)
  • Unlimited ammo in machine guns unrealistic (although Greenhorns might consider this a "pro")


Overall Rating:

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice