First Impressions: Big Red is calling ? will you answer?
After a couple years of stale same ol', same ol' cookie-cutter titles, World War II shooters are back with a vengeance, and gamers could not be happier. Ubisoft's Brothers In Arms: Road to Hill 30 raised the bar with realistic fighting tactics and a meticulous attention to detail, and even Electronic Arts managed to revive their languishing Medal of Honor series with European Assault.
So it is with great anticipation and excitement that gamers are awaiting the official sequel to the best WWII FPS since the classic Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. This time around, developers Treyarch and Gray Matter are collaborating on Call of Duty 2: Big Red One to create yet another action-packed excuse to blast the crap out of Nazis ? in fact, Gray Matter was folded into Treyarch specifically for this and other future projects.
(As a side note, CoD 2: Big Red One should not be confused with the subtitle-less Call of Duty 2. The former is for current generation consoles only, and the latter is being developed separately by Infinity Ward for PCs and the Xbox 360.)
In previous CoD editions, you played different characters from different Allied forces; while this added a nice variety to the gameplay since you could use new weapons and meet new characters, it was a little difficult to achieve any emotional attachment to the game. No, I'm not talking about some perverted cyber-romance, you sickie; I'm referring to the connection gamers develop with the character they play. A good connection results in the character becoming an extension of you, which helps pull you deeper into the experience and forget that you're just playing a game. The CoD series is without question among the most fun games you can ever play, but that connection and emotional attachment is lacking ? which is a bit disappointing for a series that prides itself on pulling gamers into the gritty reality of war.
So it is a nice change that in CoD 2, you will follow the story of a single character throughout the entire game. You will also interact with the same NPCs since you will all be in the 16th Division of Fox Company, in the renowned Fighting First Infantry Division ? nicknamed the ?Big Red One?. The story will take place over three years as you battle through Libya, Tunisia, Italy, France, Belgium and into the heart of Germany herself. Although the characters are fictional, the 16th was real and the stories and battles you will encounter are based on actual events. The CoD series is known for its attention to detail and accuracy, and so it is not surprising that two decorated combat veterans and WWII historians consulted on the game's development.
To pull you deeper into the experience, the developers will reinforce the ?no one fights alone? philosophy of the series by letting your squadmates share personal insights with you. Like in real life, you and your buddies will develop and change their behavior over time as they cope with the stresses of combat ? and sadly, you will lose many of your friends as they fall in battle. It's not meant to depress you, but rather to pay homage to the sacrifices of ordinary soldiers and illustrate the true tragedies of war. Survivors like your character will climb through the ranks and earn new responsibilities as you progress through the game.
The enemy won't be easy targets either. Unlike the console exclusive CoD: Finest Hour, Big Red One will use an updated and enhanced version of the original PC AI developed by Infinity Ward, which we are told will result in significantly improved enemy and Allied AI. This means both sides will make better use of cover and engage in some realistic tactical flanking and envelopment maneuvers. Considering that the AI in CoD: Finest Hour was pretty darn good, I can't wait to see what the developers have in store for us.
In fact, Big Red One will have a big PC heritage; along with the PC-based AI, Gray Matter is importing many graphical features from their CoD: United Offensive PC expansion pack, in addition to the visual upgrades and tweaks we all expect. As a result, character detail is something to behold, with realistic facial expressions that convey true emotions.
Needless to say, the action is promising to be classic CoD, which means frantic and exhilarating battles filled with dozens upon dozens of NPC soldiers, shells exploding all around you, the air choked with smoke and tracer fire, and LOUD sound effects. About the only people who are not looking forward to Big Red One will be your neighbors, who will have many sleepless nights ahead of them as they endure the deafening explosions, gunshots, and frenzied shouts and screams of squadmates and enemies alike. And let's not forget the sweeping cinematic score that really makes you feel as if you're playing in a Hollywood epic.
Vehicle combat will return, but in addition to the usual tanks and turrets, this time you will be able to take to the skies and man a bomber tail gun to swat away some pesky Messerschmitts. On the ground, you will still have the freedom to pick up and use any weapon, which will include over three dozen authentic recreations of American, French, Italian and German armaments.
Although little has been said about multiplayer, rest assured that you will be able to enjoy Axis versus Allies deathmatches over Xbox Live. Expect up to 16-player support and many wasted hours spraying friends with your trusty Tommy gun.