Call of Duty
Like a highly-trained commando, we're going to go straight for the jugular on this one: Call Of Duty is the best single-player first-person shooter on release. It's the mother of all battles, the big push, the winter offensive, the blitzkrieg. It might not be the quantum leap we're hoping Half-Life 2 and Doom 3 are going to be, but it's the apex of the genre as it stands right now: the absolute generalissimo of current-gen shooters.
If that isn't enough for you to make up your mind, then here's some more ammunition. Call Of Duty is the product of 22 members (including all key personnel) of the team that brought us the stunning Medal Of Honor Allied Assault. And here are the results...
The first brownie point to be awarded to CoD is the fact that, unlike a slew of Yankee games and movies, it remembers a few more countries than just the USA did a little bit of fighting in the war. Hence CoD is split up into three sections. The first follows a unit of American airborne forces in Normandy around D-Day. the second focuses on a British glider-borne unit during the same period, and the third shifts the action to Soviet Russia. Naff accents aside, it's about time we got to fight alongside the Red Devils at Pegasus Bridge.
The goal, surely, of a wartime shooter is to immerse the player in what feels like a raging battle -remember how everyone raved about the beach-landing level in Medal Of Honor Allied Assault? But no other game as yet has recreated that absolute and total feeling of chaos and helplessness. Call Of Duty grabs this particular bull by the horns, and throws you into one full scale engagement after another in an anarchic, brutal, nerve-racking trial by combat.
The Sting Of Battle
It also manages to cram that heart-racing, mouth-drying nervousness of a tense online multiplayer battle into a singleplayer experience. Soldiers are running everywhere. Shells are exploding all around. Tracer rounds search out anything that moves. You are cowering behind a shattered half-tack, and you genuinely do not know what to do. When that Tiger tank slams through the wall to your flank, scattering infantry before it, it's the call of nature that you're thinking of answering - sod duty.
It's CoD's crowning achievement at these moments - everything else in the room around you becomes immaterial.
with what's unfolding on the monitor in front of you monopolising every ounce of your attention. Though it's always seemed painfully obvious to fans of tactical shooters and strategy games, the concepts of fire and manoeuvre have been painfully absent from the FPS genre since its inception. Not any more.
Built in to the Al of all the soldiers are human nuances. Essentially, every Al wants to survive. Fire a burst close to an exposed Nazi and he'll dive for cover or put his head down, providing the perfect opportunity for you to break cover and run to a new position. Working in conjunction with your squad mates, a bunch of you can be suppressing an enemy position this way, while others work their way round the flank to finish them off with a couple of pineapples (see walkthrough).
As is the trend these days, you can only carry two weapons at a time (as well as a pistol and grenades). The various guns, though overtly similar, reveal idiosyncrasies in prolonged use. Take the sub-machine guns: The US Thompson lays down a tight burst of rounds, but kicks upwards pretty violently. The German MP40 is a little less accurate, though its kick is far more manageable. The British Sten has good stability, even when you're moving, but is let down by a small magazine. But the finest of all is the Russian PPSh with its 71 -round capacity and lack of kick. It may be the FPS equivalent of train spotting, but working out your favourite boom-stick is a pleasure all players appreciate in battle.
Bricks look like bricks, foliage sways in the breeze, the water effects are outstanding, and the way the engine recreates smoke and dust is flabbergasting - basically, CoD cuts a fine figure. Although there isn't a whole lot of stuff to break up (there isn't much glass to be smashed or random furniture to get trashed in a fire fight), the views are so detailed that it doesn't really matter. The jagged remains of factories and machine works in the industrial districts of Stalingrad and Warsaw are particularly awesome displays of virtual set design.
And when things are really kicking off, the effect can be stupefying. As your Thompson spits out bullets, plaster and dust erupt around your target, obscuring the collapsing German in a grey cloud. Explosions send geysers of earth into the air. Distant explosions light up the night sky, and lines of tracer-fire claw their way into the heavens from the flak batteries you're tasked with finding and destroying. And even when the action subsides, there are always little touches of class to look out for in CoD. For example, supply planes might drone overhead. A stray mortar round might land within eyeshot. Or radio chatter might blurt out of an idle receiver.
It doesn't try to maintain this furious military pandemonium constantly, though, and there are a fair share of behind-enemy-lines missions too. Rescuing captured officers from a POW camp, destroying anti-aircraft facilities around a hydro-electric dam, disabling an anchored German battleship - these are the missions that most closely resemble the wartime shooter blueprint. While these are every bit as fun as the equivalent missions in, say, Medal Of Honor or Wolfenstein, they don't really live up to the gripping intensity that CoD benchmarks in its more cinematic levels.
Apart from these more humdrum levels, there is also the odd glitch in the Al. There are moments when enemy soldiers don't react to firing and screaming just round the corner. Your teammates sometimes end up dumbly looking at you with hangdog expressions waiting for your next move. And your sergeant major can take 20 heavy machine gun rounds in the chest, but still get up to continue the mission. But these blips occur far too infrequently to really have any serious impact on your complete immersion.
It's rare you finish an FPS and immediately start again on the next difficulty level. But so much of CoD flies by in a barely remembered blur of chaotic action, that's exactly what we did when we finished. Medal of Honor better have a pretty heavy-duty counter attack up its sleeve, or for it, the war will most definitely be over.
Download Call of Duty
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Ever Wondered What the brains behind your favourite games were thinking during the creation process? Each issue, we sit down with a top developer and pick over the bones of their opus. This month, as its sequel begins to wow the crowds once more, Infinity Ward president Grant Collier chats about his company's first masterpiece, Call Of Duty...
"The goal of the game was immersion. We wanted players to feel like they were in the shoes of the soldiers - that they were in that place and time period. We wanted people dodging bullets when they were in their seats, to sit there flinching and cringing, and we went to all the lengths we could think of at the time - the explosions, the planes, the noise. Later, our military advisors came on board and told us a few more things we could add -so you can expect to see even more of that stuff in Call of Duty 2."
"Call Of Duty was the first time where you had real squad warfare. You had situations with you know, ten on ten, 20 on 20,100 on 200. You had real large-scale warfare, and I'm proud of how that came together. It set a high benchmark for a lot of games. If you want squad warfare, it's got to be as good as Call Of Duty - otherwise, why even bother? I can't think of any other game that has robust squad warfare - certainly not on the same scale."
''I'm a big fan of the mod community, so we tried to make COD as accessible to modding as possible - but the modders just weren't there. They were doing all kinds of mods for Allied Assault, but for Call Of Duty it wasn't anywhere near the same level. And we made the game much easier to mod than Allied Assault... In AA, there was nothing - you had to hack the executable to make a mod. So if I could go back and have time to work on the game more, I'd spend it making the game more accessible to the modding masses, with more robust tools.''
"OK, the British missions. The Special Forces solo operations... That sucks. Well, maybe it doesn't suck, but it wasn't good. Every game does that, and what's special about Call Of Duty is the mass warfare: 100 guys versus 200 guys, that's what makes Call Of Duty special. 'No man fights alone!' That's the motto, and we're sticking to it from now on. There are no more solo missions in C0D2"
"We could have done health better which is why we've changed it in the sequel. We've watched people play the game: they'll be fighting and fighting and then they'll get down to about ten health and basically stop playing. Then they start backtracking through the level, looking for health packs, and that just kills the action. I really like how we do it in the new game, with no health gauge or anything. Now, you're either dead or alive. It lets you stay in the action longer."
"The Al was good, but it could've been better. We knew from the start that while the enemy Al is important, the friendly Al is what you're seeing all the time. So we spent more time on the friendly Al than the enemy. That paid off to a certain extent, because it added a lot to the immersion. But at the same time, the enemies would sometimes just sit in a certain area, and they'd do the whole whack-a-mole thing. They'd just be popping up and firing and you'd just wait for their head to pop up and then shoot them. There's none of that in the new game."
"Some people say they can complete Call Of Duty in eight hours, but they're playing it on Easy... If I was in god mode, I could get through it in three hours - it's just not an accurate representation of how long it takes to play. If you're a veteran gamer, go for the veteran skill level - simple.
"We try to make games that appeal to the hardcore and to the mass-market, and there are a lot of people who don't play a lot of videogames who are just terrified. I see people on the easiest difficulty level, they're just on their bellies crawling through the level, trying to shoot guys from a mile away. And I'm like, *oh my god dude, just get up and f***ing butt the guy with your rifle!' "You have to cater for both types and that's where the difficulty level comes in. We're talking about trying to do something where we gauge your skill level through how you play and then having a ramping difficulty level. Maybe next time."
"Some of our favourite things in COD are the little things. For example, because we spent so much time on the Allied behaviour, there are a lot of neat things that would happen. I remember a story from our lead designer, Zied Rieke. He tried to throw a grenade though a window and it hit the side of the building and bounced back. One of his buddies went into glory mode and jumped on the grenade for him and saved his life. And he's like, I f***ing love that guy. He gave his life to allow me to keep playing.' Whenever a grenade is thrown they usually run, but there's a small chance that they'll throw themselves on it. And stuff like that happens because we spent so much time on the Al for the friendlies. The German Al wouldn't do that though. They're not willing to give their lives for their comrades.
Smooth Net Code
"One of our goals was to make a game that had really smooth Net code, so we could have a lot of players in there. Plus, we wanted to have a competitive platform for multiplayer tournaments. The problem was COD was very animation-rich, and huge packet transfers were going on all the time. But we did a really good job, making it a fun platform to game on, and it could also be used as a competitive platform.
"We only officially supported 32 players, but it's hard-coded at 64 players - we had 64-player games that were just insane. There were some people that worked at the US Government who had 64-player servers set up, which was wicked. They were tapping into the fibre backbone, the United States Internet backbone, and that's unlimited bandwidth. And these guys were worried because the packet transfers were so high that they were passing a terabyte of information in one month (1,000GB). In the end, they had to tone it down to 50 players. But that was some of the most fun I've ever had on a computer."
As I Stumble on to the body-strewn battlefield unarmed, I just manage to catch a glimpse of my brave comrades streaming towards the heavily-defended Nazi positions before the mortar lands. Stunned for several seconds, I stagger for cover as a muted cacophony of machine-gun fire, explosions, shouts and screams rings in my shell-damaged ears. Collapsing behind the remains of a wall, I grab a weapon from the fingers of a victim and make a desperate dash for a doorway in a ruined Stalingrad tenement block.
Sheer panic. It's one of the many emotions you'll experience in the first 30 seconds of one of the Russian missions in the forthcoming first-person shooter Call Of Duty. We've been banging on about Infinity Ward's new WWII action title since we broke news of its existence in issue 129, but the rest of the gaming world is now finally decoding the message that Call Of Duty is going to be very special indeed.
We recently had a hands-on play of the latest Call Of Duty code, including several new levels that previously hadn't left the confines of Infinity Ward's bunker. For those of you who haven't read previous briefings, Call Of Duty follows characters from American, British and Russian campaigns over 27 levels, leading up to events that all happen simultaneously on D-Day. "British missions are more about smaller groups, superior intel, and a little more stealth and tactics," says Infinity Ward's Vince Zampella. "Russians are more about body count, about throwing guys out there, whereas the American missions are somewhere in between."
So, rather than being a grizzled American soldier single-handedly winning the war for Uncle Sam, you'll experience the conflict from different perspectives, often backed up by intelligent troops, who will cover your position, return fire and complete important mission-critical tasks.
As a passenger in the jeep in a manic chase through the countryside, you have to shoot any enemies chasing you on motorbikes, occasionally leaning out of the window for a better view. It's exhilarating stuff, as you see your car windows splintering around you, bullets pinging off the bodywork and enemy vehicles spinning off the road and exploding when you hit them where it hurts.
After a fast and furious sequence, you have to flee your jeep as it's cornered in a narrow village alleyway by a hulking German tank. The mission now takes the form of a tense house-to-house battle against dug-in Nazis, as you attempt to find another vehicle in which to escape. Your two squad-mates now start to pull their weight, providing covering fire when you need to make a dash for a safe position, and hotwiring a new car when you discover one handily left behind in a garage. "You can often tell by your team-mates where to head next, so the Al will watch doorways, for example," adds Zampella.
Next up, Infinity Ward loaded up a plucky British mission, based on the historical D-Day assault on Pegasus Bndge, where soldiers were silently flown in using gliders made of aluminium and wood to take and hold this critical position. "You want to be immersed and believe it's real, so we used real uniforms, weapons and the Pegasus Bridge for modelling and to get the distances involved," says Zampella. "We did a shoot where we rented all the WWII weapons, fired them and filmed them to gauge how the guns kicked and reloaded, and took pictures for texture and dimensions, then recorded the audio. Call Of Duty is as authentic as possible without hurting the gameplay."
Stiff Upper Lips
The mission begins with you and your Para chums on board a glider just before it crash-lands a few hundred metres from the bridge. You're soon spotted and begin a hectic raid on the German positions, backed up by dozens of troops throwing grenades, shooting guns and sniping distant rooftop Nazis. Staying prone is essential at this point to make sure you're less vulnerable, as shrapnel and bullets whiz about your head like angry mosquitoes.
Playing this level was great fun. but just as we thought we'd reached the height of the action, we were told by our plum-in-the-mouth British sergeant to "Tally ho, old boy" and capture a flak cannon. After a manic dash through the battlefield, I managed to take the enemy's huge flak gun and begin firing shells at their positions, taking chunks out of buildings and sending Nazis hurtling into the air with the force of the explosions. Fantastic stuff. Infinity Ward mentioned this was not the only stationary weapon, and that you'll be able to get your hands on others, including a four-barrelled anti-aircraft gun.
We've only scratched the surface of Call Of Duty with this preview. Infinity Ward's single-player missions range from spectacular Private Ryan-style set-pieces with more than 100 Russian soldiers fighting individual battles alongside you while Stuka bombers dive down for attack, through to exhilarating tank missions in snow-covered Eastern Europe and stealthy solo missions in which sniping from distance is the only way of destroying air defences without alerting the Nazis.
Seek And Destroy
However, Infinity Ward also revealed for the first time some of the planned online multiplayer modes, as well as confirming that there would be a bunch of dedicated multiplayer maps. As well as basic Deathmatch, team modes will include several objective-based games such as the self-explanatory Seek and Destroy, as well as Retrieval, which involves stealing or defending a vital piece of equipment. Frankly, we can't wait to get hold of the finished Call Of Duty, which barring a catastrophic last-minute retreat on the scale of Dunkirk, looks set to demote Medal Of Honor: Allied Assault to second-best WWII shooter of all time. We'll find out with our definitive review next month.
War is hell, and the realization of that truth is no more evident than with World War II. Millions died all over the world due to an international power struggle, and yet, there is an almost morbid fascination with WWII among the general populous. So much so that there's been a recent trend in the videogame industry with WWII games: there are a lot of them. Undoubtedly, this trend shows that shooting Nazis is still fun, but it's never been more fun than with Call of Duty, the newest WWII themed FPS from Activision.
Call of Duty can be described in one word: intense. There are no complicated mission objectives, no key-fetching to open doors (in fact, there aren't even any doors to open), no squad-command signals ' none of that. It's all about edge-of-your-seat action, and it's executed remarkably well. You'll constantly be barraged by a hail of bullets so there's no running around and blowing up everything Rambo style. Instead, you'll have to constantly take cover, snipe when you can, and take the role of a gun-blazing hero when you have to. The balance between strategy and action is excellent, both making for an extremely fun time.
Much like titles in the Medal of Honor series, missions in CoD are scripted. Scripted events might be a turn off for some, but it works exceptionally well in CoD as the action is constant and there's a good deal of variation among missions. The one thing that CoD captures really well, thanks to the scripted events, is the chaos of war. Some of the missions (like the Red Square missions) are pure chaos from beginning to end ' and I loved every minute of it. Scripted missions do mean that some events will happen again and again each time (though rarely with the same results), but if that's the tradeoff that has to be made for the immersive experience that CoD presents, then gamers got the good end of the deal.
Going hand in hand with the incredible single player game is the outstanding multiplayer game. All five modes, which range from Counter-Strike style matches to traditional deathmatches, are a lot of fun with the same intense and thought-out action of the single-player game.
Call of Duty uses a modified Quake 3 engine (developed for a title that's over three years old), but you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at it. Detailed environments, top notch lighting effects, fantastic animation, steady framerates, and sharp textures all help to create a believable World War II setting. Likewise, the audio also immensely helps rooting you into the WWII setting. Distinct gunfire, jarring explosion, fine voice acting, and authentic environmental sounds all sound so realistic that you may find yourself ducking gunfire at your desk.
Let's get the obvious out of the way: Call of Duty is one of the finest showings this year on the PC, and is without a doubt the best WWII based title to be released thus far. It's that good. War may be hell, but I'll be damned if Call of Duty isn't a blast.