I just finished Call of Duty 2 on the Hardened level.
Sure, I’m a WW2 buff. And sure, COD2 and it’s predecessor, COD with the “United Offensive” are nicely done. But they fail to leave me walking away with a long-lasting impression. They’re repetitive and become dull and boring after a while.
All missions follow more or less the same pattern: overtake one or more enemy strongpoints, and occasionally there’s a follow-up mission of thwarting the counterattack. Both the attack and counterattack suffer from the “infinite respawn” problem which I don’t fancy that much. Apart from the respawn, they claim it to be pretty realistic, and I guess it is – not having been in WW2, I can’t of course judge the realism of the battle, but the scenery is nice and characters are well done, but nothing groundbreaking there. Or I am too lame to appreciate it – I’ve outgrown oohing and aahing about every new tiny pixelshader feature. And my GF5900 is getting old – I had to play at 800x600 at near-max gfx settings, as higher resolution became annoyingly jerky.
There’s a major innovation in COD2: there’s no concept of health, armor and medkits. You can have three states: alive, hurt, or dead. This streamlined the gaming quite a bit, as you didn’t have to go hunt for medkits and could focus on the battle. When you’re shot, you’re hurt, and if you take considerably more shots, you’re dead. This makes sense, as most of the encounters in the game are about charging a platoon with your own platoon, so you have many people shooting at you from different directions, and must take shelter in creative ways in order to not take critical damage.
When you’re hurt, it’s enough to take shelter for a few seconds, and you’re back to alive and kicking again. Due to the intensity of the action, it’s still easy to get killed though, and no quicksave means you have to redo critical sequences and develop the tactics to the tiniest detail to survive. Instead of quicksave and regular save, you have autosave at regular checkpoints throughout the mission just before or after the critical encounters.
Ammo supplies are also something you don’t need to worry about. The first thing you might want to do, at least I did, is to switch to enemy’s MP40 at the earliest possible moment (after the first kills), as you can collect ammo from the killed enemies, and not in units of 30 or so, but just a few collects and you’re back to the max. Probably also would have worked with Allied weapons, as it was quite usual to get your teammates killed, but somehow i just like MP40 more.
Speaking of platoons, you’re never alone in COD2. This was another “not so challenging” aspect – even if you stand by to have all of your teammates killed, new ones appear from somewhere, and there are some critical ones (Cpt Price, McGregor) who just don’t get killed no matter what. You’re still the one who drives the action, such as leading overtaking a house or strongpoint or blowing up bunker doors, but the team provides great covering fire at times and is at least semi-intelligent, being able to take shelter and toss back enemy grenades.
I like interesting landscapes and equipment, but there wasn’t so much of either in COD2. Landscape-wise, one of the more interesting ones was Hill 400 towards the end, which was about overtaking an enemy strongpoint up on the slope. I don’t think I’ve done desert missions before, but there was nothing memorable about them here. Nothing still beats the “winter forest” in MOHAA. Equipment-wise, the only new piece was being gunner of halftrack, which meant fighting the gun overheating. There was only a small shoot-the-plane-with-Flakvierling sequence, and no Flaks or other “big guns” except the British tanks in desert. Maybe they’ll come up with something innovative in the sequel, as COD United Offensive had the F-17 in-air sequence.
One thing that’s excellent in the COD series is the seemingly dynamic, but actually scripted development of tactics throughout the mission. Although seemingly on an open landscape, you’re driven to take a particular tactic, and if it’s the wrong one, you’ll eventually realize it and divert. As an example, in the D-Day mission, I initially tried to charge over the open ground straight ahead towards the checkpoint, but was gunned down frustratingly often, and eventually learned I had to right-flank through the bunkers. Similarly, when proceeding through a village, the objectives are placed in a logical manner and no need to roam around and look for a random enemy to proceed.
I don’t do multiplayer, so if there was something fun or cool there, I missed it.