Call of Duty 2: Big Red One Review

You’d think that World War II would be a boring setting for gamers because so many games have been set in that setting.  However, when a developer hits on a good thing that usually means that they’ll stick with it, and many copycats will follow.  Infinity Ward hit it big with Call of Duty for the PC, introducing an intense experience from beginning to end.  However, Spark was hired to try to deliver that same experience to the consoles with Call of Duty: Finest Hour.  However, Finest Hour wasn’t able to match the brilliance that Infinity Ward brought to the PC.  Now Call of Duty 2 is out for the PC and Xbox 360, but Activision isn’t forgetting the current generation consoles.  Call of Duty 2: Big Red One comes to us courtesy of Treyarch, but can they bring a better experience than Finest Hour?

You are placed as a member as a member of the First Expeditionary Division.  This unit is known as the “Big Red One” because of the patch prominently worn on their left should.  The patch had a large red “1” on it.  Also known as the Fighting First, they were the first American unit deployed to the Western Front.  They were ordinary men completing ordinary tasks.  You fight alongside the Fighting First in Africa, Sicily, and Normandy, assisting your squad and making history.

While the graphics aren’t bad in CoD:BRO, you can instantly tell that this is a port of a PS2 game.  The textures do have a nice look to them, but they do look a little pixilated up close.  The character models are done well, but the environments aren’t as smooth as they could be.

The animations are done well.  The characters lip sync their lines very convincingly.  Enemies go down differently depending on where you hit them.  However, there could be more variation in the animations.  Several times I saw the same animation for the same death of different characters.  This became very distracting after a while.

The particle effects of the game are excellent.  Explosions have dust and smoke flying everywhere.  The dust can be so thick that you can’t see through it.  Smoke billowing from shot planes gets heavier the more damage taken to the plane.  These can cause some minor framerate issues, but it’s not so distracting that it is detrimental to the game.

The music of CoD:BRO has a militaristic bent of the era.  Actual video footage has music from the era accompanying it.  The music gets more intense as the action gets hotter, and slowing down as you catch your breath in between battles.  However, this shouldn’t be surprising, as the music comes from Graeme Revell of Band of Brothers fame.

The sound effects really shine throughout the game.  The weapons really sound different.  Shooting a high powered rifle blasts your ears, while an automatic pops when fired.  The incredible booms of the flak cannon makes you want to cover your ears.  Bullet impacts sound different depending on the surface they hit.  Bullets hitting metal clanks, while hitting wood thuds.  Turning up the sound really brings the action, and the chaos, to you.

The control scheme is similar to other FPS games, but there are a few differences.  The left control stick moves while the C Stick looks around.  The R button fires while the L button has you aim down the sight.  The Z button throws grenades.  On the D-pad, hitting left or right leans left or right, up switches to the next weapon, and down displays the mission objectives.  The A button interacts with the environment or reloads the gun, while B initiates a Melee attack.  The X and Y buttons change your stance, with the X button lowering your stance while the Y button raises your stance or jumps. 

The problem with the control doesn’t lie in the button placement as much as the configuration of the controller.  The C Stick just doesn’t feel comfortable after extended gaming sessions.  The give within the C Stick makes a precision shot difficult to aim.  The R button doesn’t feel natural for a trigger either and there is too much give when you want to stagger your shots.

The Call of Duty series has been known for their intense battles, and this is no different.  From the very moment you start the game, you are thrown into the action.  No warnings are giving, and there’s no time to waste.

The missions you are given are varied, but they follow the same path.  You reach an area, complete the objective, move to the next area.  As the mission continues, your mission objectives are updated.  This way you are able to see your progress without being bombarded with information about what is coming your way.

Most of the action takes place on your feet, but there are times when you are inside a vehicle for either part of a mission or the entire mission.  This does help to break up the action a bit, but driving vehicles isn’t as intuitive as moving on foot.  Some of the vehicle missions take place with you as a gunner, so you don’t have to worry about driving in these missions.

While they wanted to make a game that followed the Fighting First authentically, some provisions were made to make the game more console friendly.  You heal yourself with health packs and pick up weapons.  However, the bodies don’t disappear after being killed, which does give it a more realistic feel.

In between missions, short in-game engine movies help continue the storyline.  You get to know the personality of the squad and the bond they shared.  Sometimes you occasionally get film footage provided by the Military channel.  This really adds to the authenticity of the game.

Unfortunately, there are a few issues with the gameplay.  While they usually show a great deal of intelligence, sometimes your squad mates are just plain stupid.  A squad mate once tipped over a table to create some cover.  Enemies squat to use cover or hide behind doorways and lean over to fire.  Yet, you can be firing towards and enemy and your squad mate runs right in front of you.  Trying to get through doors can be difficult as your squad mates want to go through at the same time as you, and there are times where it is easy to get stuck trying to go through a doorway.

While there are some minor complaints, they don’t detract from the fun of the game, and the action never stops.

While CoD:BRO is a fun game, there are some issues that really bring down the replay value.  First of all, the game is short.  Getting the game finished within a rental period shouldn’t be a problem, even for slow gamers.  Even the medium difficulty level is rather easy compared to other shooters.  Secondly, the extras are rather sparse.  As you go through the levels, you unlock bonus materials, but those are mostly concept art and movie trailers you’ve already seen in the game.  By the time you finish the game, most of these items are unlocked.  Finally, there is no hint of any kind of multiplayer gameplay.  While the Xbox and PS2 versions have different multiplayer modes, not even a hint of a split-screen multiplayer mode exists.The experience of Call of Duty 2: Big Red One is great, while it lasts.  While the gameplay really keeps the intensity up during the entire experience, there is enough variety from it to get boring.  You are never lost as to where to go throughout each level, so seasoned veterans of first-person shooters might find the game a bit easy, but they would be missing a great time if they passed this over.  If you don’t have a PS2 or Xbox and are looking for a fun shooter for your Gamecube, then at least give CoD:BRO a rental.  You won’t be disappointed.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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