Call of Duty 2 put to the test - the most gripping battlefield atmosphere of the genre
These Russians don't freeze - they shiver with rage because it's not colder. And because the Germans marched in. Vasili Koslov does not want to put up with that: Others flee, he prefers a weapon. Hundreds of kilometers away, two other young men are preparing to fight the Wehrmacht: British Sergeant John Davis in North Africa and US ranger Corporal Bill Taylor off the Normandy coast. What brings the three together? Call of Duty 2, the World War II shooter that, like its predecessor, is not limited to one scenario.
Apart from the names, you will not find out anything about the main characters - there is no real story in any of the three campaigns. Each of the 27 loosely connected missions is staged like a Hollywood production.
It starts with the tutorial: Vasili should learn how to throw hand grenades. But a surprise awaits him at the shooting range: "Why do we use potatoes instead of real grenades?" Asks a comrade, puzzled. “Because real grenades are expensive. To be honest, they're worth a lot more than you! ”Snaps the instructor. But suddenly the fun comes to an end: scouts report that the Germans are approaching. A few minutes later we crouch nervously behind a wall and peer into a bombed-out market square that the invaders are supposed to come through. Our comrades, who have just been rubbing their hands together shivering from the cold, are now clutching their weapons. Our leader wants to encourage us with a fiery speech when suddenly - about a hundred meters from our position - billows of smoke rise up.
The Germans want to take our view! And indeed: the fog not only looks fantastic, it is also completely opaque. The computer-controlled soldiers in Call of Duty 2 don't shoot blindly into the blue (or gray), so you can use the smoke to temporarily shut down enemy machine-gun nests.
No rag dolls
"You're coming!" Someone shouts, and now we hear it too: Battle cries echo out of the fog, and the first Wehrmacht soldiers are storming out of the mist. They're too close for our slow-reloading carbine, too many for our pistol.
We only ever fit two weapons in our marching pack, but we can exchange them for any guns we find: We take a fallen comrade's MP and leave the pistol behind. It's only good for slamming in Call of Duty 2 anyway. When a German jumps into our shooting position, we ram our new submachine gun in his face without further ado. The man immediately goes to the ground. This is not always the case: the AI soldiers often drag themselves several meters on all fours through the snow and sometimes fire a few shots from their pistol. All of these are precalculated death animations - there is no ragdoll behavior and physics system in Call of Duty 2.
This robs the shooter of a bit of its otherwise brilliant atmosphere, because after the third repetition at the latest, the opponents' exits appear ridiculously artificial. Speaking of departure: our close combat performance seems to have impressed the Germans - they suddenly retreat.
When the enemy towers, we want to take care of our wounds ... but we don't have any! Call of Duty 2 has no health bars or first aid kits. As in King Kong, the hero heals himself automatically. Provided you don't get multiple hits in quick succession.
How many he can take depends on the level of difficulty: on the easiest of four levels you are almost immortal and single-handedly take down entire divisions. In places you actually have the feeling that half the Wehrmacht is visiting: Call of Duty 2 generates new enemies until you have passed a certain point in the level. As long as you hold the position, you can shoot until the doctor comes. Oh no, you don't need that. If we don't move on, we quickly feel like we are hunting grouse - only without a score.
However, we are constantly driven by the exciting staging of the missions: In exciting script sequences, fighter planes thunder low over our heads, tanks break through house walls and comrades spur us on to fight at every corner. They are constantly being regenerated, they don't do the work for us, but they convey an incredibly dense battlefield atmosphere. Who wants to take a break by the wayside? So when Captain Price yells, "Run!", We run too.
The other AI comrades also speak to us occasionally: They report the positions of enemies, such as "Left of you, behind the small wall!"
In addition, the Germans warn each other: "The Russians are in the basement!" This so-called "battle chatter" (in German: battle chatter) creates an even denser atmosphere. Friend and foe even mock each other with rude jokes. In Caen, France, a German calls out to us: "When the war is over, you Brits need a bigger island - to bury all the dead!" The soldiers don't have much under their helmets apart from brisk sayings: They hardly change positions or move No longer in the smoke: In the fog we often stumble upon German fighters who crouch in cover like rabbits in the pit instead of fleeing from the advancing allies. So no comparison to the villains in FEAR
In the highest difficulty level of Call of Duty 2, a well-placed ball ends your career as a soldier. Likewise in multiplayer mode: Anyone who thoughtlessly strolls across open spaces will quickly get caught in the crosshairs of a sniper.
However, campers don't have an easy game in Call of Duty 2: after each death, you can see the last few seconds with the »shooting camera« from the perspective of the player who killed you. So you can see from where the shot was taken. The 13 maps of the multiplayer part are relatively small and give Call of Duty 2 the ideal mix of tactical approach and high game speed. It also depends on the respective multiplayer mode - Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag run as fast-paced battles, while "Search and Destroy" is reminiscent of Counter-Strike: a team tries to blow up two target objects on the map Defends opponent. Whoever goes on it has to watch the rest of the round. In "Headquarters" the teams have to conquer a base (as in the Conquest mode of the Battlefield series) and then secure it. Eliminated defenders have to sit out until the base is lost again. So over time, fewer and fewer fighters oppose the attackers, and the teams are constantly changing roles. Exciting! With the »shooting camera« you can also quickly see whether your opponent is cheating - for example because he has been watching you through the wall. There are no other anti-cheat measures in Call of Duty 2: The Punkbuster tool, which has been keeping fraudsters out of first-person shooters for years, is missing.
You can read the complete test of Call of Duty 2 in GameStar issue 01/2006 or online as a pdf in the magazine archive.