Call of Duty 2 has continuously been one of the most crowded kiosks at the 360 booth, and for good reason. Infinity Ward has worked long and hard to make a worth follow-up to their smash hit and they are one of the developers who are exploiting the increased power of Xbox 360.
The level we took part in highlighted the British campaign in North Africa. Players are thrown into the action as a convoy of jeeps makes its way across the desert to a town overrun by enemy troops. There was a beautiful heat wave effect that rose over the horizon as the vehicles rumbled towards an outpost. As the convoy arrived it was immediately greeted by hostile gunfire.
The level snakes through the urban environments offering a few different objectives that players can choose to tackle in any order. After taking out a few strongholds players must secure an array of large guns pointed towards the ocean and eventually call in an air strike on enemy naval ships. The task sounds simple enough, but the road to victory is lined with hundreds of troops, advancing tanks, and tight interior quarters.
What really sets COD2 apart from the long line of military shooters that have preceded it is the behavior of the opposition.The environments have been expanded to include multiple pathways and goals that can be approached in any order. Because of this freedom the AI has to be aware of targets and adjust their tactics to meet players from any direction. They flank, take cover, and know how to keep their heads down after players miss with a pot shot. In the split second it takes to lob a grenade and rout out some enemies there were numerous occasions where they had come to the same conclusion about me and plunked down a pineapple at my feet. Their tactics are varied enough to make the game feel like an original WWII experience.
There seem to be an endless number of character animations including wounded enemies who will pull out a side arm in a final attempt to take players down before they bite the dust. Seeing troops convulse while being hit with rapid fire is disturbingly realistic. There are so many examples of death that Call of Duty 2 just might be the Madden of shooters.
The particle system in Call of Duty 2 is capable of producing effects that are not simple visual icons, but directly influence gameplay. In previous games a smoke bomb usually releases a wisp of cloudy, polygonal mist that results in a temporary loss of AI for surrounding enemies. The smoke in Call of Duty is a dense, palpable fog that can completely obstruct visibility over a large area. Drop a smoke canister indoors and it becomes difficult to see the muzzle on your rifle. There are also realistic puffs that burst from the front of rifles after a gunshot and remain in the air until the particles dissipate.
The damage system has also been upgraded to remove the use of health packs. Now, players receive visual cues to indicate damage, and then must retreat to safety to regenerate health. When a player is shot the corners of the screen turn red and are accompanied by a slight blur effect.
We’ve already stated our love for the 360 controller and it was clearly designed with first-person shooters in mind. While the triggers are reserved for shooting and looking down the muzzle, the shoulder buttons are mapped to smoke and frag grenades meaning that there is no annoying changing between the two weapons before letting one fly.
To compensate for the slower targeting of an analog stick the game implements a slight lock-on feature when players look down the barrel of their gun. The targeting reticule moves towards an enemy if it’s relatively close when the trigger is pulled. This makes zooming incredibly useful and encourages players to move between cover points.
We’ll have more information on Call of Duty 2 in the coming weeks including video, screens, and a behind the scenes look at how Infinity Ward is approaching development for the next generation.