The Call of Duty series has made a name for itself with its gritty single-player game that shows players the hells of war through the eyes of not only multiple characters but characters of different nationalities. The latest game in the franchise, Call of Duty 2: Big Red One, breaks the mold set in the last Xbox COD appearance, with the player taking control of a single character throughout the battles against Rommel’s Afrika Korps, Mussolini’s Italian armies and, of course, Hitler’s German battalions.
The term “Big Red One” comes from the emblem embroidered patch that soldiers in the First Expeditionary Division wore on their left shoulders. The First were well-respected and known for their abilities as fighters, not to mention their resolve in getting the job done. They had perfect traits for WWII videogame heroes, and their heroism is very well portrayed in COD2: Big Red One.
Thanks to its decision to shift away from the perspective of multiple characters, Treyarch was able to covey much more in terms of emotion, causing the player to have much more of an emotional bond to the men of the Big Red One. Through in-game cut scenes, we get to know these men and realize why they are so skeptical of the replacement fighters who came to take the spot of a lost companion. They’re not standoffish because they fought together, but because of the bonds they’ve made with one another while trying to make sense of the war they’re fighting. As the game progresses, you start to earn the trust of these men, whom you eventually watch live, fight and even die.
Aside from the excellent storytelling in Big Red One, the developer also ratcheted up the action in this version, presuming you enjoy a lot of on-rails shooting sequences. Sometimes these encompass an entire level, such as when you are manning multiple turrets or are in the bombardier’s seat during a bombing run to destroy an oil refinery. Other times they are used as the introduction to a level. It’s the latter scenario in which these sections work best, as they are generally a little shorter and consequently place you in an even more action-filled location. But those times when the on-rails sequence spans the entire level really start to drag at the end, removing some of the tension that the rapid pace helped instill in the first place.
Standard for the series, and for the genre for that matter, your goals for any given level are scripted and given to in such a manner that you’ll constantly be checking your map to ensure you’re heading in the right direction. Goals range from destroying tanks to meeting up with your squad at a rendezvous point before trekking off across the minefield to take out another set of Panzers.
Online modes are again a big draw for fans who enjoy fragging on the virtual battlefields, with the standard online options including Capture the Flag, Deathmatch and Domination. About one dozen maps are available as well, letting you mix up the action a little. One item worth noting here is that in these online matches, characters gain battlefield promotions for stellar play. Score enough kills or capture the flag, and you earn the right to carry more grenades or ammo. Also, promotions enable the use of artillery strikes and the ability to heal teammates, drop off ammo or create satchel charges. These promotions add depth that other online shooters have tried but failed to achieve.
The game is a far cry from the graphical powerhouse of Call of Duty 2 on the Xbox 360, but given the current-gen systems it’s created for, it proves that the “old” generation is still capable of producing great graphics. Buildings crumble, tanks explode, and bodies fly, all while the crisp visuals keep the war going on all around you. This is one of the better looking games in recent memory for the Xbox when it comes to realism.
Big Red One also utilizes fantastic audio to draw the player even deeper in to the game, and the voice work done by a portion of the HBO drama “Band of Brothers” is spectacular. The collector’s edition of this game contains DVD-like bonus features such as interviews and footage of the cast performing their lines, as well as tips for getting the most out of some multiplayer maps and footage of the real men of the Big Red One.
Even without these bonuses, COD2: Big Red One is a worthy addition to any WWII shooter fan’s collection, and in spite of some tiresome on-rails segments, it makes for a solid shooting-game experience on the current-gen consoles.
- Gameplay: 8.5
- Overall some excellent gameplay coupled with the emotionally engaging storyline, marred slightly by the sometimes overly long on-rails segments.
- Graphics: 8.5
- One of the best-looking games in recent memory, proving the Xbox is still capable of great looking games.
- Sound: 9
- Outstanding use of Dolby Digital technology coupled with some of outstanding voice work.
- Replay: 8
- The single-player campaign is good for a once through, and the online modes will keep you entertained for some time but don’t offer much innovation.
- Overall: 8
- Worth picking up for those who choose not to enter the next generation just yet but still want their WWII fix.
— Jeff Paramchuk