When Infinity Ward’s award-winning FPS was released in November 2003, I deferred trying it out for close to a year. Bored of the same genre where the milieu is World War 2 and capping Krauts in resplendant grey uniforms or shooting more Jerry M35 helmets that has been spoiled silly by EA’s (another award-winning title) Medal of Honor Allied Assault. And what else? The MOHAA has the super-soldier syndrome. Why? It is a disease. Picture this:- an ordinary Yank soldier, fresh from the boot camp of lazy Baton Rouge in the 1940s suddenly thrown into front-line action can take out enemies with impervious ease that Winston Churchill may have pondered in his War Office in war-ravaged Britain to seek out this wonder grunt and sign him for the SAS pronto. Hell, the same soldier can also wreak havoc in German-fortified bunkers and take out entire divisions as would a trained sniper would. But, truth is, in war…no one fights alone, much less so if it’s a game. You might be hard-pressed to think that if Splinter Cell can do it, what can go wrong with a little twisting of reality. Right, but for one thing…defying logic is crazy when the game developers are trying to re-enact history and treat the protagonist to what fighting in WW2 is all about. Here’s where COD rectifies this terminal illness in WW2 FPS.
COD is a huge game in its own right, not only in terms of the gameplay but also for the combat engagements which frequently equals that of the historic life-sized battles. Right from the start, IW tried to remedy the super-soldier syndrome by herding the main character into a small squad of 10 or so men. These Yanks fight together and storm German-held fortifications like a unit and not like Rambo’s grand-dad.
But IW falls short of its own objectives. There are indeed parts of missions where the deja vu feeling of being in the boots of a super-soldier recur. The scenario of the sabotage of the Eder dam (ditto for the sabotage of the Tirpitz) recalls MOHAA with such reverence that it’s not difficult to think that some of COD’s developers (who are indeed old school graduates of the MOHAA fame and who jumped ship from EA to IWard) must have felt that a little skimping of creativity here and there won’t hurt the title. And fortuitously enough, it did not and that was because the other scenarios were sufficiently inspired in its creation that the end product suffered ersatz hiccups along the way but nothing to impair its claim to glory.
When COD’s box cover proclaims Russian WW2 missions amongst its fortes, that was indeed one area of historic FPS which many developers failed to reconcile. The Soviet’s Red Army fought some of the most fearsome battles with the Wehrmacht and the battle of Stalingrad hardly needs recalling. Now here’s the fishy part. While ‘Enemy at the Gates’ did a spectacular job at creating the most awesome panorama of a artillery-shelled city in chaos, IWard need not play the same aces and follow suit to the letter. From the barge to the docks scene right up to the Red Square infantry charge, IWard left no stone unturned in re-enacting the sequences straight off the film with precise dedication. Right, they did deflect the film a little with the inclusion of a goofy sniper by the name of Borodin (incidentally, the name of a famous classical composer) and his dry jokes but the allegorical reference of the film into CGs got a tad too far. And also another funny aspect. Why would the developers thought of introducing bogus Russian accents in place of authentic Russian dialogue for that part of the game? That is when everything clicks and you know that the developers have flirted again with ‘Enemy at the Gates’ right up to spoken dialogue .
As if that was not enough to annoy you, the comrades around you also have an irritating tendency to spout one-line orders of little relevance to the game repeatedly. For instance, when storming any building held by Jerries, you are treated to dozens of screams of ‘Move!’ which you can remedy by capping the offender in-game with a well-placed rifle shot. (Yea, team-kills are allowed but only to a certain extent.) The developers probably meant well when including this feature as the ambience of the game has certainly elevated from previous similar FPS , however, we know the detriments of too much of a good thing.
Historically-wise, COD did try to allude to reality. The Pavlov’s House mission is refreshing change from old tried and tested techniques but sometimes, COD’s trademark of fighting as a cohesive unit can sometimes yield strange results. Your fallen colleagues are (usually) automatically spawned from a nearby ‘portal’ whenever they get killed, bringing a feeling that one can never lose this battle as steady reinforcements pour in as quickly as current ones are decimated.
The multiplayer aspect has also demanded a look-in. Main thing is, whenever I engage in countless MP sessions of COD at any cybercafs, Warcraft’s DOTA simply did not feature in my mind. The rank-promotion feature meant improved motivation to frag an enemy. Get up the ranks accelerante and you can soon call the artillery to rain punishment on campers in the open. It’s that simple.
COD promised good old-fashioned fun and delivered it in spades but it does not revitalise the haggard FPS genre. Many reviews from dedicated game sites praised this title to the skies and awarded Medal of Honors to it, but COD has merely glossed over the frailties of its predecessors by introducing squad-based battles and offer new dynamic scenarios to an overdone subject. Otherwise, it is the same old MOHAA which you grew to like and quickly abhor with violent fits of rage.
(COD 2 later- you better believe how good it was…)
(Call of Duty is published by and is a trademark of Activision, Inc. and its affiliates. Call of Duty is developed by Infinity Ward and all images in this article and the use of the name Call of Duty is subjected to copyright owned by the aforesaid publisher and developer.)