Call of Duty 2
Call of Duty 2 was Activision's headliner this year, and for good reason. Of the PC games shown at E3, none dominated the way Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 have in previous E3s, but Call of Duty 2 would be as close to that level as anyone would get.
Sporting a completely new game engine built in-house by Infinity Ward, Call of Duty 2 brings graphics a few notches better than Half-Life 2's to the table, though we'd say most of the improvement is in the actual artwork. Whereas Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Unreal Tournament 2007 blew attendees away with gobs of shader effects, detailed normal maps and extremely high-resolution textures, with Call of Duty 2 it came down to the subtle things. One item that stood out in particular is a German half-track that rolls up into the battlefield to unload its troops. Not only is the vehicle accurately modeled, but it's camouflaged and covered with twigs, branches, and leaves. Foliage was all over the terrain on that map, making the effect even more pronounced.
Special effects have been greatly improved, particularly lighting, facial expressions and smoke/particles. The sun glares off tanks and metal, smoke is a now a huge part of the battlefield and seems to linger forever, providing cover from AI and other players as well. The demo was an incredible rush of action, as intense now as Call of Duty was when first presented several years back. Huge sound, huge explosions... all the cliches really, but even the memory of the show is gripping. The sheer chaos of the battle scenes was utterly engrossing.
The developers focused on AI from the start, both enemy and friendly. Enemies duck behind cover, and respond to new threats that reveal themselves, while your allies are more independent are likely to work together to a set goal. In a subtle yet deeply effective move, all characters yell out accurate and valid warnings. It's not just a warning of "grenade!" every now and then, but "LOOK RIGHT, LOOK RIGHT!" or any of hundreds of stock phrases that respond to the situation at hand. Soldiers are constantly communicating, shouting, warning each other, making the experience even more visceral and gripping.
There will be three campaigns, one in western Europe, on in North Africa and of course a Russian one. In a new move, these campaigns will be independent and the player will be able to freely switch between them if he feels the need for some variety.
The mission design has been revamped as well. They're still based off historical battles, with action as the main objective, but the development team has gone to some lengths to make alternate routes through a map possible. This may be as simple as taking a different road through a town or as complicated as choosing the order in which objectives are destroyed.