The graphics engine delivers great visuals on the scale and quality of Half-Life 2, especially the lighting and smoke effects. Call of Duty has always had excellent sound effects and they continue to add to the immersion of the game. Weapons sound real, powerful and crisp. The voice actors got a huge workout, with your squadmates constantly chattering and calling out warnings and orders, giving an intensely chaotic feel to the battlefield. Nothing chills the spine quite like hearing “EMM-GEE FORTY-TWO, behind those sandbags ahead!” half a second after breaking cover to move onto the next area. Oops. Despite the familiar settings and missions, Call of Duty is very engrossing, due in great part to its technical achievements.
There’s a tank sequence in the singleplayer campaign but it’s quite weak – it involves a head-on rush against German panzers in your British Crusader tanks. At the risk of sounding like a nitpicker, a game that has two historical advisers should not try to convince the player that PzKpfw II tanks are more heavily armed and armored than Crusaders. While the general outline of the battle is historically correct – Montgomery did in fact charge German positions to get his tanks within effective guns range – the German tanks he was worried about were certainly not of the Pz II variety. Furthermore, like United Offensive, the game handles tanks in an arcade kind of way, abstracting them with hitpoints instead of penetration, and permitting accurate fire on the move. The clash of armor isn’t bad and doesn’t detract from the experience, but it could have been done better.
Naturally, every conceivable mission has been done. Whether you’re simply clearing a town and then repelling the inevitable counter-attack, or trying to hunt down German tanks, it’s been done before. To be fair, war does revolve around precisely such objectives, as is well-illustrated by the Pointe du Hoc scenario, which has the player assaulting a cliff on D-day in an attempt to destroy a key heavy artillery battery overlooking Omaha beach.
The game changes wildly depending on difficulty level. On the easiest settings you’re like a one-man kraut killing machine; rampaging through buildings, trench networks and ruins like a lion among wolves. A moderate difficulty levels you begin to slow down and take stock the situation before charging in, perhaps throwing some smoke or grenades and pausing to heal. At the highest difficulties, you poke your head out for fractions of a second, throw grenades everywhere, wait for your men to rush ahead to draw fire and then only move up. It’s a different experience every time and the game becomes increasingly more tactical and realistic as the difficulty ramps up.