It’s rare – almost unheard of in fact – to think that a graphical effect can change a game almost entirely but that is the case with Call of Duty 2. United Offensive gave us a taste of smoke but Call of Duty really lays it on thick and heavy. Not only is smoke a prominent feature of multiplayer, it is a vital component of the singleplayer campaign. Certain areas are very difficult to pass without it and your squad mates are sure to tell you about them, but smoke isn’t limited to those situations. The AI responds quite believably to smoke, no longer demonstrating much in the way of accuracy.
Smoke is also highly important in multiplayer, particularly the objective-based modes of Search and Destroy and Headquarters. It’s fairly effective at protecting the player from snipers but also masks movement of large groups of player and can distract the enemy into thinking that an attack is coming from the direction of the smoke. In a neat twist, only certain classes get smoke – SMGs do, but snipers, shotgunners and assault riflemen don’t, for example, We’re a bit surprised that the shotgun men don’t get it, since they have the least range of anyone, but on servers with a clan or two working together or against each other, smoke is deployed quite strategically.
Multiplayer is almost exactly like in Call of Duty. There are a few new maps and updates to old maps like Carentan, Bocage and Railyard. Railyard has the most extensive changes, with a new route and trenches around the railroad tracks – unbelievably it’s actually better than before. The other updated maps have smaller changes, like an MG nest or maybe some tightening of the routes, but nothing significant. Overall, there are far fewer choke points and certain maps are so porous and have so many routes that the defending team is often better off going on the offensive.
One of the key changes between the sequel and its progenitor is the abolition of the fixed hitpoint system. The avatar, whether in multiplayer or singleplayer, can still withstand only a certain amount of damage, but this appears as a red outline on the screen to simulate shock and bloodshot eyes. After a few moments the effect goes away as he heals. It’s a little like Halo’s shield system, but with a more organic damage indicator and considerably less ability to take punishment.
The weapons in general have undergone some changes. The sniper rifle is back with 90% of the effectiveness of COD 1.1 – though this is a controversial change, with a fair bit of griping from some people on the servers. Thanks to a “hold breath” ability which steadies the rifle for up to 5-10 seconds or so, gun sway is no longer a factor in aiming. This has the consequence of making some maps into sniper duels. Particularly bad is Moscow, which offers sweeping views of most of the battlefield, meaning certain death for anyone caught in the open. Sniper rifles are bad enough that people jump out from behind walls, crouch, aim and fire – sort of like AWP whores in CS beta 6. Happily, many maps offer significant cover from snipers, like Villers-Bocage, El Alamein, Leningrad, Carentan and so on.