Perhaps it’s a testament to Call of Duty’s quality that even the developers have been unable to leap past it. The original Call of Duty absolutely blew away every other game on the market with better AI, more immersive singleplayer, excellent multiplayer, and the best weapon design ever. This was all the more surprising because Infinity Ward is largely made up of ex-2015 employees, makers of the original Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. Those expecting a similar improvement over CoD are bound to be disappointed. Call of Duty 2 is an updated, tweaked and visually stunning sequel, but no revolution is to be found here.
Levels are bigger, more imposing and longer. Often, parts of a map get recycled as the player’s side finds that roles have reversed from an influx of enemy reinforcements, or perhaps the Germans were driven back. The levels are no longer quite as linear for the most part, and some are almost entirely non-linear. In many situations, like approaches to a machinegun nest or tank, the player is offered more than one approach to the target. Of course, this doesn’t hold a candle to the levels where you’re told to seize half a dozen or more objectives located at various points in the map. There’s no particular order given, though they are numbered, but there is some strategy in how to capture them. Often, it’s a great deal more difficult capturing one point without first owning another, especially in situations that create a crossfire. The enemy won’t recapture your objectives but they will occupy the buildings around them as well, creating buffer zones for their own protection.
Call of Duty’s AI was so impressive it is difficult to say how much improvement there is in CoD2. There are fewer occasions on which the AI doesn’t react to the player’s fire, though enemies are still apt to ignore grenades on occasion – especially when under fire. The AI is excellent about covering entrances to buildings, often holding both corners of the door and leaning out from another door to fire at the main entrance. It also reacts to being flanked and will occasionally fall back from a position that is no longer defensible, but it is rare that the Germans will be aggressive enough to re-establish a perimeter. There may be no hesitation about shooting a limping enemy in the back, but you may pause when you see one trying to crawl away when he’s desperately wounded – at least until he rolls over, pulls out his Luger and starts pecking away at you.
Of course, all the levels are highly cinematic. Missions are divided into multiple parts, but the opening phase is almost inevitably an imposing opening sequence meant to put the player in awe of the war, complete with an inspiring or forbidding musical score. Exploding buildings, artillery strikes, and withering machine gun fire build up an impressive level of anticipation and dread, especially if you’re packed into a boat or landing craft, approaching your target.