Review: Call of Duty 2: Big Red One (Playstation 2)

In this review, we keep our head down in the Playstation 2 game Call of Duty 2: Big Red One. We find out how well this FPS game plays.

This game was released in 2005. It is a console sequel to the game Call of Duty: Finest Hour which we reviewed earlier. That game got a rather average score. So, we thought we’d try another game in the series to see if it’s any better.

The game follows an infantry division known as Big Red One during World War II. While the game does deviate a bit to a few other soldiers such as an air bombing raid, the game focuses largely on a foot soldier unit. The missions start off in northern Africa and end in Europe.

A number of features do get carried over from the previous console game to this game. This includes driving around in a tank and participating in a few tank battles. There are gun emplacements throughout the game, but the actual practical use of this is somewhat minimal. You’re more likely to be taking out machine gun nests more than placing yourself in one.

The weapons you end up using don’t really change much. You have your rifles (and a sniper rifle or two) and machine guns. Additionally, you have two types of grenades which is a reduction from the four you got in the previous game. Both grenades pretty much operate in the exact same manner. The only real difference is aesthetic.

There are other pickups like last game. These focus almost exclusively on health. Unlike the previous game, however, you only have one health meter. You cannot pick up health packs for later use like last game, so that feature is also removed. There are three different health item pickups you can collect: small red discs, green boxes, and large white health packs.

The red discs give you about 10% health each. Though surprisingly rare, they often comes in packs of 3. The green boxes restore about 25% of your health and are the most common health pickups in the game. Sometimes, enemy soldiers drop them. Other times, though, they’ll be found in different locations across the map (sometimes even in groups of two or three). Finally, there is the white medical kit. This item is somewhat rare, though on a rare instance, you can find two in a given location or added with a green box or two.

Also like the previous game, you do have a number of mission objectives. Like the previous game, you’ll have a few objectives that involve setting explosives on a few pieces of equipment. Other times, you are to pacify certain enemy units along the way. The escort missions that were found in the previous game are largely removed in this game.

The maps themselves are narrowed a fair bit. As a result, instead of the more open maps where you basically try and secure your own rout to a certain objective, you follow corridors whether inside or outside. These corridors to spider around a little, but you’ll encounter fewer open field areas. At best, you’ll push through a town with a few small buildings you can explore.

The Heads Up display (HUD) does have similarities and differences. Like the previous game, you do have a damage ring. If you take damage, a red splotch appears somewhere on this ring to denote the direction of the damage. You’ll also have an icon denoting which grenade you have selected, however, this has been reduced down in size. The health meter is largely retained, though also reduced down in size. What has been removed is any visual cue that your shot actually hit an enemy. On the plus side, it is a little easier to tell if you hit an enemy.

Friendly fire indicators is also present, however, they are reduced down to a single little green icon that fits inside your tiny cross-hairs.

One thing that is noticeable in this game is that there is now an additional way to fail a mission. Sometimes, you are able to backtrack to pick up health items you skipped over earlier. However, if you backtrack too far, you’ll get a message asking you to regroup with your unit. Keep going and you’ll automatically fail the mission. It’s hard to tell what the limit is, so it’s all about finding that line first. Often, however, the game forces you to move forward with use of closing doors or forcing you to jump off of cliffs you can’t climb back up on. So, you won’t encounter this situation all that often.

For me, this game is pretty surprising, but not in a good way. In so many instances, this game represents a step back for the series rather than a step forward. A lot of features, however small, are seemingly removed, stripped down, or otherwise reduced. The features are so heavily reduced, I found last gen games like Medal of Honor: Underground, Perfect Dark, and Turok 2 – Seeds of Evil to completely outstrip this game in terms of overall features. Especially considering this is a game released on a system that is maturing at this stage, the lineup of features is disappointing.

The level maps themselves also leave a fair bit to be desired. That lack of open spaces simplifies gameplay which is both good and bad. It’s good because it is easier to find safe routs. It is bad because it leaves fewer choices for the players, making play a bit more stale. It also hurts the replay value of this game.

A problem that hurt the previous game is the AI. There is a subtle improvement to the AI for fellow soldiers. They don’t duck and cover right next to a grenade like the previous game. Friendly soldiers actually try to escape the area to avoid taking damage. The downside is that this is almost all that was fixed. Friendly soldiers still run into your field of view randomly. They even block your path at times – sometimes when a grenade is thrown which causes you to take damage in the process. So, this still leaves a lot to be desired even with the minor improvements that have been done.

One glitch I did encounter is that one of the friendly soldiers actually froze in place. No additional movements or anything, just stayed in one location. As it turns out, the soldier needed to make it to a particular bunker to open a door. This means that progress stalled and the game, as speedrunners call it, “soft-locked”. As a result, I had to restart the mission even though I was doing particularly well in the mission. It only happened the one time, so I can’t tell if it was just a one-off incident or if this is an actual problem that regularly re-occurs.

Generally speaking, this game takes a number of steps backwards. This is to the point where it has fewer compelling features than games on previous gen consoles. The maps are greatly simplified to the point where it’s largely just a few corridors that spider throughout the game. On the plus side, there is an interesting air raid mission that allows players to drop bombs on targets and shoot enemy air craft out of the sky. Still, the AI remains largely broken with only one improvement. For a game of its time, this one doesn’t have a lot going for it.

Graphically, this game does step things up. The fires and debris actually have a sense of realism. Even the explosions and flying soil have been improved upon. The cut scenes do allow you to look around freely. The blurring after an explosion is interesting as well. While the special effects have been ramped up, the various models have only been slightly improved upon. A lot of areas have that single colour effect going for them (mostly grey or tan). Some areas feature houses, but the lack of noticeable colour does make for a rather dull experience. So, the graphics are decent enough, but it’s mostly the special effects that do a lot of the heavy lifting here.

Audio is a weakness for this game. The voice acting is nicely done. The sound effects, meanwhile, are a bit hit and miss. The weapon fire is pretty good, though the grenades sound a bit weak. Unfortunately, the music is barely noticeable. It ends up being a splash of sound every so often, but is otherwise not even that noticeable. So, it’s mainly the voice acting that keeps things going, but there’s little in the way of backup there.

Overall, this game is a disappointment. The previous game offers a few interesting features that at least helps give this game a chance. A lot of those features are either stripped down or removed altogether. Bugs do persist throughout this game that were a problem in the previous game. Probably the only standout thing about this game is the air raid mission. Graphically, the game features some interesting special effects and features, but the plain colours make for a monotonous experience. The voice acting is about all that helps make the audio compelling in this game. The music and sound effects doesn’t really help to make this stand out. So, an overall game that can be passed on.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game on the default normal difficulty.

General gameplay: 16/25
Replay value: 3/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 54%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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