Big Red One raids retail

Despite pending lawsuit, the latest console Call of Duty ships out for Xbox, GameCube, and PlayStation 2.

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Though it marched onto PCs without incident, the Call of Duty franchise's debut on consoles spawned a nasty legal battle.

The courtroom skirmish began in August, when a lawsuit was filed by Spark Unlimited, the developer of Call of Duty: Finest Hour for the Xbox, GameCube, and PlayStation 2. Among other things, the suit claims that the game's publisher, Activision, breached its contract with the independent shop when it selected an internal studio, Treyarch, to work on Finest Hour's sequel, Call of Duty: Big Red One. Besides asking for $10 million in damages, Spark's suit requested an injunction be placed on the release of Big Red One.

That didn't happen.

Today, Activision--which has since countersued Spark--announced that it has shipped Call of Duty: Big Red One to stores. Like Finest Hour, the World War II-set first-person shooter is available for all current-generation consoles, is rated T for Teen, and has an initial retail price of $49.99. Its release comes just one week after Call of Duty 2 was released for the PC and just under a month before the same game goes on sale for the Xbox 360.

The latest Call of Duty game is based on the real-life travails of the US Army's 1st Infantry Division, which was also the subject of the classic Samuel Fuller film The Big Red One, which starred Lee Marvin. It follows a squad of soldiers from the celebrated unit from when it lands in North Africa in 1942 to fight Hitler's Afrika Korps. From there they move on to Sicily before being folded into Operation Overlord--the 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy.

Besides the usual waves of Wehrmacht troopers, Call of Duty: Big Red One will sport several other varieties of Axis soldiers for players to fight, including Italian fascists and French collaborators. All enemy combatants in the game will sport an enhanced artificial intelligence system based on the original PC game, as well as employ realistic tactics in battle. On the Allied side, members of the player's squad who survive battles will see their abilities improve as they become veterans.

"As a highly decorated unit that served in a variety of combat theaters, The Big Red One offered plenty of action, heroism, danger, and grit for us to draw from during the creation of the game," said Christian Busic, Treyarch's creative director. "We were able to take the 'No One Fights Alone' theme from the Call of Duty series and create an even more personal experience for players by following one member of a single squad through some of the epic encounters and amazing battles that defined the war."

For those gamers who wish to take the fight to the enemy over the Internet, the Xbox and PlayStation 2 versions of Call of Duty: Big Red One feature online multiplayer. Up to 16 players can participate in four different online modes: deathmatch, team deathmatch, domination, and capture the flag.

For a complete rundown on Call of Duty: Big Red One, come back later in the week for a full review. In the interim, peruse GameSpot's previous coverage of the game.

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