Perhaps the most impressive thing we can say about Call of Duty 2: Big Red One is that when we saw the game running, it looked so good for a console shooter that we could have sworn it was the Xbox version. But then John Hillen, Activision's military advisor, told us that we were looking at the PlayStation 2 version of the game. We did a double-take after that. The quality and richness of the textures, not to mention the impressive modeling of the soldiers, were, to put it as an understatement, very well done.
The game itself should offer more of that intense, hold-onto-your-helmet World War II combat that the Call of Duty franchise is known for. However, this is the first game in the franchise that will stick with the same character from beginning to end. You will play as a soldier in the Big Red One, the famed 1st Infantry Division, as you go to North Africa, Italy, and Central Europe. We saw an intense battle for a village in Belgium, and the buildings were all gutted and burned out. Tracers and machine gun fire were everywhere, and we saw our fellow GIs running around, shooting, and getting shot.
One reason the game looks so good is that it's being developed partially by Gray Matter, which worked on the United Offensive PC expansion pack for Call of Duty. Gray Matter has imported some of the graphical features from United Offensive, though it almost didn't because the developers thought it couldn't be done. To their surprise, it worked, and as a result Big Red One looks very sharp for a PS2 shooter. And we're told that we can probably imagine what the Xbox version of the game looks like. Big Red One should ship this fall.