Last year's Call of Duty: Finest Hour marked the debut of Activision's vaunted World War II shooter franchise on consoles, though the game met a lukewarm critical reception upon its release. Regardless, the company will revisit the series again later this year with a new entry called Call of Duty 2: Big Red One. Boasting an impressive developer collaboration and a slightly amusing acronym, COD: BRO will provide a mixture of the series' trademark action and a new singular focus that should enhance the game's narrative cohesion.
What in the world is the "Big Red One?" That's the name of endearment given to the US Army's 1st Infantry division, which has historically been one of the country's most prolific and important fighting units. The "Fighting First" has been in existence since World War I and is even deployed in Iraq at this very moment, so needless to say, these guys have been around. Not surprisingly, the 1st Infantry was one of the most important elements of the Allied offensive in the European theater during World War II--they were among the first in North Africa and at Omaha Beach, in addition to playing key roles in Operations Torch, Husky, and Overlord, among others. Obviously, there's a ton of material to work with here, and Call of Duty 2: Big Red One will chronicle some of the 1st Infantry's most impressive engagements from a soldier's-eye perspective.
In fact, you'll see everything from the perspective of your own character. Developer Treyarch (of Spider-Man and Tony Hawk fame) intends to immerse you as fully in the experience as possible, so you won't have a name or voice, and you won't ever see your soldier. Unlike past Call of Duty games, which cast you as characters of various nationalities in different areas, you'll remain with your unit throughout the entirety of Big Red One, which has afforded the developers the chance to include characters they can flesh out dramatically. You'll even see your comrades evolve both physically and behaviorally over the course of the game's harried events.
Though you're playing only one character throughout the game, those events will take you to a variety of locations consistent with the 1st Infantry's involvement in World War II. Over the course of three years, you'll travel to the North African desert, a wintry European scenario, and the green lands of Italy, among others. The developers claim that you won't just be engaging in foxhole infantry fighting, though there will certainly be plenty of that. The developers are mum right now on what else you'll be doing, though there will purportedly be a "broad range of vehicle interactions," and it was pointed out to us that the Fighting First engaged in operations on land, sea, and air, which calls to mind a host of possibilities.
To enhance Big Red One's realism and to help bridge the gap between consoles and Call of Duty's previous PC incarnations, famed PC developer Gray Matter has joined Treyarch in the new game's development. Diehard Call of Duty fans will know Gray Matter created last year's exemplary United Offensive expansion pack, so we'd like to think these guys have some chops when it comes to making a solid WWII shooter. We're told that Gray Matter has already carried over its AI routines from United Offensive and adapted them for a console experience to bring the game's many enemies to life as realistically as possible.
Authenticity is a major goal in Big Red One, so for military advisement the developers have again gone to Captain John Hillen and retired Lieutenant Colonel Hank Keirsey, who have been involved with previous games in the series. These advisors have given the team a basic overview of squad tactics and interactions, which will form the basis of Big Red One's gameplay, and the developers have now gone further to learn about advanced elements like suppression and overwatch maneuvers to enhance the tactical realism.
Speaking of authenticity, developer reps pointed out that, given the game's scenarios, such as combat situations against Vichy French or Italian troops, a host of new weapons and equipment had to be created for the game. Luckily for firearm buffs (and anyone who just appreciates a good shootout), the developer has taken a hard-line stance by creating the in-game versions of the guns you'll see only after it had access to the real thing for modeling and recording purposes. The team is attempting to re-create every aspect of combat as realistically as possible--you'll even get different muzzle flashes depending on various environmental factors.
Activision isn't saying much else about Big Red One at this point, but what we've heard so far has already painted a promising picture of this latest entry in the Call of Duty series. We expect to get more details and hopefully some hands-on time with the game at the upcoming E3, and we'll deliver all the info to you then. Stay tuned.