We had a chance to take an updated look at an all-new level in Call of Duty 2, the upcoming World War II shooter sequel from publisher Activision and developer Infinity Ward. The new level was El Daba, a town in one of the game's all-new areas, North Africa, although the game will also have missions in Russia and Western Europe, as you might expect. Still, Infinity Ward president Grant Collier explained that the new game will have "nothing reused" from the original game--so World War II fans will be able to look forward to an all-new game powered by an all-new engine with all-new gameplay.
The battle of El Daba took place on November 6, 1942, but there wasn't snow or a Thanksgiving turkey waiting for us in the dusty desert town. Instead, the introduction to the level began in classic Call of Duty style--riding with a slow-moving tank convoy through the desert with just enough time to survey the oncoming hostile ground. The town was already half-destroyed and aflame as German planes wheeled overhead. As soon as the convoy reached town, the cinematic sequence was over, and we were dumped into the action.
Like the Toujane level we've reported on previously, El Daba seemed like it had plenty of vicious urban combat to offer. Our mission was to make our way through the town and neutralize entrenched enemies on our way to a nest of antiaircraft guns preventing an Allied air strike. As we've noted previously, Call of Duty 2 will still have an onscreen mission compass, but you'll be given numerous missions all at once, all of which will appear on your compass as multiple directional pointers, and you'll usually have the freedom to approach them in any order.
The winding streets of El Daba provided a great example of this freedom, as well as the chaos of the sequel's squad-based combat. You'll play through much of the game with a squad of soldiers who will shout warnings and other situational chatter as they use realistic squad tactics centered on covering fire, explosive grenades, and concealment. Yet you'll still see the same kinds of exciting cinematic set pieces you'd expect from a Call of Duty game, though they will happen in real time as you run past.
We saw one particularly brutal example after weaving our way through various alleys as one of our teammates called for backup to break down a boarded-up door on one of the village's ramshackle houses. As it turned out, the house was actually the site of an ambush, and heavy machine gun fire ripped apart the boards on the door from the inside, riddling the overeager soldier whose body convulsed wildly while being shredded by bullets. Eventually, we made it to the antiair guns using a combination of flanking and a few well-placed grenades to flush out enemies in cover. By planting explosives on the guns, we were able to get to a radio station and call in Allied bombers to invade the town's airspace and, with a dramatic strafing run over the docks, bomb the German transport ships docked there back to the Stone Age.
Call of Duty 2 continued to look highly impressive, thanks to its next-generation engine, which will be fully compliant with all DirectX 9.0 effects, including pixel shaders, normal mapping for more-realistic-looking characters, and enhanced particle effects for blizzards, sandstorms, and the billowing clouds that issue forth from smoke grenades. Its audio seemed just as ready to keep up with the graphics--in addition to multiple different voices shouting frenzied orders in English or German, you'll hear hard-hitting weapon fire effects and thunderous explosions that deafen you briefly if you're too close to the blast radius. Even though Infinity Ward won't divulge the details of the game's multiplayer modes, the single-player game seemed every bit as dramatic and tense as the best moments of Call of Duty, and more. If Infinity Ward can deliver a sequel as impressive as the demonstration we saw, then Call of Duty 2 will be even more visceral, cinematic, and action-packed than the original game. It's scheduled to ship for the PC and the Xbox 360 later this year.