All-in-all this is a been there, done that and want to experience it all over again with a lot more oomph type of game
This game follows the same gaming structure laid out in the first game, three seperate campaigns for the British, American and Russian military. You play as one of three soldiers with a cool sounding name and a minimal backstory that is somewhat interesting and completely irrelevant. A trivial fact because this game is all about the action on a much larger scale, it is about fighting for your team no matter what the odds and this gives you a much greater sense that you're actually acheiving something rather than completing a level in a game. The levels still follow their familiar progression from task A to task B but this time around you're not limited to one street or one alleyway in order to reach your next objective. The levels open up and offer multiple ways to kill your enemy, whether it be a shoot and run stratagem or a tactical crawl to find the perfect sniping angle. I feel this breaks up the cinematic portions very nicely and distracts you from the overall objective of finishing the level and embarking upon the next. This time around you have some freedom in what mission you want to play next, after playing through the first Russian mission you will notice the first British mission becomes available. Unfortunately you won't unlock the American missions until a little later in the game but this is just as well because they are a little tougher in comparison.
The objectives found within each mission while not wholey original do offer plenty of entertainment, you will clear buildings and hold positions until reinforcements arrive just at the right time coincidentally. These missions are somewhat reminiscent of those found in the original, there's even a car chasing sequence that plays every bit as good as the first time you played it in the last game. Lets be honest though, how many plausibly 'unique missions' are there going to be in a World War 2 shooter without the gamer thinking the developers are ever so slightly insane.
This would not be Call of Duty without the big epic battle scenes and to no great surprise this game has them in abundance. A mission never goes by without you finding yourself up against immeasurable odds or blowing some huge building full of German troops up because it just felt right at the time. Perhaps the most memorable instance is the battle of Pointe Du Hoc which is yet another D-Day mission, this time you scale the cliffs as oppose to storming the beach and in my opinion makes for a much better gaming experience.
One of the newest features to Call of Duty 2 is the health system which abandons health kits and armour upgrades for a much simpler system. If you get caught in heavy fire or shot frequently your screen will turn red as if blood were splattered across the screen and if shot once or twice more you will die. Finding cover pretty shrapish will then allow you to replenish health automatically and continue with the battle as if nothing happened. "Unrealistic!" i hear you cry and i agree with you, i also believe walking around finding health kits is just as unrealistic. At least this way the fight flows a lot smoother without the constant hassle of dodging fire and running for the nearest health pack.
The combat system is as solid as it was in the original, you will find that aiming down the sights of your weapons is a lot more effective than running at an enemy all guns blazing. This can occasionally take the wind out of the sales of battle but it works for the most part and is a lot less of an issue with the multiplayer side of the game. The multiplayer while not totally ground-breaking does it's job nicely, there are obvious elements borrowed from other shooters of it's generation but it manipulates them in it's own unique ways. There are a whole host of modes for you to choose from when taking this game online: deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, search and destroy and headquarters (a remake of the official mod) are all included here and will not disappoint because such varied tactics are required for each. You will be happy to hear some of the better maps are back too, Activision have obviously taken note of the hoardes of emails from pleading fans. The awesome 'killcam' makes it's return too, showing you the last few moments of life before you get sprayed with bullets or shot in the head through the eyes of your killer.
You will find the computer AI varies in this game, sometimes you will be playing the game and thinking to yourself "wow that was pretty smart of him" as you watch your team-mate kill enemies in a way you will probably steal and use for yourself. Then other times they are just there for cannon fodder and it does take away some of the realism the game works so hard to immerse you in.
The new graphics engine employed by Activision works really well overall, the game just looks and feels more realistic than the original as a result of it. It may not be the most realistic looking game on the market but the atmosphere it creates and the way it brings your allies and your enemies to life is pretty impressive, with it's large outdoor enviroments, impressive model animations and cool smoke effects that add a graphical and tactical advantages on the battlefield. The game also implements a "shellshock" effect that puts everything into slow motion if you are in the vacinity of a heavy blast, again this is just one of the small thing's that adds to the overall realism of the game. That's if you have a good enough machine to run it of course, if your machine is more than a couple of years old you will need to break into your bank balance and upgrade.
Perhaps the best part of this whole game is the way the sound is used to add to the gameplay. Not only do you have all the amazing sound effects of bullets flying past your ears as you play through levels, you also have your squad talking to you as if you were actually there. They tell you where enemies are, they help each other out, they shout and scream and let off the occasional war cry just like you would expect from soldiers in war and it is a treat to hear. It doesn't matter if you're playing through headphones or have the whole surround sound thing going on in your house, everyone will enjoy the 1000's of lines of dialogue the soldiers around you shout out as you play. The soundtrack isn't half bad either and consists of some pretty rousing tunes to get you in the mood for battle and as you stand on the field of victory the score rises to a truly swelling finale.
This game could have easily felt like a stale remake of an out-of-date shooter, after all the game doesn't stray too far from it's roots. It does however bring you more of the same in a much more immersive and atmospheric way, the length of the single-player campaign is pretty much the same but the missions have a lot more replayability. All-in-all this is a been there, done that and want to experience it all over again with a lot more oomph type of game, which has put Call of Duty back at the top of the pile where it belongs.
Gameplay - More of what made the original game so popular, a sprinkle of new features adds to the overall gameplay
Graphics - Creates an atmosphere and a sense of immersion that will rival any game out there
Sound - Some of the best sound on a shooting game to date, adds some new audio elements that improve gameplay considerably
Value - Missions have tonnes of replayability and the online multiplayer will keep you going just as long as the original