Call of Duty: United Offensive E3 2004 Preshow Impressions

Go from the Battle of Kursk to the Battle of the Bulge in the expansion to last year's hit shooter.


Call of Duty was one of last year's most successful and critically lauded PC game, so it's no surprise that Activision has enlisted an expansion pack to be made for the intense World War II-based first-person shooter. While Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward is working on its next project, the reins of the expansion were handed to Gray Matter, the developer who worked on Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Activision and Gray Matter gave us one of the first looks at the expansion during their recent pre-E3 preview.

United Offensive will retain the structure of the original game: You'll fight from the perspective of Russian, British, and American soldiers through a campaign that will span more than 10 missions. You'll begin as the Russians at the Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history. Then you'll get to play as the British, where there will even be a short stint as a turret gunner in a British B-17 bomber before you participate in commando actions behind enemy lines. Finally, you'll wrap up as the Americans at the Battle of the Bulge, Nazi Germany's last-gasp effort to turn the tide on the Western Front. Familiar faces from the original game will make an appearance in the expansion, though we weren't told whose faces they will be.

Gray Matter has been able to enhance and optimize the tools developed by Infinity Ward so the levels and maps will be larger than in the original game. We saw this firsthand when Activision demonstrated the Kursk mission, in which you play as a Soviet soldier defending the German counterattack. You begin riding in the back of a truck, part of a small convoy of vehicles ferrying fresh troops to the front. All around you are your fellow soldiers, and you'll pass waves of tanks and other infantry headed for the action. Overhead, formations of fighters circle the sky, and explosions thunder in the distance. There's a much greater sense of other events happening around you.

As you approach the front, artillery begins to land around you and all sorts of chaos erupts. One of the trucks is hit and explodes, and you jump out and run into the trenches to wage an intense firefight against waves of Germans approaching your lines. You'll engage in running battles with the Germans as you shift from position to position; you will even have to clear out a neighboring village. Fighters will swoop down on strafing runs, and one will even go down in flames in front of you, the burning fuselage hurtling across the trenches. Meanwhile, new particle and pyrotechnic systems will make explosions and smoke effects more realistic, and pillars of dirt will fly into the air from the force of explosions.

The already impressive sound effects from the first game sound like they have been taken to a whole new level in United Offensive. The constant roar of artillery all around you is almost deafening, but over it you'll hear the distinctive ripping sound of an MG-42, the screams of your fellow soldiers, the squeal of tank treads, and the constant noise of gunfire. There will be a number of new weapons, including flamethrowers, which are something of a Gray Matter specialty, and we're told that vehicle combat will play a much larger role in the expansion. In addition to being able to play as a turret gunner on a B-17, you'll also be able to engage in intense tank combat. Gray Matter says that it is currently planning to include around nine new multiplayer maps, which should help sate the many multiplayer fans of the game. United Offensive should ship for the PC later this year.

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