Call of Duty: United Offensive Updated Hands-On: Single-Player and Multiplayer
We get our hands dirty with both the single- and multiplayer modes in the upcoming expansion pack for Activision's World War II shooter.
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First-person shooters have the speed and excitement of dashing around while blasting enemies from a first-person perspective, and recent games have taken on the trappings of modern and historical wars. Take last year's award-winning shooter Call of Duty, which focused on Allied operations by British, American, and Russian troops. The game featured an intense single-player campaign and fast-paced multiplayer that emphasized team tactics and fair play, thanks to the introduction of the "kill cam," a feature that let you see the perspective of the last player that defeated you. Now Call of Duty will have an expansion pack called United Offensive that will add an all-new single-player campaign featuring 13 all-new missions encompassing the U.S. and the Battle of the Bulge, the British invasion of Sicily, and the Russian Battle of Kursk. The expansion will also have expanded multiplayer options, including 11 new maps and three all-new play modes. We've got details on that, too.
The single-player campaign of United Offensive, much like that of the original Call of Duty, is divided into three parts for each of three major factions in the Allied forces: the US, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. Each of the campaigns has a different tone and pacing that seems to work well within the game. For instance, the American campaign takes place during the Battle of the Bulge, a huge engagement that took place in one of the coldest European winters to date. Several of the levels in the Battle of the Bulge campaign require you to capture and secure burned-out houses and remote bases that are crawling with entrenched enemies that rain gunfire on you relentlessly and also pelt you with artillery strikes. Your main objectives in these missions are ground-based, like clearing out specific nests of enemies or planting charges on an enemy tank. Like with the original Call of Duty, you'll still have a compass that directs you to your next objective and indicates the location of your teammates.
The British campaign centers around the British invasion of Sicily, and includes an airborne mission in a B-17 bomber with the Royal Air Force. Rather than taking on ground ops, you must instead man turrets and drop bombs on targets of opportunity. The Russian campaign takes place during the Battle of Kursk, and like the American campaign, you'll be on foot--but you won't have access to American weaponry, since the Russian armies in World War II compensated for their lack of technology with strength in numbers. Like in the original Call of Duty's campaign, you start with only a single rifle, and you must scavenge further armaments from fallen foes (and friends). What we've seen of the campaign seems promising and, in some cases, even more action-packed than the missions of Call of Duty. For instance, in several of the American missions, you and your squadmates will be under constant, never-ending fire until you can take out an enemy machine gun nest or tank while shells explode all around you. As in the original Call of Duty, you'll still suffer shell shock (a momentary disorientation that blurs your screen and causes everything to move in slow motion) if an explosion goes off nearby, but the constant bursts of fire and the screams of your teammates seem like very effective cues to keep you running right on through to your next objective.
United Offensive's three multiplayer modes likewise seem promising, since they feature new weapons and even drivable vehicles, such as jeeps and tanks. Its capture-the-flag mode works just like the mode does in most any multiplayer shooter, where each opposing team tries to recover the enemy team's flag, though United Offensive's maps seem designed for specific skirmishes in specific areas, including some near the flag. Like in the original, you start a multiplayer game by quickly choosing your character's primary weapon, but you can also pick up additional weapons and items, like an antitank bazooka or the all-new flamethrower weapon, which can help with flag defense considerably. The expansion's domination mode, in contrast, requires teams to capture and hold key locations on the map. This mode seems to invite some of the team tactics you may be familiar with from other capture-and-hold modes in other games. Finally, base assault requires teams to launch coordinated assaults on the enemy base. Each mode features Call of Duty's patented kill-cam, which, as Call of Duty veterans know, is extremely handy for locating "campers"--players that hide in one spot and take potshots.
The expansion pack seems to be coming together extremely well. The single-player campaign appears to be solid, and the multiplayer modes seem challenging and definitely require the services of skilled teammates. But if what we've seen is any indication, United Offensive's new single- and multiplayer options will make great additions to Call of Duty. The expansion is scheduled for release in September.