The Call of Duty series is a video game franchise that always gets a yearly release across different settings. Every single year whenever it is either October or November we would no doubt see a Call of Duty and it is a cycle that so far isn't showing any signs of stopping. Most people today who play the Call of Duty games are either playing the Modern Warfare series or Black Ops series but properly wouldn't know that originally the series made their debut in the trenches in World War II unless they played Call of Duty WWII which as of the day I am writing this review came out back in 2017. I have reviewed some of the Call of Duty games before but I thought that I should go back to where the series originally begun and do some reviews of the old Call of Duty games before I plan to do the most recent and modern games in the franchise. So let's jump into the trenches of World War II and see where the series begun with the very first Call of Duty game.
The very first Call of Duty game came out originally on the PC in 2003 and it was developed by Infinity Ward who are known for the work on the Modern Warfare series in the franchise. 6 years after then it became available on the PlayStation 3 and the XBox 360 as a digital download game by Aspyr Media which is where console players who missed out on the original game before can finally experience it console like how the game was on PC. It's a faithful port of the original game that manages to capture all of the original game's excellent gameplay, design and the presentation mostly very well despite its age.
The original Call of Duty game was a World War II First Person Shooter which originally competed with the Medal of Honor franchise. Interesting to know that some the developers who worked on Medal of Honor Allied Assault went on to make this game which is pretty cool. The main difference between this game and Medal of Honor was the large scale sizes of the environments plus it had a large focus on AI controlled teammates and scripted events which make the game a lot more cinematic. Normally First Person Shooters would focus on just a single character to play as but in Call of Duty you had three characters and these were Private Martin in the American campaign, Sargent Evans in the British campaign and lastly Corporal Voronin in the Soviet campaign. Each of their campaigns follows various real operations that happened during the war like, Operation Overlord, Operation Tonga and also the suicide charge at Stalingrad and these are brought very well into the game.
In missions you have plenty of Nazi enemies to shoot down and you have various World War II themed weapons like Thompson, MP40, Kar98k, Springfield and M1 Grand rifles and machine guns and plenty of them are very effective and impactful in certain situations. Call of Duty, much like Halo limits the player by how many weapons they can have at a time, normally it meant to have a two weapon limit but in this game you can carry two primary weapons with a sidearm taking a third slot and grenades for the fourth slot. Switching between your available weapons isn't really all that difficult on the controller as you can easily cycle with the L1 and R1 buttons. Yes, this was before the series would assign the Grenades to controller buttons later on but you'll get the hang of switching between weapons with the bumper buttons the more you play the game. Also like Halo this game has a melee attack button where you can hit the enemy with the butt of your weapon which works well in finishing downed enemies off in close quarters areas.
The game's biggest innovation at the time was being able to aim down the iron sights of the gun which is done with the L2 button on the PS3 controller, when using it allows you to hit your targets more accurately but you move slower. Another thing that can affect accuracy are the stances where you are either standing, crouching or pronging which is handled This made fights in the game really cool but most importantly it added depth and flexibility to the shooting meaning that you can't just spray bullets while hip firing otherwise it makes you about as accurate as an Imperial Stormtrooper. In other words you'll just be spraying bullets all over the place and wasting a lot of your ammo.
I think I should take the time to talk about the controls, on the PS3 version the controls are spot on and are laid out correctly as they should be. L2 for aiming down sights and R2 for firing, aiming on the Analog Sticks isn't as fluid as aiming and moving around on a Keyboard and Mouse setup but if you played more recent console shooters you'll get used to the controls in this game. This game also lacks a sprint button which many of the later games would have but the movement speed in the game is good enough.
Each mission has different objectives that you do as displayed on the compass with either your squadmates or by yourself occasionally such as planting charges on Flak Guns, collecting enemy documents, providing cover for your other squadmates on a MG42, or using Panzerfaust or a Flak Gun to take down enemy tanks alongside killing tons of Nazi enemies that appear in groups. A lot of missions in the game are actually pretty good and the game does a fantastic job of mixing things up to make sure things don't get too repetitive. There is even a mission where you get to control a tank which also mixes things up a fare bit. The American and British missions are pretty enjoyable which allow you to get used to the gameplay mechanics plus they provide plenty of missions where you are storming through German buildings and camps taking down plenty of Nazi enemies. You also get plenty of hold out moments where you have to hold out against a large number of enemies and vehicles for a while before reinforcements arrive to save you. It is worth mentioning that in the British missions you are aided by Captain Price which is a name that would be become a popular in the series but the character name would become more known in the Modern Warfare series so if you want to see Captain Price in the original Call of Duty game then here you go, he has got his iconic moustache and is voiced really well but not as well voiced as his Modern Warfare descendent.
Arguably one of the best and memorable campaigns in the entire game is the Russian campaign, it is where the game shifts its gears shows a strong and fantastic narrative. Being heavily inspired by the World War II film Enemy At The Gates the opening of the Russian campaign has you playing as a poor Soviet solider Corporal Voronin alongside other weak soldiers who are forced to storm the front lines without a weapon and being completely outgunned by German gunners. The soldiers in the Russian army are also not to take a single step backwards as part of Order 227 or else commissars will execute any cowards they see retreating. You'll watch hundreds of your men being helplessly gets gunned down by Nazis on machine guns as you try to move from cover to cover and avoid being killed by the German gunners while struggling to find a weapon. Eventually you do get your hands on a sniper rifle and start sniping officers down and finally take up other weapons and start fighting back. The large scale size, design and build up in the Russian campaign is really incredible and I really do like that they saved this for last because the opening of that campaign and alongside having some truly outstanding moments it highlights the struggling battles the Russians had against the Germans which resulted in about millions of Russian Soldiers killed. It's also a thing that the Call of Duty series tends to take references to various films as a way of paying homage to those films and plenty of these are pretty cool and cleaver.
Visually Call of Duty isn't really all that amazing to look at for a game released in 2003 considering the low quality character and weapon models but the level design makes up for it including plenty of large scale environments with plenty of World War II themed areas being well put into the game. It is running on the modified Quake III Engine which was what Medal of Honor Allied Assault was running on as well but doesn't look as great as that game. On the console versions the game supports HD resolutions, it upscales to widescreen and it manages to run at 60 FPS or 50 FPS on the PAL PS3 versions (at least I think so) but the graphics and quality just look really outdated and poor quality by PS3/XBox 360 standards. It can handle the majority of the action just fine for most of the entire game but when you get to the Stalingrad level where you are at the Volga River the performance tanks down considerably as you see constant explosions and plenty of soldiers on screen getting gunned down. I do like that when you are hit close with explosions you get shocked and become disoriented and the screen gives you the feeling of being disorientation which is a nice effect. The character animations on the other hand are very choppy and not very polished even on the console versions, this is most notable with character death animations where you see their bodies awkwardly slam to the floor after being shot or when enemies get sent flying in the air after being hit by an explosion I saw a somersault animation which actually made me laugh. The soundtrack composed by Michael Giacchino and Justin Skomarovsky is really amazing, filled with a lot of orchestral tracks and it fits the intense action of World War II and it is really outstanding. The voice acting on all of the three sides is really good as well, mostly with the voice acting on the British campaign thanks to their accents although the Germans no what side you are on they always spew out “Soviets” even when I am not playing on the Soviet Campaign when in battle and I don't know if it is a glitch or something.
Now aside from the dated graphics and animations I would wish that the game was a little bit more balanced. This game uses a fixed Health bar rather then Health Regeneration and you have to refill your Health with Medikits found in every level which is fine and it is something I do prefer as Health Regeneration in a way makes FPS games a little too casual. However the enemies in the game tend to do a lot of damage to you even on Greenhorn and Regular difficulty settings, if an enemy starts spraying bullets into you then you'll end up dying easily. Often times I tried to shoot down an enemy only for him to shoot me and take me out, other times I shot down one enemy and then immediately after another enemy appeared without warning and shot me and killed me instantly with me being unable to react. You lose Health way too fast in this game and I understand that each level has a fair amount of Health Kits to accommodate for the amount of enemies and even some enemies will drop them but I just wish that you didn't lose Health so quickly. If you were playing the game on PC you can use Quick Saves to help make getting through tough sections without too much trouble but console players have to result to checkpoints which normally occurs if you pass an objective or reach a certain part of the map with at least more then 50% of your Health. Even with checkpoints it does get frustrating that you are getting close to completing the mission only for a German enemy to come out of nowhere and just kills you instantly from full health. The hardest missions are the ones where you have to hold out against German Nazis for 5 minutes till reinforcements arrive, reasons that enemies spawn all over the place and can easily ambush your positions making it overly difficult to survive. Again all it takes is one enemy to get the drop on you and it's all over and you get sent back to your last checkpoint which might have been about 5 or maybe 10 minutes since you last had one.
What doesn't help is that the AI is really terrible with your teammates being completely stupid and useless at times. Look I know that they properly didn't want to make the teammates super smart and aggressive because it would have it to easy that the player wouldn't find the game all that engaging but it does mean that instead you have to put up with teammates who end up firing their weapons at walls and not even helping you out in fights and just getting in the way all of the time. They even throw Grenades at themselves cause apparently they can't handle Grenades properly sometimes taking their own allies out. I swear these guys are as bad as the Marines in the Halo series. Well at least enemies can throw your Grenades back at you and enemies in all fairness do not spam Grenades at your feet in every fight in this game which is something that always annoyed me in later games. The enemies also can take a sniper round to the chest or take about 6 or more machine gun bullets to the chest and still get back up for more which can make things unbalanced also, often times a poured a ton of bullets to an enemy assumed he died only for him to get back and shoot me down instantly. Look the AI and the difficulty do not ruin the game fundamentally and also I get that this game is not to be treated as a run and gun shooter where if you try to use hip fire and just run right through levels you'll get gunned down real quickly. However some moments of the game can really just be difficult especially if you are going to be tackling the game on harder difficulty settings.
Overall the original Call of Duty's gameplay hasn't age too bad and it does hold up in some way even on consoles if you are able to look past the dated graphics and at times unforgiving gameplay. The many frantic fights of World War II are impressive to behold, the scale and size into the design is incredible even by today's standards and the shooting is still just as enjoyable on the console versions as it was on the PC. Many people these days would normally just ignore the single player and just went for the multiplayer modes. I would like to talk about the multiplayer modes really but however as of the time I am reviewing this game there is no one playing this game online any more and is no AI bot for multiplayer either which is a shame. But this game came out at a time when the main focus was all about the intense Single Player campaign and when the Single Player campaigns in Call of Duty games had atmosphere and meaning before the later games got ridiculous with their settings and story telling. The price of the PC version on Steam isn't very cheap to pick up but it costs about £11.99 on the European PlayStation Network Store and all you get from now on is the Single Player which you can playthrough once or maybe again on higher difficulties if you want to collect all of the trophies/achievements that you can unlock in the game. If you want to experience where the Call of Duty series originally started before it became one of the gaming industry's notorious game franchises then at least it serves as a history lesson where the series all begun in World War II.
Game Score: 8.0/10
Game Title: Call of Duty Classic
Platform: PlayStation 3
Developer: Infinity Ward/Aspyr Media
Genre: First Person Shooter
Age Rating: PEGI: 16+
Release Date: 2nd December 2009
The Good Points:
Three different storyline campaigns that are enjoyable to go through
Iron Sight Aiming gives the shooting tons of depth
Soviet Campaign has the best design, scale, narrative and incredible moments
Excellent World War II themed areas
The Bad Points:
Random AI behaviour
Choppy Character Animations
Reviewed by: Anthony Hayball (AQWBlaZer91)