COD United Offensive delivers tense, action packed FPS engagements in a "must have" expansion to COD.

User Rating: 9 | Call of Duty: United Offensive PC
While this is my fourth or so replay of CODUO I had forgotten, due to the many games played since first playing it, how enjoyable a game it is. In fact it's not a game but an expansion, but every bit as good as the original COD and arguably even better and more challenging. COD certainly met the challenge of its then rival WWII FPS series MOHAA and the battle between the two franchises continues to this day in the modern FPS arena. The two series take very different views of WWII combat; in COD your character is part of a team, whereas in MOHAA you are a solo warrior. Likewise, while both are reasonably well grounded in historical uniforms, weapons and settings it is consistently COD that shines on realism, or what passes for it in the virtual world of gaming.

CODUO is as its name implied an expansion, or more appropriately mission pack, for COD. So you should expect little new in game play terms, though your character is now able to dash and spot, with binoculars, for artillery support and use a flamethrower. Some new treats offered in CODUO include manning gun turrets on a B17 bomber (this is arguably on the rails but you are free to move around from location to location on the aircraft), manning the cannons on a German E-boat in a series of duels against similar vessels and firing from various jeeps, trucks and motorcycles (very much on the rails). There is also the compulsory tank drive mission, this time you serve as a gunner on a T34/85 in the greatest tank battle in history, at Kursk, although this seemed a rather easy if spectacular mission.

Missions are the heart of any FPS and each CODUO mission is introduced with a detailed mission briefing, in the case of the US and British campaigns, or via letters to the protagonist's girlfriend in the Russian mission. These briefings give the historical context of the mission and allows the player to understand what his role in mission is. At the end of each campaign there is a debriefing video reprising all the action in the campaign as well as an interactive screen that allows you to read about the outcome of each mission comprising the campaign and the role played by the player's character. The debrief presentation is a nice touch and adds historical flavour and is an alternate way to celebrate mission success to the medals awarded in MOHAA.

Like its predecessor, CODUO offers three distinct allied campaigns, including the inevitable Bulge mission. The missions in CODUO seem somewhat tougher than vanilla COD although health, alternate weapons and ammo are still readily available. The mission segments that I felt were particularly tough are marked with an asterisk. Unlike MOHAA Breakthrough while some mission segments are quite challenging none required
more that 2 or 3 attempts to get past particularly difficult passages. The toughest mission segments are Noville (the defense of the chateau segment against relentless attacks, reminiscent of the defense of Pavlov's House mission in COD), Ponyri (destroying the tank that batters down the factory wall) and the final Kharkov mission, which has you juggling lots of balls until reinforcements arrive.

The three campaigns, briefly outlined, are as follows:

American campaign - Cpl Scott Riley (506 PIR/101st AD)
o Bois Jacques - Battle of the Bulge, German assault, scripted jeep ride, man foxholes and repel infantry and armoured attacks
o Crossroads - advance through wintery forest, capture German held farm and trench lines, rescue prisoners, ambush reinforcements, destroy emplaced Tiger tank
o Foy - advance through snow while under bombardment, take town of Foy, snipe enemy from church tower
o Noville - seize chateau, hold chateau against strong and repeated enemy assaults until air support arrives

British campaign - Sgt. James Doyle (RAF & SAS)
o Bomber - gunner on B17 bomber mission, defend bomber from turret positions, put out fires, manually release bombs, B17 shot down
o Train Bridge - escape B17 by parachute, rescued by SOE and resistance, take part in raid to destroy train bridge, plant explosives, escape by truck
o Sicily 1 - join SAS, infiltrate gun battery hidden in cliff face (ala Guns of Navaronne), battle through tunnel complex, plant explosives on guns and in ammunition bunker, escape in motorcycle side car
o Sicily 2 - scripted motor bike chase, battle German reinforcements, capture E-Boat, sink multiple enemy gunboats, escape

Russian campaign - Pvt Yuri Ptrenko (67th Gds RD)
o Trenches - defend inter-linked trench works against infantry attacks, plant charges on Elefant SPGs, seize and defend (time limited) village
o Ponyri - capture rail station, battle through and clear town, enter and clear factories level by level, destroy tank (not easy)
o Kursk - drafted as tank gunner, advance while picking off German tanks, AT gun emplacements and infantry (easy mission)
o Kharkov 1 - intense urban battles, clear buildings house by house floor by floor, spot AT emplacement targets for artillery strikes
o Kharkov 2 - major battle to retake the German held rail station (intense action)

As in COD, the real gem is the Russian campaign with its remorseless urban and rural combat. The British campaign offers some fun behind the lines action. Arguably both Normandy and the Bulge have been visited before, especially by the MOHAA series, but the COD series offerings on these fields of battle are clearly superior in both historicity and immersion. Disappointingly there is no single player German campaign, though this is understandable despite the passage of time and would no doubt raise interesting socio-political debates if any game company took that gamble. Nevertheless CODUO does deliver a firm punch that will leave you asking for more.

Graphics, voice acting and sound remain of a high standard. Friendly and enemy AI, as in COD, is good with realistic behaviours. Unlike COD we do get to see the big set piece explosions like when the bridge and cliff gun emplacements are blown. Again, as in COD, it is the Soviet campaign that ends of the most triumphant note, although you do get a sense of satisfaction in completing all the campaigns.

Debatably CODUO is more of the same, with a few enhancements. Like MOHAA Spearhead it adds value and unlike MOHAA Breakthrough it does not wreck a good gaming experience. The only issue one may take with CODUO is that it seems a bit short. I played each campaign in a single sitting, but enjoyed each thoroughly, and this may reflect the good balance between gaming challenge and enjoyment.

OVERALL: An excellent, indeed must have, expansion for the original COD. I recommend purchasing the Warchest compilation as you get COD, CODUO and COD2 (which I am now replaying for review purposes ... and fun, as well).