It’s happening. The Call Of Duty series is finally returning to World War 2 after years of going a bit overboard with future tech. After getting a good look at where it’s going next, I decided to take a look back at the early days of the franchise, Call Of Duty 2, to see how it holds up.
Clearly it doesn’t look anywhere near as good the new one – it has been almost 12 years after all – but despite the flood of browns and greys, COD2 still feels surprisingly fresh and acquits itself pretty well. The areas you travel through are quite narrow and you will fight a lot of copies of the same guy over and over again, but the core story and shooting are still strong enough to stand toe-to-toe with more modern offerings.
You learn the ropes by shooting teddy bears and throwing potatoes before being chucked straight into combat. It’s incredibly effective at teaching you what to do, but also makes you feel woefully unprepared as a human. It’s a perfect introduction to the overwhelming horror of the war you’re facing. It’s such a small thing, but by being so simple and grounded, it gives you that feeling of immersion even when the tech is a little bit dated and the environments are showing their age.
With such narrow fields it feels like you’re constantly being bombarded by distant gunfire and explosions, or tanks driving over the trench you’re hiding in. It’s weirdly claustrophobic and feels horribly chaotic in a way that’s appropriate to the time. At times I could feel myself flinching at the sound of guns firing in the direction I was pushing myself towards. It’s an incredibly effective use of the limited tech Infinity Ward had to create an atmosphere that gives you a sense of really being there.
I’m surprised by just how much I’ve enjoyed it when I’ve never been a Call Of Duty fan before. The most recent modern titles feel so over the top and far fetched that there just isn’t anything to relate to to get you hooked. COD2 feels a lot more human thanks to the simplicity of it all; the tech for extravagant showy set-pieces that distract your attention from any iffy storytelling isn’t there for the game to hide behind. All you’ve got to focus on are the stories of the soldiers around you, and there’s a purity in being so limited.
Then there’s the actual in-game tech from the 1940s. No night-vision goggles or super-scopes to rely on here, so you need to teach yourself to aim the old-fashioned way – by pointing down the antique sights on your rifle. You also can’t use goggles to see through the haze of a smoke grenade, you’ll be just as lost in it as your enemy will be, just like a real soldier would be. You have to rely on your own skill and instinct instead of having a gadget for every occasion.
Having revisited the past and fallen in love with its purity I’m both excited and nervous for COD: WW2. Call Of Duty has evolved and added so much over the past decade, and I’m worried it’ll overdo it and taint the simplicity of such an old-school setting. Then again, with the right level of sensitivity they could use all that modern tech to create an even more intense experience. I just hope they don’t get carried away.
This article originally appeared in Xbox: The Official Magazine. For more great Xbox coverage, you can subscribe here.