Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Call of Duty 2 [official site] tends to get forgotten about, sandwiched as it is between the huge success of Call of Duty and the truly gargantuan success of Call of Duty 4 (we don’t talk about Call of Duty 3 here in PC town). This is an unfortunate state of affairs, as it might just be the best game in the series.
It’s essentially the same as the first one, but with a much more modern feel. In fact, given there’s only eighteen months between them, it is quite remarkable how farther advanced the sequel is. Despite its dazzling scripted set-pieces, Call of Duty was a traditional corridor shooter for large chunks of its play-time, straining at the edges of what id tech 3 was capable of. Call of Duty 2, by comparison, has far more natural-looking level-design, with wide-open battlefields and sprawling North African cityscapes. It even let you occasionally choose which route you wanted to take through the level. Revolutionary!
This is a cracking shooter. Missions like the British Assault on El Dabaa and the battle for Hill 400 still stand out through their thunderous intensity, and the whole experience feels wonderful under the fingers, with slick movement and snappy shooting – particularly those lovely bolt-action rifles. The only downside is that the Russian campaign, which was the high-point of the first Call of Duty, here feels surprisingly anaemic. Oh, and it introduced that stupid pinging noise for grenade impacts, which makes them all sound like they’re made from porcelain.
Anyway, if you feel a sudden, totally unprovoked urge to blast a few Nazis, and you don’t fancy the alternative dystopia of the new Wolfenstein, then I think you’ll be surprised by how well Call of Duty 2 holds up.