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     " All in all, it's an incredibly impressive showing… "

      Title: Call of Duty 2 by Activision

      Format: Xbox 360 WWII Shooter

      Reviewing Monkey: Our Ape Masters

      The Hype: The most popular World War II shooter of all time gets a major overhaul in its latest console edition. A new engine, new game options, and new single player campaign await those who ever yearn to stomp Nazi Germany back into the dark ages. But is there enough here to push you back into battle or is it just another 'me-too' title trying to sneak in under the radar. Read on, my Monkeys, and find out.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: With Christmas just around the corner and the market flooded with new games, new consoles, and a million other shiny toys all vying for your attention, at some point you have to ask yourself: can an old franchise really overhaul itself enough graphically compete? The answer: oh hell yes, it can.
          To call Call of Duty 2 (CoD2) "pretty" or "beautiful" just doesn't begin to describe it. This is, without a doubt, the most gorgeous shooter that's ever come across my desk. It's not just that the graphics are refined, with clean models, lush environments, and high levels of detail--it's the total package that developer Infinity Ward has created.
          Breaths plume in the winter cold as soldiers shiver and blow on their hands to keep warm. Teammates take to cover and lean carefully around corners to get a glimpse of the enemy while exposing as little as they can. Dynamic light plays across each model from a dozen different sources, casting shadows across a rifle's front sight blades, catching in the pitting of stamped sub-machinegun frames, and reflecting muzzle flash on the grimaced faces of assaulting warriors and the terrain around the shooter. Mouths move in perfect sync with their dialogue, the bolts on weapons function in perfect rhythm with each round they fire, and corpses splayed out upon the field stare at the sky with wide-open eyes.
          It really is something to see, and is undoubtedly the first great graphical endeavor on the new generation of consoles. We spent quite a few of our first gameplay hours just Oooohed and Ahhhhed at all the very pretty touches. 5 out of 5

      Playability: In general, if you've played any of the Call of Duty games, you'll know the basics of CoD2. Essentially a tactical shooter, CoD2 uses a very intelligent AI and some pretty intricately designed maps to walk you through realistic engagements that follow a loose history of major WWII battles. Aiming is done via iron sights which have been appropriately modified from their real-life counterparts to make them easier to pick out on a screen, accurate recoil affects follow-up shots, and there are a number of historical weapons for you to wield as you wade through battalions of Nazis on your road to victory.
          That said, there are a number of new features that are certainly worth noticing. First and foremost, there has been an exponential increase in the number of enemies on the field at a time, so instead of being stuck with small scale urban engagements, there are more than a few maps in CoD2 that will have you waging war against hundreds of enemies on open fields; calling in artillery strikes, sniping at deploying troops, and lobbing anti-tank rounds over hundreds of yards. Then there's the number of little touches that have really refined gameplay. A new vaulting function allows you to clear or climb low obstacles that other games have always made you run around…which is revolutionary enough in and of itself that every game published hence should be forced to include it. Finally, a breath holding button lets you steady yourself temporarily as you snipe through your scope for short periods of time then sends you wildly swinging when you're finally forced to exhale.
          All in all, it's an incredibly impressive showing…that, unfortunately, is pretty badly hampered by the game's one glaring flaw. For some totally inexplicable reason, amidst a game that is rich with realism and polish, Infinity Ward decided to make all the weapons do cartoon-esque damage. No matter what weapon you have, be it a .45 caliber submachine gun, a 7.62 rifle, or even the terrifyingly powerful American .30-06, unless you get a head shot you will always have to shoot an enemy at least two, and up to as many as SIX, times to get your kill. Worse yet, once you shoot someone they will often be kicked into an uninterruptible "injured" animation, where they fall down and then get back up, that is not only indistinguishable from a regular death animation, but that also doesn't acknowledge additional shots you land. Thus, in a vast majority of cases, you will shoot someone with your rifle (which has nasty recoil because it's supposed to be able to take down a buffalo) or with a short burst with your submachine gun, see them fall on their face, start to move on, and then get shot in the back as that character gets back up and demands to be shot again. It is absolutely ridiculous and so idiotically frustrating that at one point I honestly considered driving to California to leave a flaming bag of poo on their doorstep. Why you would make a game, that is damned near perfect in every other way for the genre, so unrealistic in its damage is absolutely beyond me. I can't imagine what motivated them, or what could have possibly been going through the heads of the testers who approved it, but it is painfully moronic. 4 out of 5

      Story and Drama: The story is a Saving Private Ryan-esque World War II profile of a group of soldiers: noble sods who get shoved at Nazis and have to prevail against overwhelming odds. It's pretty straight forward, but also very gripping, as each new chapter is set up with a clip of actual footage from the Military Channel and then puts you in the role of one of three soldiers (a Brit from the Desert Rats, a Russki conscript, and an Army Ranger) and surrounds you with the authentic, and moving, plight of that poor bastard. 4 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: Multiplayer includes all the old standbys you've come to expect: deathmatch, team DM, capture the flag, and a couple of objective based options. These are all entertaining, and are fought on well designed maps, though you couldn't say that any of them are particularly innovative…and the lack of bots means that you'll be forced to Live play unless you can get at least 8 people in a room for LAN play. Worse, the game lobby and interface options are unbelievably archaic and downright painful to use…though Activision has already promised a fix for that in a patch to be released via Live sometime soon.
          The other thing that is as noticeably missing as a black hole where the sun should be is a coop mode. Especially given how sweeping the scope of the single player campaign is, a multiplayer cooperative mode would have put this game all the way over the top. Instead you'll have to find other players to jam with or replay the single player campaign over and over again. 3 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       Straight up, Call of Duty 2 is a great game. That said, a couple of small touches could have made it the champ to beat for years to come. Its unbelievable graphics, innovative design, and sweeping scope make it a must have…even as its lack of critical multiplayer features and ludicrous damage models make you want to piss in Infinity Ward's Cheerios.

      The Good: Gorgeous, fun, and innovative.

      The Bad: Shooting someone five times with my M1 Garand before they die pisses the shit out of me, and botless, coop free multiplayer means that you'll be forced to go on-line to play against other people.

      The Overall Ugly: If they patch this game right it could be one for the ages.

      What it's Worth: Market

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