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Call Of Duty

What springs to mind when I say Call of Duty? Is it Warzone, Black Ops, or perhaps Modern Warfare? Or, are you old like me and still reminisce about where the franchise started?

Today we're going back to the franchise's roots way back in 2003 to look at a true masterpiece.

Developed by Infinity ward and published by Activision, this game was the very first instalment of the Call of Duty franchise, using the same engine as Medal and Honour: Allied Assault. Some of the development team also worked on Medal of Honour, which I have also reviewed. Yes, that was a shameless plug.

Let’s focus on the story a bit more for this review, as this game is very much narrative-driven. Similar to that of Allied Assault, it retells actual historical events, whilst finding the balance between respecting the past, and providing entertainment. But overall, how does the game hold up?

Call of Duty essentially splits it’s story into 3. You’ll play as 3 different people spanning 3 different allied armies: American, British and Russian. So as the game is split into 3, I’ve decided to follow the same structure for this review.

But before we dive into the missions, we naturally start off with the training mission where you’ll become accustomed to the controls and different weapons available. As with Allied Assault, I found the controls handled really well considering they’re pretty outdated now. They are smooth and not clunky in the slightest. This is one of the first games that actually allowed you to aim down the sight as well, something we take for granted today. During this section and the first mission, we get to play as an American soldier: Private Martin.

American Missions
During the first mission I played as a path finder and was dropped in first before the main airborne invasion of Normandy. My objective was to set up a radio beacon to allow the main airdrop to begin. Once the main force landed, I made my way to the French village of Sainte Mere Eglise, where I was to take out the anti-aircraft guns and then defend the village from German infantry and tanks. I enjoyed this first mission, the pacing was spot on and the gameplay handled nicely. Setting my expectations high for the rest of the game.

I was then selected along with 2 others to take a message to HQ by use of a French car in which I was the passenger. It eventually became a car chase scene which was actually more fun than I expected and mixed things up a bit in terms of gameplay. I was also grateful to not be allowed at the wheel, as I am generally terrible at driving any vehicle, in any game.

Once I reached HQ, I was then selected to help out on a mission to silence German Artillery cannons at Brecourt manor. Now this might sound familiar as it is a mission heavily influenced by the second episode of Band of Brothers entitled Day of Days. On a side note, if you haven’t seen the show, I can’t recommend it enough.

After completing this mission, we have some missions behind enemy lines. The first is to rescue 2 British officers who were shot down and are being held captive in a Chateau. A Major Ingrim and the one and only Captain Price! Well, according to a character designer he’s actually the Grandfather of the character we’re all familiar with from Modern Warfare and not some kind of immortal being or a time traveller. Apparently a penchant for a fabulous ‘tache runs in the family though.

The final American mission takes place in the Ardennes forest during the Battle of the Bulge securing top secret documents and stopping a German counter attack. This first set of missions had great variety and in no way felt repetitive. One thing I liked immediately was the decent selection of weapons I had to use, and I could just pick up weapons if I was short of ammo. Some of the animations are a little clunky, but that’s very much a product of the time.

At the start of every mission or when I die, which is usually pretty frequently, the game displays a famous quote. Like some kind of motivational poster attempting to calm me down after I died at the same point multiple times. I appreciated the gesture but I’m not convinced it made me feel any better.

British Missions
Let’s hear it for my fellow Brits next as we embark on the British missions. First of all I needed to secure the Bénouville Bridge in Normandy, also known as Pegasus Bridge. I played as Sgt Evans and along with Captain Price secured the bridge under nightfall and defended it the next day. Much like the American mission at St Mere Eglise. I remember this mission being particularly difficult when the game was first released, and it was still as difficult all those years later. It wasn’t impossibly hard though, so it was still entertaining.

The next missions were to aid an attempt by the RAF to bomb more dams by destroying as many anti aircraft guns as possible, following which I joined Captain Price and Sgt Waters, who was voiced by Jason Statham. The mission is to pose as German Naval officers, infiltrate the Battleship Tirpitz and disable her and steal information for the RAF so they can Bomb her. Sadly this is the demise of Captain Price as he sacrifices himself to buy me time to get off the ship.

The final mission of the British campaign is in Burgsteinfurt, Germany. I needed to meet up with the rest of the allied army and assist with the invasion of Germany. However, I discovered plans to launch V2 rockets at the allied forces, which ended up becoming the new mission. Once destroyed, I met up with the rest of the allied Army. In terms of enjoyability, I’d put these missions on a par with the American ones, so the game has been consistent in it’s quality up until this point


Russian Missions
Finally for these missions I played as Corporal Alexei Ivanovic Voronin. Try saying that fast.

The first Mission is taken directly from the movie Enemy at the Gates where the soldiers are crossing the river Volga by boat to reach the city of Stalingrad. I remember my mind being absolutely blown when I first played this. It was incredibly chaotic and intense. I was only given 5 rounds of ammo and had to scramble for a weapon from a fallen comrade, all whilst feeling the effects of shellshock. I was also subjected to more brutality having to watch the fleeing soldiers shot by their own men and labeled as cowards. Despite the game’s age, this section has aged well, and it still packs an emotional punch. You can tell the developers went for a big cinematic moment, and I feel they successfully delivered on that. The only downside for this mission was the excessive use of camera shake, which wasn’t exactly easy on the eye.

Unfortunately most of the other Russian missions are pretty much the same and mostly involved me making my way through Stalingrad and clearing the area of enemy soldiers. There are a couple of exceptions though which do a good job of preventing these missions from becoming stale. These were the Pavlov's house and tank missions. During the former, I needed to take control of the house, and then defend it from infantry and tanks. There’s a definite pattern here in the structure of these missions, but the changing landscapes and scenarios stops this from getting stale.

The tank mission mixes things up further too, where I was in a tank advancing on enemy panzers and infantry, shooting everything in sight. Predictably, I had a literal blast in this mission.

During the finale, the Russian army is in Berlin and the mission is to storm and take the Reichstag Building. The sole purpose being to place a Russian flag on the roof as a symbol of the German’s defeat. Despite some of these missions lacking variety, this final section was a strong one and meant the game was consistent throughout

Verdict
As I hoped, the delivery of the stories being told in Call of Duty have stood the test of time. The controls have aged well and I believe the graphics hold up too. They certainly didn’t break my immersion at any point. I found the difficulty to be reasonable throughout, and not as if I was fighting against aimbots. The friendly AI was surprisingly competent too, and will actually kill enemies rather than forcing me to do everything myself. It was challenging but not in the rage-inducing way I’ve experienced in other older games.

The music was composed by Michael Giacchino so I could tell before even starting up the game it was going to be great. It lived up to that expectation but wasn’t quite as iconic and memorable as the soundtrack for Medal of Honour: Allied Assault.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed playing Call of Duty. The game is well-paced and has aged well. It is still a joy to play to this day so if you haven’t played it before I’d definitely recommend giving it a try. It only took about 4 hours to complete too, so you could bang this out in an afternoon. There is also an expansion pack called United Offensive. So if you want me to review that let me know down in the comments. Please do share your own thoughts on this game too and recommendations for more Retro Reviews are also welcome.

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