Review by sfcalimari

"Too many problems drag the Big Red One down"

Call of Duty 2: Big Red One. The follow-up to Call of Duty: Finest Hour. Finest Hour was a great game, with one of the finest single-player campaigns for a console fps, although it was rather maligned by critics. I eagerly anticipated Big Red One, and wanted to enjoy it, but after playing it several times I am afraid I am quite disappointed. There are many medium-sized problems that add up to a game that does not live up to expectations.

The single-player game is probably what you are going to play first. You are an American soldier fighting in Europe with the First Infantry Division, aka the Big Red One. On its own, the single-player game is okay, but it is simply not as fun, long, or interesting as that of Finest Hour. For a start, the levels are very linear and repetitive, and are basically big long, narrow alleys you move down. Every time you move around a corner, enemies pop out predictably, and you dive for cover and return fire. This is fun for a while, and challenging, but the problem is that it happens over, and over, and over again. One level is literally a seemingly endless trench. In Finest Hour, many levels were in comparison quite wide open, and you could often attack the enemy from several different angles. Big Red One could have built on this with more impressive levels, but instead the developers chose to regress to what amounts to a shooting-gallery theme.

The controls and weapon handling are ok, but suffer due to a few problems. Firstly, weapons, unrealistically, have little or no kickback. Remember in Finest Hour where if you held down the fire button on a measly MP-40 you'd end up firing at the ceiling? This caused you to fire in bursts rather than extended blasts, a nice touch of realism in my book. Unfortunately this is gone in BRO, so weapons feel like toys. In FH you were continually switching between rifles for long-range firing and machine guns for short range combat, but in BRO you can just stick with a sub-machine gun because they are about as useful at long range as a rifle. Another problem is the auto-aim. You cannot turn it off in this game, and it is very noticeable and very irritating, at least to me. When aiming at a far-off enemy, you will find yourself constantly fighting the auto-aim, which over-corrects and wants to pull in the wrong direction. The worst is when you are aiming at one enemy, and another nearby enemy runs to the side, and your gun is suddenly pulled to the side, and you miss both enemies. I can aim on my own, thank you. It also makes rifle aiming very jerky for some reason. When you have multiple enemies firing at you, and your aiming is constantly off, it gets frustrating fast, believe me.

Overall, the single-player game is okay on its own, and the graphics are nice, but the repetitive action and linear levels drag down the game a bit. The game only has 13 levels, some of which are quite long, but the game can be finished pretty quickly. The majority of the levels are fps action, but there are two tank levels and one rather uninteresting and frustrating level where you are apparently the only machine gunner available on a Liberator bomber. You have to run back and forth between machine gun stations, firing at enemy planes. You'll probably be happy when this level is over. The tank levels are actually quite fun, especially the first one, and have an improvement over the awkward tank controls from Finest Hour.

The saving grace of this game COULD have been the online multiplayer, but unfortunately severe connection error problems make the online game virtually unplayable for many people. When you can log into games, the multiplayer is very fun, and much better than that of Finest Hour. The biggest, best addition is tanks. You can roll around in these bad boys spewing machine gun fire and deadly tank shells, doing much damage and having a lot of fun, but beware because the tanks are quite vulnerable to grenades or panzerfaust shells, and panzerfausts are littered around the online levels where tanks are available. For the most part you'll be doing a lot of running and gunning online, tossing grenades and scooting around corners to escape enemy fire. The action online is fun, fast and frenetic, especially with the tanks to mix it up. There is a bit of glitchiness online, and hit detection is often, well, hit or miss. Often you'll unload an entire machine-gun clip into an enemy's head without killing him, then he will whip around and kill you with one shot. This is frustrating and makes you want to rely more on grenades, although grenades often have the unfortunate habit of exploding next to an enemy without killing him. Another bummer is the permanently-on auto-fire mentioned above. Aiming and firing at enemies becomes more difficult than it needs to be because you are constantly wrestling with the auto-aim, which wants to aim in a different direction than you do. A lot of people focus on sniping online, but for me it is needlessly difficult, because the scope is constantly jerking around awkwardly from the auto-aim, especially when you are tracking a moving enemy. If only they had made the auto-aim an option, or left it out altogether. Fortunately, though, the level design for online is quite good, and a bit improvement from Finest Hour. There are many houses, alleys and ruins to run in and out of, and once you get to know the levels, you can really cause some damage by sneaking into the enemy's territory and attacking them from behind (preferably with a tank).

So overall the online is fun. It's a big improvement from Finest Hour, with better levels, tanks, and more balanced weaponry. However, it is only fun if you can log in. Unfortunately, gamespy and activision have left gamers in the lurch by giving us a game with terrible connection problems. You can always get into the online lobby, but try to log into a game and much of the time you will get an error message, or log into a game and get kicked out after a few seconds. I would say that I am kept out of 90% of games I try to log into. It's very frustrating, especially knowing how fun the game is when you can get online. Many people do not have this problem, but many do.

So I really wanted to like this game, and at first I did, but after playing it enough times I saw how many flaws stood out in this game. With a little more work, the developers should have been able to solve the sometimes jerky controls and horrible connection problems. With better controls and connectivity, I would have given this game an 8, but unfortunately it can only muster a 6 from me as is.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 07/20/06

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