Being the little brother of one of the most highly acclaimed shooters of 2003 is not necessarily an enviable position. While it means a certain degree of easy sales, you have a lot to live up to. However, Activations and company were careful not to crank the Hype-O-Meter up too high, choosing instead to talk about the game in small doses; an interview here, a batch of screenshots there. When I got the 6-CD package amid a flurry of other shooters coming out in the same time frame, my initial reaction was mild. Then I began the install, the music swelled, and all those fuzzily warm memories of ricocheting bullets and constant explosions came back like long-lost friends. Call of Duty, it's been a while. We're glad to have you back
Like its older sibling, CoD 2 covers World War II across three interwoven campaigns featuring the Russians, the British, and the Americans. However, now you can skip ahead from one faction to another, once you've played through a batch of missions. I personally wasn't champing at the bit to play one or the other, but I guess it's nice to have the functionality there. The game also auto-detects 16:9 and 16:10 widescreen ratios, as well as the funky 5:4 ratio for LCD monitors (like 1280x1024). You'll have a solid selection of performance tweaking options, or you can let the game set what it thinks will be optimal settings. With a 6800GT, 3.0GHz P4 and 1GB of RAM, the game plays quite smoothly at 1280x1024, with anisotropic filtering (to make textures look nicer) and 4xAA (to reduce jagged edges). There were slowdowns when it rained and when there was a lot of smoke on screen, but it was otherwise quite playable with the latest official nVidia drivers. Speaking of those guys, there's also an "Optimize for SLI" toggle, but I don't have the luxury of two hot boards, so let's move on.
Many of you who grabbed the single-player demo noted that the game didn't run all that great. All I can tell you is that the retail version appears to have been optimized. Textures look great, and there's lots of shiny stuff going on. Normal mapping is fairly subtle, except for a few elderly character models who look like they're bathed in a sheen of sweat. It's not quite on par with FEAR, but I think even the hardcore shooter fan will find little to complain about. Most importantly: I saw little sign of cutting corners for multi-platform development (as the game is also coming out on the 360). I'm pleased to report that everything looks quite sharp.