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Call of Duty 2 offers a surprisingly emotional experience for a game that will also be much adored by the more gung-ho gamer. Once you get past the mindless killing and violence, there is a heart rending account of the experience of war.
Set in the Second World War, Call of Duty 2 looks at things from the perspective of four soldiers and their experiences covering the Battle of Stalingrad, the Second Battle of Alamein and the battle of Normandy. To many players, it's simply yet another first person shooter. But to those more sensitive to these things, it quickly turns into an extremely immersive and a surprisingly strong portrayal of the experiences of war. Oh and it is rather hard too.
Instinctively I find playing a game based on real war wrong. As much as I know that it's 'just' a game, it feels uncomfortable when I realise that some poor soul, probably even younger than me at the time, had to live through such an experience. Despite these reservations, I found myself playing Call of Duty 2, an extremely competent first person shooter but one that I hesitate to call 'enjoyable' simply because at times it felt a little too harsh to call such a thing.
Call of Duty 2 was a surprisingly scary and alarming experience.
My first experience of it was under the watchful eye of my father who decided to see what all the fuss was about. I whacked the game up to the hardest difficulty level without really putting much thought into it. My father and I were true comrades, with me at the helm and my father as co-pilot watching out for any possible perils in my path.
You see, Call of Duty 2 was a surprisingly scary and alarming experience. It wasn't scary because of strange ghouls or monsters jumping out at me, it was scary because of the brutal reality of it all. One wrong move meant death, just how it would have been back in the 1940s if you were a soldier hiding in a bunker trying to fend off the enemy.
Quite early on in the game, we realised that we weren't going to get very far by simply 'running and gunning'. This would require some thought, and plenty of covering fire. Hiding behind a wall next to a bombed out building, I'd quickly confer with my Dad on what was best to do. We knew we didn't have much time; we were quickly reminded this by the emergence of a grenade at my feet.
A quick run to the next wall while firing wildly at the German soldiers gave us a few more seconds. We reached the next wall and I ducked down clutching the controller as if I it was my rifle. Just as my heart had slowed to a healthier level, a German soldier appeared from seemingly nowhere. Somehow instinctively I managed to kill him in the nick of time albeit with the screen looking extremely red due to my being so close to death.
My heart was racing; even my mouth appeared to have dried up in those few seconds.
My heart was racing; even my mouth appeared to have dried up in those few seconds. I looked to my father; he was much the same, even speechless. Silence ensued and I simply carried on, traversing the torturous level of the destroyed streets of Moscow.
As things went on, we eventually reached the conclusion of the level. We had witnessed bloodshed aplenty and I could honestly say we were both mentally exhausted. I was actually visibly relieved to be able to turn the game off and return to it another day. It may not have been real, or even been aiming to be a realistic portrayal of the Second World War, but there was still that part of me that felt even more of a pacifist than I was before turning the game on.
We had witnessed bloodshed aplenty and I could honestly say we were both mentally exhausted.
Upon my eventual return to the game I ended up turning the difficulty down. Simply put, it felt too much like hard work on Veteran. Bu somehow, being able to make things easier felt like I was letting these soldiers and their memories down. I did complete the game but it didn't feel anywhere near as powerful as if I'd persevered on the much harder difficulty.
Call of Duty 2 is a well made first person shooter regardless of its difficulty level, but on Veteran it really does come into its own as a surprisingly powerful and sensitive piece of gaming.
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