Two recently released demos in the WWII first person shooter genre
afforded me the opportunity to compare the merits of the two
fundamental sub-styles emerging in their respective state-of-the-art
products. Ubisoft released a demo of their flagship "Brothers in
Arms: Earned in Blood" squad-based tactical shooter, and Activision
almost simultaneously treated us to an early taste of the upcoming
"Call of Duty 2" cinematic thriller.
In preparation for assessing the comparative strengths and weaknesses
of the two demos, I watched the first six episodes of the superb "Band
of Brothers" HBO mini-series. The gritty reality of this series
would serve as the baseline to determine which of the new games more
accurately captured the mayhem and violence of infantry combat in
WWII. As an added bonus, it also served as a great way to kill
the time spent crammed into a flying aluminum germ tube on a recent
business trip to the west coast.
It is important to note that these are demo versions, and may not be
representative of the final game play. In both cases, however, it is
fair to say that if the final game play is anything nearly as good as
that available in the demos, these will both be very successful
releases. There may be a few naysayers out there that think the
WWII genre has reached its peak and there is no point in releasing yet
another pair of titles, but they will likely change their minds after
playing either or both of these demos.
Starting with Call of Duty 2, I'll describe the experience of playing
through the demos. In Call of Dut 2y, I started out in the bed of
a truck rumbling through the wide open Egyptian desert. In front
of me was a tank carrying some troops on top. As it sped along, I
could see the dust cloud kicked up by its tracks. It was a
beautiful day, with plenty of sun and clear blue skies. There was
no time to enjoy the scenery, though, as those aesthetically pleasing
skies were inconveniently full of Stuka dive bombers. Our boys
were up there too, periodically removing a bomber from the fray, but
some got through to drop their bombs. The tank ahead of me took a
direct hit, blowing up just a few feet away from my truck. The
driver of my truck made a turn and I saw the walls and spires of a city
just ahead. As we pulled through the gate, the truck stopped and
I jumped off, right into the middle of a fire fight! A squad that
had arrived before me was pinned down by a German machine gun.
I heard a sergeant shout, "That MG 42's a real bugger! Flank it
from the right!" Following his directive, I followed the rest of
the squad down a side street, where we immediately ran into another
group of Germans entrenched behind sand bags. I crouched down
behind a stone pillar and ducked around the side to try to get a
glimpse of the defenders. The muzzle blasts made them pretty easy
to find, so I shouldered my weapon and sighted in on one of them.
A well placed shot blew off his helmet and he fell behind the
sandbags. The rest of the squad was shooting too, all the while
calling out directions to each other and trash-talking the Nazis.
With all of this concentrated fire, the Germans ducked for cover.
That gave me the chance to advance to the corner of a building across
the street, staying under cover as much as possible since the Germans
popped up every few seconds and fired a burst in my direction. As
I approached the corner, one of the squad called out a warning of
another machine gun, this one located on the second floor of a house on
the right side of the street. I peeked around the corner and
quickly pulled back as I saw the muzzle flashes in one of the
windows. There were also troops on the street firing towards us.
A couple of my squad members got hit, so I advanced to their positions
to continue the battle. I realized that the only way we were
going to be able to get that machine gunner was to get into the house
and take him from behind. The other troops were shouting back and
forth to each other, and I could hear the Germans doing the same.
Guns were firing all around, explosions were rocking the ground, and
there was dust kicking up around me as bullets hit the ground. It
was all nearly overwhelming and I would have liked a few calm minutes
to think out what to do next, but my fellow soldiers were counting on
me. I grabbed a smoke grenade and tossed it into the
street. In just a few seconds a dense cloud blocked the sight of
the opposing troops, so I was able to run and duck into the doorway of
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