Reviewed: February 15, 2010
Released: December 2, 2009
Over the past year and a half, Activision’s Call of Duty trademark has become more synonymous with Modern Warfare than with the classic World War II (WWII) first person shooter (FPS) franchise that put the creators Infinity Ward on the map. This is completely understandable given the overwhelming popularity of the Modern Warfare titles, but the company’s history is definitely rooted in Nazi-era shooters.
Infinity Ward was formed in 2002 by a handful of Medal of Honor alumni, and just over a year later released Call of Duty on the PC and the Mac. The title was incredibly successful – receiving critical acclaim and selling well over a million units. Infinity Ward immediately went on to work on the sequel – Call of Duty 2 – while the folks at Sparks Unlimited squeezed out a multi-console release called Call of Duty: Finest Hour.
Call of Duty 2 released simultaneously with the launch of the Xbox 360, filling the FPS void left by the delayed Halo 3. Given this tremendous opportunity as the only launch FPS for the console, Call of Duty 2 was afforded the full attention of rabid FPS fans, who had all but given up on the WWII shooter genre. These fans might have previously overlooked the franchise based on the hackneyed subject matter, but instead found themselves enthralled in an epic revisiting of the European countryside. Activision assigned Call of Duty 3 to Treyarch, allowing Infinity Ward to take the franchise into the 21st century with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – and the rest is history.
But this is no history lesson; it is a review of the original Call Of Duty’s first foray on the consoles – as a budget priced upscaled-HD release on Xbox Live and PSN. Running roughly $15,Call of Duty Classic is an enjoyable romp though old-school shooter gameplay design – with plenty of the thrills, but none of the frills, of the current gen shooters.
OK, let’s just get this straight – for all the claims of updating to HD quality, Call of Duty Classic looks and sounds every bit like a shooter circa 2003. The one saving grace is that the visuals are delivered in native 16:9, but otherwise the backgrounds, the character models, and the special effects show little improvement over the original PC releases. Everything definitely seems stiff and stilted compared to today’s standards – but as long as you go in with an open mind it will lessen the blow. The audio is still quite good, with excellent voice acting (albeit questionable character accents at times) and impressive music and sound effects.
The single player story lets players experience World War II from three distinct points of view: Russian, British and American. Each storyline has its own unique missions and goals, and each tells its stories trough a series of narrated cutscenes and onscreen “documentation” (letters home, journals, orders).
The gameplay in any theater of battle is the same – run and gun FPS at its most basic, and only the weapons and architecture are unique. There is little cause for stealth or strategy, as simply attacking foes head-on is the most rewarding. Level design consists of little more than walled-off outdoor areas and hamster mazes of internal corridors through Nazi strongholds and German housing structures. There are a number of vehicular scenes, which have gamers either controlling tanks (extremely cool), taking the gunner position on jeeps (OK), or shooting from the back of a moving truck (mildly infuriating).
The game is not limited to single player story, as it features multiplayer gaming for up to a whopping 8 players. Granted, this is pretty lame by today’s standards (16 is pretty much the minimum), but the community is surprisingly active and enjoyable. I can safely say I had more fun playing Call of Duty Classic online than any other recent release – most likely because most of the cheaters and griefers are hanging out in Modern Warfare 2 and Halo 3.
All said, Call of Duty Classic won’t win any awards 7 years later – but at $15, it’s not like the game is promising all that much. Still, given the fact that there are plenty of sub-$20 current games for sale, Classic is really only for those who truly want to relive 2003-era gameplay.