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Review: Call of Duty: United Offensive (PC)

Posted in Action,PC,Reviews by Shawn Wallace on 7 2004f October 2004

Call of Duty: United Offensive continues the grand tradition of Call of Duty by pitting players against near-impossible combat situations to see what they’re truly made of. The single player campaign spans across three campaigns, American, British and Russian. Each campaign gets progressively harder (there’s four American missions, three British and five Russian) as you progress until everything culminates with the final mission of the campaign. It’s not uncommon for this mission to cause the following:

  • Spitting
  • Cursing
  • Extreme Discomfort
  • Diarrhea

Ok, I was kidding about the diarrhea part. However, take the others literally. More than once I had to shut the game down and walk away for a minutes at the sheer frustration level of the final missions. Thing is, I’m not really blaming the game. I feel that the Call of Duty series has been the closest thing to a sim (even though I realize it’s actually far from it) for WWII. The missions can get crazy scary and, at times, there’s so much going on it’s really hard to keep track of what you’re supposed to do, hence a sim of war.
The graphics of the game are great although I think I can start to see the Quake 3 engine’s age. What with all the bump mapping and normal mapping occurring in newer titles CoD:UO is showing it’s age a little. However, the Q3 engine has definitely been pushed to it’s limit for CoD:UO. From the ground combat sequences (including tank battles) to one of the British missions where you’re a gunner in a B-17 airplane, the game not only looks darn good but performs really well also.

The audio for the CoD series has always been top notch, especially the voice acting, and that is still the case with UO. Explosions are gritty and shaking, gunfire has that satisfying thump and vehicles just sound right. There’s nothing like that quick case of fear from a Stuka buzzing right over head. The surround sound implementation is very nice as well, balancing and rolling the sounds nicely.

Even though this is an expansion pack it still feels like nearly a full game. The scripting for the missions does a fine job of pulling you right into the story. I lost hours to this title, just engrossed in the gameplay. The game does suffer slightly from ‘reloaditis’, you know, where you die, reload, try again, die, reload, ad nauseum. I’m actually making that out to be a little worse than it truly is, although I did find that some missions required a ‘perfect run’ a little too often for my taste.

The gameplay is strictly visceral. Just as in CoD, UO is all about combat and making it through the mission. There’s always plenty of comrades nearby to not only help you in completing a mission objective but to take some bullets for you as well. Many a mission I found my AI-controlled friends entering the fray ahead of me, taking the curtain of lead just ahead of me while I ducked behind a collapsed wall or used a hole in a building to make my way on forward. I don’t know if this was the intention of the developers or it just worked out that way (or maybe I’m just chicken. Who can say) but it helped add to the immersiveness of UO.

Aside from the six original CoD multiplayer modes, UO introduces three new MP modes to gamers. The most popular online right now is Domination which is very much like Battlefield 1942’s Conquest mode. Players have five to seven zones on a map to capture. To capture a point a player must move within a close proximity of that zone (marked by a flag) and hold out until the zone transfers to your possession. The first team to capture all zones, ie dominate the playing field, wins. It’s a very fun mode that allows for much teamwork to really make the game mode work.

During multiplayer matches you can be promoted on the battlefield for teamwork-oriented achievements. As you play online you gain points and as these points accumulate you gain rank. Rank affords you more equipment, such as more ammo or grenades, and as you move towards the upper ends of the available ranks you’ll be able to call in deadly artillery strikes. This is especially helpful for the Base Assault mode where your objective is to destory the enemy’s base with heavy weapons. Sure, a tank or bazooka might get the job done but what’s the fun in that? Being able to use your binoculars to spot a target and call in artillery is highly satisying.

Vehicles also play a vital role in UO multiplayer. Players will get to drive tanks and jeeps while the ability to man heavy artillery is available as well. Gray Matter has done a fantastic job of adding plenty of variety and quality to the MP side of UO.Map design in both single player and multiplayer is, literally, as good as it gets. The single player maps are set to compliment the scripting for the campaigns while the multiplayer maps provide buildings that you can fully explore and use to your advantage. From the beautiful Rhine Valley to the desolate Ponyri, CoD:UO offers the high end of first person shooter architecture. Burnt out buildings are lovingly sculpted (where you can even see their wooden or steel innards poking up from various lesions) while weapons, vehicles and troops are detailed and convincing. Again, I can’t state enough how well CoD:UO runs. My review rig is nowhere near high end and I was able to crank everything (yes, everything) up and the game still ran great. Again, another testament to the quality put out by Infinity Ward and Gray Matter.

All in all, I feel UO is very, very much worth the retail price tag you’ll see in stores (right around $29USD). The game is nearly a full title on it’s own but does require the original Call of Duty to play. If you’re hankering for more of that addictive CoD gameplay with fun, new multiplayer modes you can not go wrong with Call of Duty: United Offensive. Get it today.

FINAL SCORE: 89/100 : REVIEWER: SHAWN WALLACE

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