Call of Duty: United Offensive Review
developer: Gray Matter Studios
PIII 700, 128MB RAM, 1.4GB HDD, 32MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Sep 14, 04
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Reviewing this game has got to be the easiest job I've done in a long time. And it's kind of silly that I should have to fill this entire page with text when the obvious answer should be smashing the reader in the head with a rifle butt this very minute. Wake up! The obvious answer is coming at you and screaming with its gun raised to your face and the rifle butt pointing out! Well it's my fault really. I can't give you the obvious answer until I've filled my Word Count quota, so bear with me.
The original Call of Duty was one of the best games of last year. In fact, in my mind it was only beaten by BioWare's masterpiece, Knights of the Old Republic (Two of the greatest games of all time - Smap). Still, it's not fair to compare these two titles as they belong to two very different genres. As far as action games are concerned, Call of Duty was a clear winner by a landslide.
All you have to do is run across this field and get to those woods. Now run, Forest!
Don't they hold anything sacred?! Damn Nazis!
When I first heard that Activision was planning an expansion I couldn't help but recall the rather crappy job that EA did with the Medal of Honor: AA expansions. And knowing that Infinity Ward outsourced the development to Gray Matter, I'd be lying to you if I told you that I didn't have my doubts. That is not to say that I didn't have faith in Gray Matter's abilities, it's just that they had some big boots to fill this time around (Then again, this is not the first time they'd be doing that).
Of course, all of this changed when I first got the near-final, level-locked build of the game from Activision a couple of weeks back. Playing a number of levels from each of the campaigns quickly changed my mind. In fact, either I've forgotten how good the original was or this expansion truly is amazing. Either way, right now the only dilemma I have in my mind is whether the expansion is even more intense and fun to play than the original. In all fairness, it could be that I have just forgotten how good the original was, but believe me when I tell you that United Offensive can hold its own against that 900lb. gorilla.
That obvious answer that I had talked about should be hitting you in the head right about now. I am mulling over whether the expansion to the 2003 Action Game of the Year is better than the original. Hello! Obvious answer swarming your position with tanks and elite assault troops!
A few of the things that are well worth mentioning about this expansion: the missions somehow seem more coherent this time around. The game play style remains the same, with well-scripted events, excellent AI routines and such, but the design of the missions seems more consistent as they tie in well together as you progress through each of the campaigns. This gives a more personal feel to the game, which I found very refreshing. We're not talking about any drastic changes, but it's clear that Gray Matter didn't just emulate - they actually put some noteworthy creative input into the project.
The improved particle effects make a BIG difference. For an action title that's all about spectacular large-scale battles, the addition of the best damn smoke effects I've seen in a video game, coupled with some other touches (like the fog and mist rising up from the ground on certain levels and great looking debris) will create an even more immersive in game ambient. This just goes to prove that you don't need bleeding edge technology (Doom 3, anyone?) to create an absolutely stunning atmosphere in a video game. The only downside to this is that the game is now a bit of a hardware hog. To run it in a high resolution with all the details maxed up, I would strongly recommend a very powerful system, especially when the screen gets cluttered with dust and dirt rising up in the air from the detonations, and billows of smoke coming from within the burning tanks. All this looks spectacular but on a few occasions, my frame rate would drop noticeably even though I ran the game on an AMD 64 3200+ / ATI Radeon 9800XT / 1.5GB rig.
Is that a Nazi floating in mid-air?! THAT'S SO AWESOME!
We're crashing this party, lads!
The expansion offers 13 new levels in all, which will ensure that you get a nice amount of play time out of this one - certainly worth the price of admission and then some. Players will join the 101st Airborne for the climactic moments of the Battle of the Bulge. Next, players fight as a British airman shooting down German ME-109s from the gunner position of a B-17 bomber, and then move on to play a pivotal role in the invasion of Sicily. Finally, they follow their Russian comrades to experience the awesome firepower of tank warfare, both in the trenches and aboard T-34/85 tanks during the historic eight-day Battle of Kursk - one of the nastiest battles of the Second World War.
And to top it all off, you get eleven new multiplayer maps and three new modes - including Base Assault, Capture the Flag and Domination - where squads must take control of key locations while preventing enemy troops from advancing.
That my friends, is plenty of quality content. Hats off to Gray Matter for far exceeding my expectations; I realize that I sound like a total goddamn fan boy right now, but certain games deserve all the props they can get, and this happens to be one of them. If you're shooter fan, you need to pick up United Offensive right now. You'd be a fool not to. Bear in mind, however, that this is not a stand-alone expansion, so you'll need the original game to run it.
Amazing visuals and sounds, plenty of new content, this is just a superb expansion overall;
Steep hardware requirements, there's plenty of (well) scripted events again - some players may not like that.
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