Making exceptions for the hilarious antics of Commandos and Prisoner of War, I generally don't care for the cliched bluster of games glorifying the last large-scale armed conflict this country and its allies actually, you know, won. They're a dime a dozen and generally just a step up from movie licenses and the latest Madden.
But Call of Duty 2 was so good it made me sick to my stomach. No long speeches, or dramatic super-human feats, just a lot of killing, cowering, and death.
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Doomeru used to keep a subwoofer under his desk, back when there were PC games worth playing, but for me, the first thing I'll do with any shooter is go into options and turn down the gunshot volume. You can't do that in Call of Duty. The hellish atmosphere is inescapable, and no victory ever feels large nor final enough to spell its end. The game loads so fast that not even death is a reprieve, and the missions you slaughter and get slaughtered through often seem so insignificant (like advancing a few city blocks or fixing a broken telephone wire) that the game's end feels sudden and without closure.
It's one thing to make a war game gruesome, or filthy, but Call of Duty stretches to chaotic. Everyone starts to look alike amidst the smoke and suppression rounds, and the knee-jerk reactions required on a hard difficulty level led me to kill much more than one of the guys on my side. Either peeking up from foxholes or facing down a charge, it seemed the term ought to be changed from friendly to frightened fire.
The violence is overwhelming at first, but in time washes over you like adjusting to the temperature of a hot bath. It becomes routine, even enjoyable at times. But the first few levels are so visceral I imagined a world where children might spend a period playing them in history class- that would surely get their attention.
Because for all the Jack Thompson talk about video games inciting kids to kill each other, I'm at a loss to think of the last work I've seen that has made the thought of war so distasteful.
Except, of course, the thought of playing Call of Duty 4...
Posted by Sir Cucumber at 8:48 AM on Wednesday, March 19, 2008