By the time I crossed the Rhine, I was worn down, tired and desperate for a good night's sleep in my own bed, back home. On a mounted gun again, I covered our amphibious approach in an attack that felt far too much like D-Day for my liking. And then the gunfire erupted. Two minutes later, in desperate need of securing a beachhead, I dived off of the gun to exit the craft only to be confronted by a half dozen bodies of my comrades. Lying down, expressionless faces staring upwards, their time in this world is over. I force my fingers to work, dive off the end of the craft and re-enter hell. One last attack, and I'm done.
And then that's it; I've pushed through to the end, I tell Dan, and that's all the closure I'm going to get. There's none of the euphoric glee that normally comes with besting someone else's creation, nor is there the vacuum that normally follows the ending of a significant focus of your free time. Instead, there's quiet relief, coupled with some war stories to tell over lunch, or a cigarette, in the kitchen with someone who wants to hear about them.
The thing is, neither of us laughs when we talk about it. There are no tales of amazing daring-do, nothing to lift us both into a state of excited agitation, a total lack of attempts to cover the effect the game's had on our psyche through manly posturing. We rarely talk in code, but most amazing videogame experiences elicit an "OMG" like exclamation, a recounting of that time we stormed this enemy position single-handedly, removing the threat to those squad mates so we could complete the crucial objectives. It doesn't seem to be funny, anymore, this World War malarkey.
Call of Duty 2 demonstrates that striving for realism has a whole host of payoffs, both negative and positive. I'm enthralled by what Infinity Ward has produced, and humbled by their ability to work past my pre-conceptions of a corridor shooter by building whole scenarios that just overwhelm me with their scale, vision and execution. It's just that none of the tales they've given me to tell have been particularly enjoyable this time around, or given my friend Dan and me anything to laugh about, even if that laughter is just to disguise the uncertainty that lies beneath our brash, heterosexual exteriors.
I can't figure out if the distaste, panic and exhaustion I felt as the credits rolled was a salute to the skills and capabilities of the design team, or an insult to those people who have put themselves in real danger and laughed about it. People like my Granddad.
Hitchhiker is a freelance gaming journalist who wants videogames to try harder, but recognizes that videogamers need to as well. He hangs out at www.alwaysblack.com, in between winning wars and missing his Granddad.