Disclaimer: This review was a bit difficult for me to write, especially considering the subject matter. Forgive me if it seems to be sub-par, or a tad short.
After the recent throwdown between Activision and their personal money printer, Infinity Ward, I started reminiscing about the days before Modern Warfare. Back when Call of Duty was still set in World War Dos, Nintendo was still a respectable company (Crazy, right?), and X-Play wasn't completely lame. Apparently, someone at Activision was reminiscing about the exact same thing, evident by their most recent attempt to wring more money from the soaking wet rag that is the Call of Duty franchise. This attempt comes in the form of the original Call of Duty released in its entirety for download from Xbox Live and Playstation Network. The game was originally released on the PC in 2003 and was very well received by critics and gamers alike, going on to win Game of the Year. Call of Duty Classic is essentially a console port of the original with updated support for HDTVs, many of the issues from the original fixed, achievement support, and even updated graphics. Quite honestly, I didn't give a flying shit about any of that stuff, I simply wanted to be able to enjoy one of my favorite games again, after not having played it for nearly half a decade.
Generally, I would give a nice little summary of the story here, probably making a joke or two about the writers' respective mothers or something, however, there isn't exactly much of a plot to Call of Duty Classic; unless you count World War II. Seriously, the game is pretty much a disjointed collection of famous battles from the war. This was back before the days when Infinity Ward felt like their games needed a story like the cliff notes of a James Bond movie, as directed by Michael Bay. Maybe that sort of thing doesn't exactly fly these days, especially considering the inherent popularity of story-focused FPSes like Bioshock and Half-Life, but for this game, it's perfectly fine. If you really need well developed characters and a decent plot to enjoy a game, then you probably don't care about Call of Duty anyways. Go read a history textbook for a story about WWII, we're just here to kill shit.
"Hold it right there, bud. Entrance to Club Stalingrad is for attractive people only."
In terms of gameplay, it's exactly the same as any other Call of Duty. You progress through missions with a list of objectives that you must complete, all the while filling anyone you see with numerous new holes that they can breathe from. There are three primary campaigns, each one featuring a different point of view during the war. The American one features you as a Private in the 101st Airborne as you invade Normandy. In the British campaign (the weakest of the three), you play as an SAS operative with his squad, behind enemy lines. The best of them all is the Russian one, which takes place during the retaking of Stalingrad, and also features a cool mission with a tank battalion. The shooting mechanics work as well as they always have, meaning that anyone who has played any other Call of Duty game will find that things are very similar here. The only core difference they may find is that there is a health meter instead of regeneration, which creates that hilarious scenario where you'll find yourself crawling on the ground amongst all the corpses while you're being shot at, desperately trying to pick up any health kits that may have been dropped. Honestly, I prefer it that way. It means you actually have a reason to avoid being shot, rather than running out directly into enemy fire, screaming and spraying bullets like a madman.
Problems with the gameplay don't start arising until you begin to analyze those small changes they made when they ported the game to consoles. Call of Duty Classic suffers the same issues of any older game that is adapted to meet the needs of a more modern audience. First of all, they attempted to make the game harder in order to challenge the schizophrenic reflexes of the average Modern Warfare player. Unfortunately, making the game harder, simply means making you die easier, as well as giving the enemies the inherent ability to shoot you with perfect accuracy all the time. Not only that, but they also have the ability to never fucking die, no matter how many times you shoot them. Instead of giving us a nice challenge, this is simply frustrating (not to mention annoying) and will most likely cause people to quit playing at certain particularly difficult parts.
"Jenkins, what the fuck!? I told you to stop effectively destroying enemy equipment!"
Another small annoyance is the way they ported the controls. Sure, the general control scheme remains mostly the same as any other console Call of Duty, but there's some small details they forgot to add. Do you like throwing grenades on the fly right as you need to? Well, fuck you. Instead, you must now press the Y button (or whatever the corresponding button would be on the PS3) in order to cycle through all of your weapons until you reach grenades. This actually brings me nicely to my next issue; buttons that do nothing. Or rather, buttons that do the exact same thing as other buttons. Instead of leaving RB as the dedicated grenade throwing button, the instead made it to where RB cycles through your weapons, exactly as the Y button does. Not only that, but LB does exactly the same fucking thing. If you have an extreme fetish for choice, then I suppose you'll love this, but the average person will absolutely despise it.
Fortunately, the intensity of the battles remains intact in Call of Duty Classic. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is even more intense than Modern Warfare could ever be. You see, my main issue with Modern Warfare is that instead of being huge battles with hundreds of average troops fighting alongside you (like the franchise used to be), it focuses on small firefights "Spec-Ops" style. For me, running up the beaches of Stalingrad with hundreds of other troops, MG-42 fire flying overhead, as artillery pounds into the Earth around you, is much preferable to assaulting an Oil Rig with twelve guys. You simply cannot replicate the feeling of the first time you experience some of Call of Duty's epic battles. Stalingrad alone is reason enough to play the game.
The graphics hold up pretty well, considering the game's age. Everything is nicely textured and the character animations are still as awesome as they were back in 03'. However, the game doesn't exactly transition to an HDTV very well. In one mission where you sneak onto an enemy battleship at night, the game was so fucking dark, I felt like I was fighting shadow people rather than Nazis. Also, the bigger resolution makes everything look a little off. One of the best parts about Call of Duty, the sound, has been completely ruined, much to my dismay. Someone at Activision believed that it would be a good idea to turn down the max volume of the game, as well as make all of the guns sound washed out. It really takes away from the intensity when the guy you're shooting is screaming loud enough to drown out the sound of your gun firing. Fortunately, the explosions are still as amazing as always, making it awesome when an artillery shell blows away some of your nearby allies.
Maybe they should've sent the flag guy in after they've already taken the beach.
Call of Duty Classic is the perfect example of a port gone horribly wrong. Instead of spending the time necessary to iron out the kinks that would obviously come from porting such an old PC game to consoles, they simply spent the least amount of time necessary just to make it remotely playable, and earn a quick buck. But should you play it? Well, that really depends on a few factors. If you've never played this game before but you own a PC that you can play games on, then I'd recommend hopping onto Steam and experiencing the original Call of Duty in all of its glory, as it was meant to be played. If you don't own a PC, then Call of Duty Classic is certainly good enough to justify a purchase, just don't expect as much of a jaw-dropping experience. Modern Warfare is an excellent franchise, but you simply have to go back and appreciate what made Call of Duty what it is today.
I wonder when they'll make Call of Duty an official religion.
Thank you for reading. Feedback is always welcome.
If you enjoyed reading this, feel free to read my other reviews:
Videogames: Bioshock 2, Videogame Box Art, Metro 2033, Ruse Impressions, Stalker: Call of Pripyat, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Stalker: Clear Sky, Stalker: Complete 2009, HAWX, and Fable 2.
Movies: Ninja Assassin, Shutter Island, and Halo: Legends