Planes come apart in a variety of ways, while vehicles can also die in spectacularly fiery and smoky explosions. Despite all that, Big Red One has its moments, and the game certainly gets more interesting and fun the farther along you get in the campaign. It's got varied mission types that take you across several different settings, from the deserts of North Africa, to house-to-house fighting in the deep snows of Germany in early 1945. The enemies also act oddly feathery and light when you shoot them. The game even manages to remind you of the grander scale of the war from time to time, as you'll see numerous other craft making the marine landings with you at Sicily and Normandy, in addition to dogfighting aircraft in the sky and other infantry running about. Yes, the pathways are linear and scripted, as in all the other Call of Duty games, but the variation in the mission types helps keep the game fresh and interesting, instead of just having you on foot shooting guys with a rifle the whole time.
It's also interesting that any nearby explosions not only shake your vision and cause a ringing in your ears, but also immediately throw you to the ground like going prone so that you need to stand up. The lack of intensity is exacerbated by the artificial intelligence in the game, which is rather unremarkable on both sides. You can drive tanks around in several of the maps but when you're on foot and shooting at other infantry, you're not given any feedback on whether or not you're hitting your target. The game definitely has its moments, but the overall experience doesn't last very long. The game has made noticeable strides over the previous Call of Duty game on consoles with an interesting, but short, campaign. For one thing, the weapon handling just seems off.
The subtitle, Big Red One, refers to the United States' Army's 1st Infantry Division, whose exploits are chronicled in the game's 13-mission campaign. Aside from mounted machine guns or tank cannons, none of the weapons in the game feels or sounds particularly fearsome. Vehicles and mounted weapons, on the other hand, mostly look and sound good, particularly when you hear Stukas doing their signature death wail on dive attacks or when you fire a tank cannon on a Stuart or Sherman. A lot of that could stem from the fact that the sound effects in Big Red One aren't all that special. The fun doesn't last long, however, as most people should be able to blow through the campaign in seven or eight hours. It's too bad it all seems to end too quickly. The vehicles and character models exhibit a good amount of detail, while the effects of explosions and smoke are also impressive.
These John Woo-esque Mexican standoffs can seem to go on for way too long, unless you go ahead and end them yourself. You'll use weapons from a wide variety of different national arsenals--including American, of course, German, Italian, and even French ones as you fight against Vichy France's forces in North Africa. Where Big Red One seems to let you down is just in the basic nuts and bolts of the feel and interface. The game mixes things up a lot, having you at various times driving tanks, manning the mounted guns of marine landing craft, shooting down aircraft from antiaircraft guns, and even operating the turret guns and bomb bay doors of a B-24 Liberator. If not for the fact that rifles have slightly more power, there would really be no reason to use them because of how abnormally accurate the submachine guns are.
While they're powerful, tanks easily fall prey to infantry hiding inside of buildings with anti-tank weapons because of the lack of space. Even the maps that do have tanks in them don't seem to get much out of having them there, as many of them are cityscapes with narrow streets that offer little ability for the tanks to maneuver. Big Red One's campaign follows this chronological path, putting you in the shoes of a fresh-faced private in Fox company. It's a very subtle thing, and it's maybe not one you'll notice if you don't play a whole lot of shooters, but the look and feel of infantry combat in Big Red One just doesn't feel all that intense. You don't just get to shoot Germans this time, as French and Italians find the business end of your gun as well. You'll also use binoculars to help spot for artillery or navy ships so you can rain the hurt down on tanks and other hard targets.
You've got your cool, no-nonsense squad leader, a clown, and the-guy-with-a-Bronx-accent. A few standard game types are available, including deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and domination, the latter of which involves capturing and holding specific points on the map. None of the versions, unfortunately, offers any split-screen support which means that GameCube owners are left with no multiplayer options at all. Bodies don't seem to fall with any real sense of weight, which is most obvious when you hit them with a grenade or other explosive weapon. . Once you're done with the single-player, the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game offer 16-player online multiplayer. It's possible, for example, to snipe from long distance with submachine guns, as the first bullet is always dead-on.
Despite the brevity of the single-player campaign, Big Red One seems to have all the elements of a great shooter. Over the course of the campaign, you'll participate in a number of different missions, such as capturing airfields, clearing out villages, and assisting other units in battle. You never get too attached to anyone, but the scenes at least give some context to everything. There aren't any cutscenes, but the beginning and end of each chapter offers some in-game movie sequences that involve some genial banter between you and your squadmates. While Big Red One doesn't do much to distinguish itself with sound effects or music, the game still looks pretty good across all platforms. Overall, Call of Duty 2: Big Red One is still a worthwhile first-person shooter. There will be times when you're clearing out houses or bunkers when you'll watch your squadmates, who are standing fewer than six feet from the enemy, fire and miss badly.
No, it's not a brand of chewing gum. The gameplay was pretty smooth and playable on both platforms, but the actual experience still left a lot to be desired because of the weak infantry combat. There are 11 different maps available, but most of them seem to be derived from the single-player campaign maps. . . . .