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SummaryVery, very good.
The GoodFirst of all I have to say that I generally don't like "realistic" games - flight sims, Counter Strike and its derivatives, Delta Force and its ilk... I just don't get the same sense of fun and satisfaction that I do from other, fictional games, and the realistic games are also usually extremely frustrating. Well, I'm happy to say that Call of Duty delivers on all fronts: fascinating, satisfying, technically impressive and (almost) flawless in gameplay.
To begin with, the graphics are absolutely astounding. Admittedly the machine I played this game on is quite monstrous (AthlonXP 2800+, 1GB memory, Radeon 9800XT), but at 1280x960 with everything maxxed out only once or twice did the frame rate even hickup (which is more than can be said for other contemporary games). The game looks beautiful: character animations are terrific, physics are realistic (no ragdoll physics, but I don't think they're worth the bother anyways); grass is grass, trees are trees, bunkers are bunkers, the weapons are clearly and accurately rendered; everything looks as it should. No cut corners, no savings in polygon count, lighting is gorgeous - right on target!
Although the game is quite short (about 8 hours net, finished it in a couple of days), it has - much like a good WWII movie - a sense of epic proportions. The missions are huge, varied and never boring or repetitive; there are no pointless "infiltrate with stealth, die if you are discovered" missions, no tacky mission to "obtain the Enigma" or other such crap: what you do get is packed, tight, hardcore action. You get to use practically every relevant weapon (from Luger pistols to Flak guns), drive a tank, take up shotgun while attempting an insane escape from a German-controlled area of France, desperately defend a bridge and fight off the Germans while awaiting reinforcements, commandeer a boat, infiltrate a dam and sabotage power stations, display the Soviet flag on top of the Reichstag... I'm getting out of breath here. The variety and immensity of the missions is simply astounding. The sheer adrenaline rush you get running with a Kark rifle, shooting down Germans while mortars blow up all around you is simply impossible to describe.
Both friendly and enemy AI is very good - far better than I expected, really. The enemies always try and take up hiding places, snipe at you rather than run blindly, jump at you from behind corners... if they're close enough they run and hit your with their guns (as in a melee attack), and they generally cooperate, which is rather impressive. Fortunately the friendly AI is no slouch, and you can almost always trust your comrades to do their job properly and gun down enemies.
Also, the automatic saving system works very well, requiring almost no (quick)save/load of any kind during the game.
... oh, and did I mention that the game never gets old?
The BadThere's very little I did not like about this game, which is actually a very rare thing for me. I would rate these shortcomings as little more than nitpicking, but they're worth mentioning...
Some scenes in the game are frustrating. Not necessarily difficult, but simply annoying; for example, while infiltrating an airport the player gets to sit in the back of a truck and shoot down enemies. Usually that would have been a really cool scene, only it took me about 3 times to figure out why my truck kept blowing up - turns out that a German with an RPG was standing on a truck somewhere I would never have bothered to look. Realistic may damn well be, but no fun at all. Afterwards you get to fight off Stuka planes with a flak gun, only you are constantly shot at from a nearby roof, and for some reason your comrades are completely ineffective against them - which means you have to both shoot down planes and fire at snipers continuously. In another scene you sit in a Russian zodiac, get yelled at by a sergeant and finally shot at from an airplane; although there's no chance in hell you'll know what to do at that point, if you don't crouch at the right moment you get your head blown off and have to sit through the sergeant's lecture all over again (which is very annoying). Luckily there are very few such issues with the game.
The second thing I didn't appreciate is the music... it is a particularly awful attempt to duplicate the musical style Hans Zimmer coined in The Rock and Crimson Tide, with two exceptions: the first being that this style has got really old, and instead of inspiring it gets really annoying. The second is that in this particular instance, the music is way over dramatic, uninspired at best of times and generally mediocre. I really wish they'd do the soundtrack differently. A thought: various classical pieces put together in appropriate scenes (Beethoven's 9th, Mahler's 2nd... the options are limitless).
Finally, although this game has probably the lowest bug count in recent memory, I still encountered two or three bugs that really ruined my day, at least when at one time I had to reload my game because I literally got stuck between a tree and a rock and could not move.