Fatal Flaws: Call of Duty 2

There have been many good games that have been held back from achieving their full potential for greatness.  Some aspect of their design leaves a stain on the experience, forcing the player to question what in the world were the developers thinking.  Fatal Flaws examines these scars that are left on games, whether they are just mildly out of place or come close to ruining an otherwise quality game.

November is always an eventful month. This is when major elections are held, veterans are recognized for their service, Thanksgiving is celebrated or ignored to take advantage of Black Friday sales, and the new Call of Duty gets released. Like most ridiculously popular franchises, Call of Duty had humble beginnings and was not always a household name. My introduction to the series happened completely against my will, but I have since become a Call of Duty fan.

It was November 21, 2005 and a friend convinced me that I needed an Xbox 360 on launch day. I really didn’t need one, but I couldn’t find any valid counter argument so I joined him in camping outside of a popular local electronics store on what was the longest and coldest night of 2005 (historical climate records may dispute this claim) so we could both spend money we didn’t have on a brand new shiny system that would ultimately succumb to the Red Ring of Death. This was also when we both realized neither one of us knew how to properly dress for staying out all night in November, especially since global warming was not as severe back in those days.

With a new console we were not sure which games to purchase, but this retailer solved the problem for us by only selling the 360 as a bundle, forcing us to purchase Madden NFL 06 (which later was turned into The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion thanks to another store’s lax no receipt required return policy) and one of three other titles. I opted for Call of Duty 2, partly because I heard it was like Medal of Honor which I thought was alright, and partly because the other two options were of no interest whatsoever. After eating a 4000 calorie breakfast from McDonalds, I returned home and decided to see what the 360 was capable of and fired up Call of Duty 2, after the feeling returned to my fingers.

World War II has always been a topic of interest to me, so I was already intrigued based on the subject matter. Having not played the original Call of Duty but heard it was good I had optimism for liking the game but really didn’t have any concrete expectations for it. Perhaps not knowing what to expect from it contributed to my reaction, as I found myself enthralled with this game that I might not have ever picked up if retailers weren’t taking advantage of the scarcity of the new consoles availability. The improved graphics over what the previous consoles could produce combined with smooth controls and a captivating narrative style was causing Call of Duty 2 to eat up a lot of my free time.

And then there was the tank level. In theory, controlling a tank and blowing up other tanks sounds like a fun activity to include in a war game. Tanks are pretty badass, and it does add some variety to the experience. This isn’t the only Call of Duty battle that centered on vehicular combat, but it is the one that stands out in my mind as being the most memorable for all the wrong reasons. I felt that controlling the tank in this section of the game was more difficult than if I decided to teach myself how to operate a tank. The tank controls in Call of Duty 2 do not so much convey the feeling of being a solider operating a tank but you are in fact a tank. A sentient tank that somehow got itself drunk and now has to go into a combat zone.

The saving grace is there were only two tank missions in Call of Duty 2, Crusader Charge and 88 Ridge. I kind of suspect the developers knew the transition from infantry to tank wouldn’t be the smoothest, so they showed some mercy with Crusader Charge being ridiculously easy and more of a glorified tank tutorial than an actual battle. 88 Ridge is when things got real. Watching my inebriated sentient hunk of metal must have been an amusing sight if only my AI enemies had the ability to appreciate it. I will admit I am not the world’s greatest Call of Duty player, but I’ve completed the campaign modes of every Call of Duty title I’ve played. No one would believe that claim of completing any Call of Duty game if they witnessed some of my attempts at these tank missions. During my playthrough of 88 Ridge my tank had the level of responsiveness that our cats have to receiving verbal commands, which is typically any action except for the desired one.

It’s been a long time since I played Call of Duty 2 so I’m not sure how well it holds up a decade later, but I remember being impressed with it at the time and it being a better game than Call of Duty 3. The tank missions were a cool idea in theory, but their execution made me thankful they were a fairly minor portion of the game. None of the later vehicular levels in the Call of Duty series stick out in my memory as being much of a chore to complete, so this is probably a case of them finding their footing with this aspect of the game. The tank missions don’t ruin the game and I wouldn’t use them as a deterrent in recommending any Call of Duty fan who hasn’t played Call of Duty 2 to check it out. That being said, I still hate those Call of Duty 2 tank missions.

Curious about what other games we love but have an element about them we hate? Read about all the other Fatal Flaws here.