Having been given the opportunity to attend last Wednesday's XO5 event in Toronto, I was pretty eager to play Activison's Call of Duty 2 for the Xbox 360. For gamers who have had the experience of playing the original game, the sequel continues to uphold the high standard set by it's predecessor. Call of Duty 2 not only offers the same gaming experience, but quite significantly raises the bar. The demo that I was able to play contained only a couple of missions, but what I walked away with was an amazing experience and a small glimpse of the power of the Xbox 360.

Call of Duty 2 picks up where its predecessor left off where you are playing on the side of the Russians. Compared to the first game where you start off playing a tutorial in a US training camp, the sequel has you complete a Russian version. The sequel has you take command of the same countries, and you'll see a few of the original heroes return, Captain Prince being one of them. From what we were told, the campaign mode can be completed in over 30 hours, but a seasoned Call of Duty player should be able to finish it in under that time. One of things that I noticed about the AI was that the enemy seemed to react in a more realistic way then its predecessor. It's not as if there was much room from improvement over the original game, but there were some nice improvements and small tweaks that greatly enhance the gameplay. I remember charging a group of enemy soldiers in a building, only to have myself gunned down within the first three seconds. The enemy will effectively try to flank you, and they can even catch you by surprise sometimes. They will even perform a tactical withdrawal if you give them the chance when you charge into a building. All of these aspects promote an even deeper gaming experience.

The amount of detail to the graphics of Call of Duty 2 is one of the things that absolutely astonished me. I was used to playing the original game, so once I picked up the Xbox 360 controller, one of the first things I did was aim by weapon into the sky. The level I was playing was set in a European town where the time of the mission was at night, in the midst of a rainstorm. The amount of detail that is put into these effects is sometimes beyond words and is something that is necessary for you to experience for yourself. Another one of the highlights is the addition of another type of grenade, the smoke grenade. The default setup is such that the left shoulder button fires smoke grenades, while the right shoulder button is for the frag grenade. These buttons are situated just about the left and right triggers, and are ideal for quickly switching from firing your weapon to throwing a grenade. The amount of detail in the smoke that is produce from a smoke grenade is absolutely breathtaking and nerve racking. I was once clearing out the enemies in the second story of a building, when a smoke grenade was thrown through a window. Almost immediately the smoke began to fill up the room and progress through the open doorways and through the entire second level. These effects last for a while and make it difficult to see much of anything. Enemies can pop up out of nowhere and make it almost worthwhile to just save ammunition and melee them. There is also a lot more detail in character models as well. Even the amount of blood that is released when you blast away at the enemy at close range is absolutely astonishing and well presented in a disturbing sort of way.

I never played Call of Duty on any of the console systems, but had instead gone out and purchased it for the PC. One of my original reasons for doing this is that I had tried playing the game on the Xbox and found that I had problems playing the game. The major reason for this was that I found it difficult to coordinate my movements when popping out from behind cover. The PC version allows you to lean around corners, while the console version did not. Call of Duty 2 for the Xbox 360 still has this problem. One of the biggest issues I had playing with the game is that there is no way to peek around corners; and with the improvements in the AI, it is very difficult not to get shot at before you can fire upon your target. For gamers that are used to not being able to lean around corners, this is almost a negligible fact.

The gameplay for Call of Duty 2 is impressive and really lives up to the standards set by the original game. The missions in this sequel try to give you more freedom to pick the objectives that you want to tackle first, by trying to take away the linearity. I found that this works very well by giving the gamers options that they had never thought of before. In some cases it is possible to complete the last objective before even finishing the first. For example, when you are tasked with destroying six anti-air batteries, you have to start asking yourself which one you want to tackle first. The batteries will appear on the radar as letters from A to F, any of which can be destroyed first. This attempt at giving the player more freedom is well done and has started moving the Call of Duty series in a good direction.

Overall, Call of Duty 2 is game that will appear familiar to most people. It is a solid first person shooter that does a good job of presenting WWII to the gamer. There are not a lot of noticeable improvements in gameplay that can be picked out with a first glance, but simply the graphical improvements are worth giving Call of Duty 2 a look.

More Coverage: Jason's Opinion
With the massive popularity of the original, this game has lots to live up to. Fortunately, it seems that it will. Set again in the World War II time span, history buffs and FPS fans will love this one. The missions this time are split between actual events and fictional ones set in the appropriate time frame and historically accurate to that extent. Fortunately, with the power of the Xbox 360 behind it, the developers were able to create an even more realistic experience than ever before. What initially blew my mind was the extent of the smoke effects, as well as other environmental effects, that add to the game's atmosphere. I think this one will be played on Xbox Live for quite some time.