Just over half a decade has passed since its original release, but Call of Duty has been relegated to the retro pile. The past six years haven’t been particularly kind, and even with some admirable upscaling COD looks and feels dated. Still, it’s remarkable and occasionally amusing to experience how little the series has changed since the first go round on the PC. Swapping between Modern Warfare 2 and COD Classic, some lines got a little blurry, some things drove me crazy, and it all made it that much more apparent why the game was such a rollicking success in its day.
For those unfamiliar, you play across three stories in sequence for the US, Brits and Soviets. Encounters tend to be brief, focused and frantic. The now signature COD self-importance is in full swing from the war-hero drama to the over the top set pieces. It’s fun to experience the COD beginnings, from the cinematic aspirations to the clever use of the first person perspective to great effect. Just as gratifying is the keen awareness of how far the series has come – like how MW2 manages to keep NPCs out of doorways so I am not cursing them and whence they came from as I try to exit.
Graphically, I just don’t think it looks too shabby. The upscaling has been largely successful, but I also think that if you’re playing a game from six years ago for the graphics you might want to put the controller down and have a good think. Sure, if it were a new release the criticism would be merciless, from the character models to the AI to areas that, empty just a moment before, are suddenly teeming with a newly triggered enemy force. It’s even possible to beat your cohorts to a destination and then wait for their arrival so that the enemy can show up to the party. Oops. My favorite has to be watching enemies and allies alike rise from the center of detonated grenades like phoenix from the ashes.
In many ways playing this relic is like watching a play from the wings. Suddenly, you can see the COD props and set pieces, actors reciting lines and waiting for cues. Those familiar with the series will likely have the same complaints – dumb enemies moving in and out of cover on a predictable cycle, weapon cycling, and the wretched friendly fire rule in tandem with suicidal allies. Load times are a little slow and checkpoints, well those dastardly, remarkably limited, fiends frighten and confound. None of it destroys the experience but it does make you appreciate our modern gaming conveniences.
Those just looking for a breezy trip down memory lane without all the hassle of a hard-fought war will find themselves at home on the default difficulty. “Difficulty” is a bit of a misnomer; if you’re playing on Regular the game feels downright easy even though it predates “time heals all wounds” health. Med kits are commonplace unless you play as a Vet, but then as a Veteran you’ve already come to terms with your own masochism so the brutality, cruel checkpoints, one-shot kill enemies and generally unfair experience will come as no surprise.
It’s worth mentioning for the collector’s out there that the Trophies are pretty abundant and easily acquired. There is multi-player – but you’re not going to find people online. The only folks likely to hear the siren song of the game’s six multi-player modes are those not currently in possession of Modern Warfare 2. The game supports eight players in a match, which is a little weak. On the upside, you can witness the inception of the Killcam and enjoy some great maps.
Predictably, the game shows its age. Classic will have a hard time standing up to its younger, fitter siblings and Modern Warfare 2 leaves Call of Duty Classic looking a little out of place. Truth is, $15 is a good price for a fun game, but I’m still not sure why you would choose to spend it here. I imagine that this will become the universal qualifier for Classic: if you never played the original and feel like you missed out, then go for it. It’s a better looking version of itself, and if you don’t mind some of the quirks of early COD gaming it really is a great title.
Review copy provided by publisher.