Genre: First-Person Shooter
Developer: Grey Matter
Release Date: September 14, 2004
Pre-order 'CALL OF DUTY: United Offensive': PC
An expansion pack had traditionally been more of a means of milking the success of the original game rather than a true attempt at extending it. When you look back, while most expansion packs have been welcome addition to the games, with few exceptions they are often no better than most community content. United Offensive resides on the other end of the spectrum, as not only does the game heavily expand upon the original it also outclasses it in almost every category.
Just as in the original, in United Offensive, you take up the role of a United States, British, and Russian soldier over the game’s 13 new levels of substantial size. In the United States campaign you play as a soldier taking part in the Battle of the Bulge, in the British campaign you are the dorsal gunner on a bomber, and in the Russian campaign you are a conscript thrown into the Battle of Kursk. Each campaign is equally enjoyable, and equally powerful, much as it was in the original. The Battle of the Bulge has been historically viewed as one of the more heroic battles of WW2, and is one of the hardest with enemies seemingly crawling out of the woodwork. The Battle of Kursk is made up of rolling hills speckled with trenches, where German armor is threatening to overrun the Russian infantry. The British campaign is probably the biggest step forward in terms of innovation for the game, as not only are you the gunner for a bomber but you also have free reign to move around in the aircraft. As other gunners get hit you can get out of your position, move to theirs, and fight from there. ME-109s buzz around; strafing your plane and sending bullets ripping through the fuselage as chunks of the plane tear off, exposing the sky outside.
Other additions besides new campaigns and gameplay have been introduced, such as new weapons, deployable machine guns, and the ability to sprint. Sprinting can only be performed in short bursts at a time, but is your best friend when you absolutely need to get to cover before a German machine gun nest opens fire. The new weapons range from the fairly standard, such as a variety of new rifles and pistols. The German Gewehr 43 is a powerful semi-automatic rifle, the British now have Silenced Sten Mk IIs to serve as a silent weapon and the Webley Mk 4 revolver. The Russians can now utilize the powerful Tokarev SVT-40 as well as the Tokarev TT-33 sidearm. There are no new rifles or pistols for the United States, but are not without new weapons entirely as US forces can now use the Browning .30 caliber deployable machine gun and the M1A1 “Bazooka”. Russian and German forces also have deployable machine guns in the form of the Degtyarev-Pekhotny 28 and MG34s, respectively. Rounding out the new weapons, the Germans now have Panzershreck rocket launchers and flamethrowers, which are a bit unwieldy but can quickly decimate a group of infantry.
The gameplay in United Offensive seems to be much more realistic and war-like thanks to enhanced AI and level design. Enemies and allies alike will now go prone when the situation presents itself, which is not only a welcome change but can be an effective tactic against the player as it can often by hard to distinguish a live enemy in a group of dead ones. The Russian campaign plays much like it did in the original game, but the real stars of the show are the United States and British campaigns. The British campaign starts off with the bomber mission, which is absolutely filled with a sense of urgency. During the course of the mission other bombers get torn apart by flak and enemy aircraft, and the bomber you are in also takes an absolute beating. When you see an explosion send the radio operator flying and slamming into the opposing side of the plane and a gaping hole in the plane where he was, you begin to appreciate just how brave aviators had to be. AS you and gunners from the other bombers in the formation shoot at incoming enemy planes they will begin to smoke, go down in flames, and explode into bits and pieces. The United States campaign is probably Call of Duty at its absolute finest, thanks to refined level design and excellent gameplay. Fighting in and out of houses, taking cover in behind haystacks from the wrath of German machine gun fire, artillery and tank fire ripping buildings apart, and the furious urban combat assault your senses non-stop from start to finish. One of the more memorable parts is when your squad is surrounded in a chateau and you must defend it against an absolute storm of German troops and armor. The games trademark heroic music is in full swing, Allied soldiers are screaming for reinforcement on various sides of the chateau calling out enemy advances, and the sounds of combat absolutely fill the air; the experience is enough to leave you breathless.
The engine itself has seen a fair share of improvements as well, such as enhanced smoke and explosion effects, flowing flame effects to make the flamethrower come to life. The levels are much more detailed than they were in the original, though the effect is mostly seen in small details and aesthetic effects rather than the geometry itself. Blowing snow obscures distant enemies in the Battle of the Bulge, a combination of smoke and fog fill the air in the Battle of Kursk, and the bomber mission is filled with nice touches both small and large. Planes that are damaged but still in the fight leave smoke trails, bombers breaking apart do so with stunning realism, and its always welcome to see the occasional German pilot among the wreckage of a disintegrating ME-109. The musical score sounds much like the original with all of the music performed in an orchestral means, and the songs themselves are not completely original but more of a variation of a theme. There are new sound effects for the new weaponry, with the most obvious ones coming from the flamethrower and the deployable machine guns. There are many more lines of spoken dialog from both commanding officers and general combat ambience, which fill in the blanks and give a genuine feel to the briefings both on and off the field.
Most expansions packs are decent, some are sub-par and only add trinkets, and few are equal to the original game the pack is augmenting. United Offensive is an exception to all of those categories and not only meets the level of quality set forth by the original Call of Duty but often exceeds it. There is no doubt about it that United Offensive is Call of Duty at its finest, and will appeal to anyone who enjoyed the original. The campaigns actually invoke emotion from the player such as dread, panic, and the feeling of “thank god it’s over” after fighting off a massive German assault. In a nutshell United Offensive takes everything good about Call of Duty and makes it even better, adds new weapons, campaigns, and gameplay, and overall cements itself as a must-have for any Call of Duty enthusiast.
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