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Call Of Duty: United Offensive

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Gray Matter

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.

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PC Review - 'Call of Duty: United Offensive'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Sept. 23, 2004 @ 12:03 a.m. PDT

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Grey Matter
Release Date: September 14, 2004

Buy 'CALL OF DUTY: United Offensive': PC

Given that we now have the full version of the United Offensive expansion pack in our hands, it can now officially be measured up against the original Call of Duty. In our preview coverage it was written that the UO expansion just might exceed the already-high quality levels if the sample levels were a taste of what to expect, and it can now be said for certain; Call of Duty: United Offensive is simply a must-buy for anyone who enjoyed the original. Far from feeling like a simple content booster pack, United Offensive adds considerably to the Call of Duty mix with new weapons, beautiful new environments, and gameplay elements that make you wonder why they weren’t in the first game.

In United Offensive you once again 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 Belgium, in the British campaign you are a member of the gunner crew on a bomber who is later enlisted in the SAS, and in the Russian campaign you are a conscript thrown into the Eastern front just after the Russian victory in Stalingrad. 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. Whether you are riding in a jeep tearing through a snowy forest with German tanks in pursuit, diving into foxholes to escape artillery fire, or using both mounted and deployable machine guns to fight back a German push at the tree line; you always feel like you are completely surrounded and are fighting to simply survive. The Battle of Kursk in the Russian campaign marks the first in the campaign and is made up of rolling hills speckled with trenches, where German armor is threatening to overrun the Russian infantry. From there, the Russian campaign throws the player into brutal urban warfare; taking back train stations and city squares from German infantry and armor. 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. After your stint as a flyboy the SAS notice your talents and enlist you into their ranks to destroy train bridges in a night-op mission behind enemy lines and the destruction of a massive gun battery built into the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean.

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. The deployable machine guns can be used prone or deployed on sandbags, but can only be fired while deployed (i.e., you are vulnerable while moving around). However, once deployed the machine guns are almost a force of nature and allow you to simply mow down enemy infantry until you need to reload the belt. 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 main problem with the flamethrower is that the flame suffers from clipping errors, unless you are standing in the middle of a hallway it is like you are shooting an invisible barrier near the walls. Still, a unit armed with a flamethrower is death itself if placed in close quarters.

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 to a larger extent. The urban combat is done in a much larger scale with more units involved in larger areas. At one point the combat takes place in the streets of a large city where the player must call in artillery strikes on tank positions. The real stars of the show however 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 SAS missions are made up a small group of specially trained soldiers that must use tactics to get to their objective, complete it, and get out before the nearby German forces bear down on them. When a mission goes south and a quick escape must be made there’s nothing suite as surreal as being the passenger in a motorcycle while you and the drive tear through a marketplace filled with both chickens and produce as well as German tanks and infantry.

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 game’s 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. Artillery strikes in the Russian campaign cause buildings to realistically collapse, and a tank shell sent into a a German machine gun nest on the second floor can result in bits of the building collapsing down internally while leaving the outer walls still standing.

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.

The fact that Call of Duty: United Offensive is better than the original game in nearly every regard should be enough to make any gamer take pause. Where most expansion packs merely add more of the same levels and maybe a few additional weapons, United Offensive adds incredibly fresh content, weapons that are actually new and both require and open up different tactics than those found in the original, and gameplay enhancements that makes a person wonder how they ever got through the first Call of Duty without deeply wishing for them. If you found the original Call of Duty to be an absolutely jaw-dropping game in itself then United Offensive should already be on your must-have list, and newcomer’s to the game would do well to pick up the as-yet unannounced but hopefully inevitable Call of Duty double pack. There’s no doubt about it, United Offensive is Call of Duty at its absolute finest, and hats off to Grey Matter for putting out such a worthy expansion pack to an already stellar title.

Score : 9.5/10


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