|Call of Duty: United Offensive|
November 8, 2004 | Scott Hanks
More isn’t always better. As a Mac user I’ve become accustomed to the benefits of a more limited selection of games than my PC using counterparts. Most of the games that don’t make it to the Mac probably should have never been made in the first place. As for the others... well, I don’t have time to play all the games I would want to anyway. Being a Mac gamer just means there are fewer games I don’t have time to play.
That being the case, when it comes to expansion packs, I’ve tended to look the other way. Rather than dump time and money into some new bells & whistles for an old game, I generally find it more satisfying to put my limited resources towards a shiny new game.
However, there are always exceptions. With Call of Duty: United Offensive, Aspyr Media treats us to one of those pleasant surprises that comes along every so often and restores my faith in the principle of the expansion pack. The developer, Gray Matter, took something good and, as the immortal Homer Simpson put it, “surrounded it with something wonderful, like a raisin covered in chocolate, or a monkey in a cowboy suit!"
United Offensive brings all sorts of goodies to the table including a new 13 mission single-player campaign, 11 new multiplayer maps, new weapons & vehicles and several tweaks to the gameplay. It feels more like a sequel than just an expansion pack.
Single PlayerOnce again we have the opportunity to serve in the American, British and Russian militaries in the European theater of WWII. I was somewhat skeptical that United Offensive would be able to provide something fresh rather than just rehash old material. Somehow they managed to pull it off, at times quite brilliantly.
Perhaps the most surprising example of this for me was the bomber mission. On first hearing about this one I assumed I would be stuck in a turret the whole time shooting down wave after wave of German fighters. Well, we all know what happens when we assume. While it is true that you are in a turret for much of the mission, the game treats you to a true flying circus. With fighters swarming around you and your fellow bombers, tracers streaming in every direction and planes exploding in flames it’s a visual feast. To shake things up you have to move around the interior of your B-17 from time to time to shut off a fuel line or open the bomb bay. While these would be mundane tasks in calm conditions, it is something else entirely when you’re doing them in the middle of a chaotic air battle.
While the original Call of Duty made “No one fights alone” its mantra, it didn’t always keep true to it. Besides destroying a dam or storming a Battleship practically all by yourself, there were also a number of times when your squad leader would decide to send you off on your own while the rest would wait patiently for you to complete your task.
In United offensive, you really are never alone (though you do still seem to be one of an elite few who knows how to destroy a tank). If you must be sent off on an errand, there’s always a couple of other soldiers just as expendable as yourself who get sent along with you.
The A.I. seems relatively unchanged and the voice acting is once again superb. The graphics have been tweaked to look even better and the sound effects are as immersive as ever. While it usually performed quite well on my mid-range system (1.33 GHz G4, GeForce 4 Ti, 1 Gig RAM), some encounters were very crowded with what felt like dozens of troops exchanging fire resulting in some choppy frame rates. Low-end systems beware.
The new weapons and vehicles have a surprisingly low impact on the single player experience, though they certainly are fun to play with. I kept waiting for a mission objective to be centered around using the new flame thrower to clean out some bunkers or what not. Alas, that moment never came and I am still shaking my fist at the heavens for this outrage. A couple of flame throwers may be scavenged after you’ve dispatched their owner, but I found little use for them. Unfortunately, the “No one fights alone” angle means that if you happen to get close enough to use the flame thrower effectively, your comrades are right there to get in the way or at least ruin your surprise attack.
Two significant enhancements made to game play are the ability to sprint in short bursts (to quickly move from cover to cover) and the option to “cook” grenades (let the fuse burn for a couple of seconds before you throw). While these are very small things by themselves, they have a huge impact on your playing tactics.