The thing that I was most eager to experience first-hand was the new health system that seems to be a copy, albeit organic, of the scheme introduced in Halo. Pardon the speculation, but perhaps the automatically regenerating health worked so well in Halo because you played a superhuman cyborg that was designed to be, well, superhuman. This is not Halo. The idea behind implementing regenerating health in Call of Duty 2 was to eliminate the need to backtrack to pick up medkits and possibly to increase the pace of the battle. After playing through the entire game, this new system has its pros and cons. First, the good: not having to worry about health is definitely a freeing experience. As more and more enemy fire hits your character, the display begins to turn red at the corners and your character starts to gasp in pain, alerting you to your impending demise. Instead of worrying about your health meter, all you have to do is dive out of sight and wait a few seconds for the "pain" to go away. Once that happens, you're free to jump up and re-enter the fray. Not only is this quite a lot of fun, it tends to keep you moving from cover to cover. However, a side effect of this system is that it eliminates any lasting penalty for poor tactics, and occasionally allows for unrealistic behavior. For instance, having unlimited health mostly eliminates the fear of getting hit, which anyone can tell you is what drives the strategy, and therefore fun, of a firefight. Rather than thinking in terms of eliminating the enemy while remaining in good enough shape to finish the mission, I found myself performing rash acts of bravery, like charging straight into the face of a spitting machine gun because I knew that my dim-witted tactics wouldn't penalize me in the long run. In my estimation, automatically regenerating health will be a source of debate between gamers for some time to come, because at the moment, I can see many people both liking and disliking certain facets of it. Ultimately, the gaming will be the judge of whether this is an improvement over the established health-pack system.
Last and least (in my opinion), is a brief analysis of the graphical improvements that Call of Duty 2 makes of its predecessor, since screenshots can readily show in seconds what words cannot. However, I have two words for you: specular lighting. Specular lighting, in essence, is what game designers use to create surfaces that can reflect light realistically. Since wet surfaces and metal objects were plentiful in WWII, this feature alone is a large step toward photo-realism. Where there is no light to illuminate such objects, weapon fire illuminates the area around the weapon admirably, showing off the significantly enhanced textures and bump mapping on soldiers and inanimate objects alike. Furthermore, the previously mentioned smoke effects don't just apply to grenades. Weapon fire, especially that of large caliber weapons, really kicks up a lot of dust, which can completely obscure enemy forces. Lastly, a whole slew of full-screen blurs and distortions that simulate pain, adrenaline, and simple things like being hit in the face by spray from a ship's bow are a great addition to an already impressive engine. While the system requirements for Call of Duty 2 are undoubtedly steep, it's easy to see that the computational firepower that's being asked for is put to good use.
Final WordsIn all, Call of Duty 2 looks to be a worthy successor to its predecessor. The significantly improved graphics, enhanced AI, Military Channel introductions, and even the new health system all make for a compelling reason to take a look at Call of Duty 2, especially if you haven't played the original. While it has some slight flaws (as far as I could judge during my limited testing period), Call of Duty 2 looks to be an exciting title that any Mac gamer would be proud to own.
As an experienced beta tester, receiving beta software that I had no part in developing for the first time was a very interesting experience for me. While I didn't intend to comment on the performance and stability of a piece of beta software, I nevertheless would like to mention that I was extremely impressed with Call of Duty 2's stability. In no point during my trial run through Call of Duty 2 did I ever experience a single crash—nor bugs in any way, shape, or form (though, I have to admit that I wasn't actively trying to break the game). Such a performance is commendable, and if this beta software is any indication, we have a lot to look forward to from the final product sometime in late May.