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Flashback Friday: Call of Duty

April 9, 2010

By Tom Price

Gather round children. I’m going to tell you all about the humble beginnings of the world’s favorite multiplayer shooter. Believe it or not, the Call of Duty games didn’t start with COD 4: Modern Warfare. In fact, there were three more before that (Even more depending on how you count them). And, this is the scary part; the first one wasn’t even on an Xbox, or Playstation or any console at all.  Call of Duty resided in the scary sea of PC gaming.

The year was 2003, and I was heavily addicted to an online shooter for the first time, it was Call of Duty. The single player was strong, and the multiplayer was even stronger. The campaign pulled from some of the best World War II movies to create one of the largest scale war games I’d ever seen at the time.  Scenes from Band of Brothers and Enemy at the Gates are recreated so closely to the movie, it’s borderline illegal. The capture of Carentan, silencing a group of German canons on D-Day, and the recapture of Stalingrad in the game, so closely resemble the scenes from their respective films. Stalingrad, in particular, deserves a nod just for the scale of the battle, and the chaotic feeling it gives the player while they scramble from cover to cover without so much as a gun to defend themselves. And yes, Captain Price is still here.

Some things change, but never Captain Price's mustache

After seeing what the campaigns of the more recent games have become (essentially an intense, super scripted  action movie) it is interesting to go back and see the roots of that philosophy start to take place.

COD 1 has a campaign that’s still very scripted, but nothing on the level of the modern games. Where Modern Warfare 2 sets up gigantic firefights with soldiers, tanks and helicopters that will shoot out buildings and crash in ways the designers choose, COD 1 takes place on a much smaller scale. The scripting for the most part consists of a tank plowing down the wall in front of the player, forcing them to scramble away in search of a new route. It isn’t difficult to trace Call of Duty’s trajectory from where it was to where it is now.

You play as the Americans, British and the Russians

But how could we talk about Call of Duty and not talk about multiplayer? Much of the current multiplayer is right out of the original game, with many of the same modes, and even maps sticking around after all these years. Anyone that was a fan of Chinatown in COD 4 owes that to the original, when the map was Carentan. Players were still able to choose their class, but without customization. No kill-streak bonuses, either.

Despite missing the bells and whistles of the modern games, it is still a lot of fun to play, even several years later. If you bought one of the collector’s editions of Modern Warfare 2, then you received a code to download this classic free of charge. How long you stuck with it, based on how hard it is to find a game online, is another story. I encourage anyone to give Call of Duty a try, even just to see where the most popular franchise today got its start. It still has the makings of a great game despite being seven years old.

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