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Talk about Mario Brothers.  Sheesh.  At one point I played the same sixty seconds of game thirty-three times in forty-five mins.  That's where it stops being fun.

I got this game to play online with my Baby Bro.  I found the "Deluxe" edition which includes United Offensive for $27.  Not too bad.  I haven't fired up the multiplayer, yet.

The tone of this game is very similar to Call of Duty 2.   Similar music (I think.)  The same sort of briefing screens.  Same Magic Compass.  But there are some differences.

One of the most annoying is that they don't automagically save at the end of a mission.   So, if you spent thirty mins and fifteen restarts to wrap up a mission, and then quit out of the game, you have to go back through that last section again.  A huge oversight.

Obviously, the graphics are not nearly as rich and realistic.  They're not bad.   But definitely a step down.  The fire and smoke effects in particular look very computer-generated.

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Enemy at the Gates

They didn't do an Omaha Beach landing.  Instead, they chose to pay homage to Enemy at the Gates in the Russian section.   I never tried turning back, but I assume I would have been shot.  It was hard enough getting up the hill against the Germans, anyway.

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Glowing health packs.  Some scattered around dead cattle

One major gameplay difference is that this game has an actual health meter and health packs.   In CoD2, pretty much if you don't get killed, then you recover in a few seconds.   One thing I didn't like about the health packs is that they glow.  So they kind of stand out as unreal.  Also, in some portions of the game there are a lot of them strewn about.  (I played on medium difficulty.)

Hmm, what other changes are there?  Grenades are a separate weapon, rather than something you can throw any time.  That gets in the way when you're cycling through weapons.  They don't give you binoculars. 

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Low walls and fences block movement

You can't climb over obstacles. Meaning, if you can't jump that high, that's it.  That really caught my attention in the first level.  You land in a field and the low fence blocks you.  You're funneled to the single exit.  Another minor change is that crouching doesn't make you silent.  You make the same noise as if you were standing.

I found the appearance of the enemy fairly easy to predict, most of the time.  I'm not sure I can characterize it specifically right now.  But in general, there would be a gap, like a short hallway indoors, or a clearing prior to a row of buildings.   Or a trasition from indoors to outdoors.  Then the next nest of bad guys.

There are a few unique levels. You "drive" an arcadish tank, again.  You man an arcadish AA gun to destroy some more aircraft.  You ride in the bed of a truck and use panzerfausts to shoot pursuers.   And, you ride in the passenger side of a car and shoot at the enemy nests you come across.

But the one thing that stood out to me the most was getting killed in the same place over and over and over again.  They throw one of those levels at you very early on.   Then there's a coupla hours of gameplay that's pretty reasonable.  Then, most of the rest of the game is an attempt to find the magic combination of moves that will kill the bad guys coming from multiple directions.

Now, there's some of that in every game.  Clearly, I'm an experienced FPS player.  So I'm okay with dying some reasonable number of times within a level.  Maybe even a half-dozen times or so at the same spot that requires some skill.  But I'd like there to be at least the illusion of the possibility that I could figure out what to do on the first try.

With most of these bad levels, there is absolutely no way to solve the level with reasonable care.  You have to die so you can watch the level unfold.  Then, you restart knowing where the next threat is coming from.  You get a little farther before you come to the next impossible bit.

For example, near the end you're a Russian storming a building.  When you finish clearing the building the objectives are updated.  You now have to help defend the building until reinforcements arrive.  That's fine.  They use that device a couple of different times.

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Tanks (eventually) destroyed

But to start with, you have to destroy the enemy tanks.  You're told in-game that there are two anti-tank guns set up to take them out.  But you have about six or eight seconds to find the first gun.  If you take any longer then by the time you get there the tank cuts you to shreds before you can get the four or five shots off to kill it.  Then you have another six or eight seconds to locate the second gun.

Sure, the Magic Compass shows you where the guns are.  But you start this exercise on the fourth floor.  The first gun is on the second floor.  You have to remember the layout of the building just to find the second set of stairs to get you down from the third to the second floor.  Then, you have to figure out which doorway takes you to the room with the gun.  I defy anyone to figure that out quickly enough on the first try.  And then after that, the second gun is back up on the third floor.   Again, it takes some running around to re-find the stairs.

That's bad enough.  If it took me four or five tries to get that timing down it wouldn't be a big deal.  Disappointing, but not too terribly irritating.

But then the building is assaulted from all sides.  There's no way your character can fend off everyone.  You must rely on your AI companions to take out most of them.   But they're overwhelmed around the time you have to man the anti-tank gun to take out a third tank.  So during many of my attempts I was shot from behind by enemies I had no chance whatsoever to protect myself against.

I tried that level sixty times before I gave up and searched for God Mode. I so rarely do that.  But I'd had enough of this.  It was just plain annoying.  It wasn't fun, anymore.

And then, I died three more times, anyway.  Once was because I accidentally killed a friendly tank (friendly fire.)  And then twice more, because where I'd saved I wasn't in God mode, and I didn't realize right away that I had to turn it back on.

But, after turning it on, I now think that the level was going to be essentially impossible for me to solve.  I must have missed a trick of some kind.  Maybe I should look up a walkthru.

There were other levels that were similarly aggravating.  One, I had to help hold a bridge until reinforcements arrived.  That one took 49 restarts.  If there was a trick, I never found it.  I just learned the order that the threats came in.

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Death number twenty-four of thirty-one in the AA gun level

Another was the anti-aircraft gun level.  After shooting the first or second group of aircraft some enemy soldiers would come to the edge of the rooftop to my left.  I couldn't count on my AI buddies to protect me, so I had to slew the slow gun over and take them out.  Then had to slew back immediately to take on the next aircraft which were almost exactly the opposite direction.  Again, no way to know that ahead of time, nor any chance of reacting to the situation as it develops.  You have to die several times in order to learn the sequence.

The truck level took a mere thirteen tries.  Thirteen times through the same twenty or thirty seconds of gameplay.  Not fun.

And there were more levels like the ones I've mentioned.  Where it felt like the kills were just entirely random.

The ending caught me completely by surprise.  I guess it was a semi-big event.   And I guess that after going through a few levels in each nationality, they finished by giving you one more level for each nationality.  But I didn't realize it was the end until the credits started to roll.

9 days elapsed time.  11 sessions.  13.5 hours.  286 deaths.

On my brother's Game Total Value Scale, Threat?  What Threat?  The fit and finish of the game is very good for its time.  But many of the levels are incredibly frustrating.

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Last modified: June 10, 2006
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