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Call of Duty: United OffensiveBox cover

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Oh my lack-of-God, these older Call of Duty games were frustrating.  Very, very bad level design.  Pure Mario Bros.

And it starts with that right away.  The very first mission, you are part of a reconnoiter.  You walk twenty yards to an open field and there are a bunch of Germans a short distance away.  Of course, my first instinct was to find cover behind a stack of logs and try to take out the enemy.  Turns out, that's not what you want to do at all.  If you try you'll get shot to pieces very quickly.  These enemy soldiers are very accurate.  Instead, you should just hide and wait for thirty secs.   Then, when more Germans come into view, you're supposed to run away.

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Rat Patrol
Also, the smoke effects are noticably inferior to CoD2

Once again, I defy anyone to figure that out the first time.  This is a WWII FPS game, and the object of the game should be to fight the enemy.  Why in the world did they start out with a level where the only viable course of action (the trick) is to completely avoid your first firefight of the game?

Running away from these Germans takes you to a jeep, where you man the .50 cal and play Rat Patrol, albeit in wooded Europe.  Somewhat similar to the panzerfaust-in-the-truck level of CoD, this section is basically about getting killed a few times so you can progressively learn where the next enemies are.  There are four or five blind corners where you have to know ahead of time where to aim the gun.  Otherwise, the soldiers you're passing will knock off a lot of your health before you're out of range.

So.  A little frustrating.  This level didn't take very many restarts.   But I just find these levels where you're forced to die to learn the magic combination to be poor game design.

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Lotsa guys running in the background.  A coupla times that touch made the battle feel much larger.

And moving on to the very next section.  You're joining a fight in progress, to hold the line from a series of foxholes.  You're following a guy, so at least you're not stumbling around blindly.  But it is a little unclear where you should be directing your attention before dying a few times to guys coming up on your flank.

Then, you're moved to another foxhole where you're supposed to set up a .30 cal bipod machine gun.  But, it took at least five attempts before I learned the magic spot to stand to set up the machine gun on the lip of the foxhole.  If it's that picky, then they should have just started with the gun in the correct spot.  I don't see the point of making the player die a few times while just trying to learn how to use the weapon.

Maybe you've noticed; I was irritated with this game pretty much from the start.   It was a pretty direct continuation of the first game.

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That's Forty Death Bridge on the right of this picture.

Not long after that was the bridge that took somewhere over forty tries.  There was no way to take it in steps.  The tank would blow away your cover when you tried to set up to take out a few of the guys whose throat you were running down.  I think I eventually just lucked into a pocket where the tank couldn't quite get me.

Once again, some of the most frustrating levels were where you had to hold for a time limit.  They always throw guys at you from multiple directions, plus change your role throughout the mission.  Like one, where you have to run to three sides of a house to defend it. And then run out on the porch in back to single-handedly kill several tanks.

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You vs all the tanks

One little verimisilitude quirk that's bugged me through all the WWII games is how a bazooka and a panzerfaust can blow through the front armor of even the biggest tanks.   In real life those are relatively small anti-armor weapons, and they must be used against the vulnerable side, rear or tracks of the big tanks.

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B-17 level

The British section is mildly interesting.  You're a machine gunner on a B-17.   You start out in the dorsal (top) turret.  But, as the fight goes on, you have to run around the airplane manning first one gun, and then another.

It wasn't particularly hard.  And it was fairly arcadish.  Especially since you didn't have to worry about ammo at all.  Just blaze away.  The shape of the bullet streaks did match war footage pretty closely.  But, similar to lens flares, it's not appropriate to use them when it's supposed to be your own eyes looking at them.   Those shaky streaks are an artifact of capturing the info on film.

The rest of the British missions were pretty reasonable.  You got to tag along with special forces to blow up a railroad bridge.  Blow up cliff guns.  Another

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Interesting graphics glitch.  The headlights of another vehicle are visible through the roof of the truck you're in.

arcadish level where you're manning the gun of a PT-type boat vs other boats.

The boat level was a bit annoying.  They sent enough enemy boats at you that, once again, you had to die a half dozen times in order to learn where to point before the enemy was actually in sight.

But it was the Russian levels that really pissed me off.

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I saw this savepoint over a dozen times.

You start off in a trench battle.  The Germans are charging your position.   If you stick your head up to shoot it's shot off pretty quickly.  So it took a few deaths to find a spot where I could contribute without dying in a few seconds.   Then, you have enemies coming in from multiple directions.  So it takes a few more deaths to deal with the enemies behind you that you can't count on your comrades to take care of.

That one wasn't too absolutely awful.  But, once again, I was annoyed that the only way through it was to die over a dozen time.  And I was not feeling generous by this point.

Next, you assault a factory.  There, you have to grab a panzerfaust out of the middle of the room in the middle of a firefight in order to take out a tank that has barged into the room.  And I believe it takes multiple hits to kill the tank.

After only ten deaths, I caved here and found a walkthru.  I'm not sure it really helped.  But I mostly wanted to see if there was a trick I was missing that would save me another forty reloads.  There wasn't, really.

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Not long after that, you have to charge a row of buildings.  That wasn't too awful.  Except that you have to really hurry or your own officers will shoot you in the back.  I died a coupla times that way.  But the next step was irritating.

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Trying to figure out how to use the binoculars.

For the first time they give you binoculars.  (Binoculars are treated like a weapon, similer to grenades.  You have to switch to them, rather than a dedicated key for them.)  You're supposed to use them to spot for artillery.   But they don't tell you the details of how to do that.  I had noticed some enemies across a street and kept trying to bring down artillery on them.  It turns out, when you look at the 88 mm gun you get a big red bullseye in your view.  But the gun was hidden enough that it took a half dozen deaths before I spotted it.  Those extra deaths were primarily because I wasn't given any instruction nor training on how to direct the artillery, nor what to expect.

Again.  Not too awful.  Just another minor annoyance on top of all the others I felt I'd endured.

Then came the final level.

It was just insane.  Fighting across a railroad yard, I must have died ten times when it felt like I was completely covered.  I was just trying to wait long enough for the first tank to arrive so I could man the 88 to take it out.  Then, you have to abandon the gun to wait for the next tank.  Meanwhile, bombers come in regularly and they're aiming for you!  So, no matter where you hole up you're guaranteed to get flushed out.

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They're bombing you!

Thirty-five deaths later, I went back to the walkthru.  I found a hiding spot to wait for tanks.  But the 88 was simply too exposed.  Maybe there's another trick for making it to and from the gun, because 90% of the time I got chopped to nearly nothing just getting to it.  Then, the last bit shot off just after dispatching the second tank.  I don't think I ever managed to get an attempt on the third tank.  I think I gave it twenty tries or so.

Then I learned that just hiding out will allow my comrades to kill all but the final tank.

Another ten or fifteen tries on the final tank.  And that was it.  That was all I could take.  I turned on God mode.  (Even that became an ordeal, due to a typo on the commandline.)

Maybe I could have finished the game without cheating.  But from what the walkthru said I saw another 60+ deaths in my future.  To play the same twenty seconds of game.  Over and over and over.

No thanks.

34 days elapsed time.  7 sessions.  12.65 hours.  307 deaths.  24 deaths/hour.


On my brother's Game Total Value Scale in the single player game, Threat?  What Threat?  The level design exhibits remarkably poor game balance.  The enemy forces are so overwhelming that even an experienced FPS gamer ends up getting killed twenty, thirty, even fifty times within the same 20 seconds of game time.

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Last modified: July 20, 2006
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