Call of Duty 2 and Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood

Call of Duty 2 ($50, requires Microsoft Windows 2000/XP, 1.4Ghz processor, 256MB RAM, 8X CD drive, 4GB hard drive space, 64MB 3D video card, Activision, www.activision.com) and Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood ($30, requires Microsoft Windows 2000/XP, 1Ghz processor, 512MB RAM, 8X CD drive, 3.5GB hard drive space, 32MB 3D video card, Ubisoft, www.ubisoft.com) are the sequels to the debut entries in each of the respected World War II first-person shooter games. In what is considered the most visceral genre in entertainment software, these shooters let the player experience through the eyes and ears what their alter ego in the game experiences. To the software developers’ credit, there is considerable historical research behind these games. The characters all feature authentic period uniforms and weapons, and in some cases the battlefields themselves have been taken straight from pictures and maps of WWII battle sites.

The historical context is both more obvious and compelling in Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood. In this title the player’s character and squad mates are members of the 101st Airborne Division’s 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. The characters are fictional, but the events and battles they face are drawn from incidents found in the 502nd PIR’s logs in U.S. Army archives. Earned in Blood has a sense of drama, too, as the firefights are flashbacks that tell the story of a character being interviewed by real-life Army historian Colonel S.L.A. Marshall. Marshall’s writings would later generate some controversy, but the game’s use of him as an interviewer in WWII is reasonable and a clever way to tell the story. Earned in Blood is otherwise similar to its predecessor, Brothers in Arms: The Road to Hill 30. It does a respectable job of illustrating fire and movement tactics at the squad level in the hedgerows of France.

Call of Duty 2 is likewise very similar to Call of Duty, although its approach is different from that of Brothers in Arms. Call of Duty 2 presents myriad experiences of WWII. Each mission plays like the action sequence from a war movie, filled with dramatic moments and spectacular sights. In the British campaign, your alter ego in the game fights grueling battles in North Africa, while his Russian counterpart endures tough city fighting and infantry vs. tank encounters. The American missions include the U.S. Army Ranger assault on Pointe du Hoc. Although the trappings of the game are realistic, the play style is clearly geared to make the player feel more heroic, and the emphasis on teamwork is more superficial than substantial. It’s probably a more enjoyable experience for action fans than Earned in Blood but isn’t without historical value. A Call of Duty 2 Collectors Edition DVD is available in some outlets for the same price as the basic game and includes the game and extra documentaries and veteran interviews.

Both titles are worthy advances for the first-person shooter genre. Call of Duty 2 has a T rating for Teen (blood, mild language and violence), and Earned in Blood is rated M for Mature (blood and gore, intense violence and strong language).

 

Originally published in the September 2006 issue of Military History. To subscribe, click here