Call of Duty 2

Activision has a strong holiday lineup, but one of their biggest titles this holiday is Call of Duty 2. The game was recently released on the PC and will soon be heading to the Xbox 360. To get a better grasp on the highly anticipated next generation shooter, we spoke with Designer Steve Fukuda about the call of duty.

Call of Duty was a huge success. What's being improved upon to make the sequel an even better installment?

Call of Duty 2's goal has always been to immerse players in the most intense battles of World War II, and make them feel as though they are truly under fire. This time around, not only are the missions much larger than in the original game, some of the missions also present the player with more pathways to complete their objectives, while still keeping that sense of cinematic intensity throughout.

Early on, our military advisors pointed out a missing aspect of most squad-based military games: soldiers were unrealistically silent. We felt the incorporation of a well thought-out Battle Chatter system driven by comprehensive AI to be the solution, with each soldier vocally reacting to situations from their own perspective. The result, we believe, is a much more authentic and immersive battlefield experience -- much more true to life and compelling.

Another major improvement is our brand-new graphics engine -- we've been able to take advantage of a variety of new features: normal and specular maps for enhanced surface relief and details in the world, heat shimmer effects, feathered volumetric smoke, screen blur, and soft shadows.

What kind of research goes into a Call of Duty game?

Designers spent the early stages poring over books and maps, gathering as much detailed information as possible about the various campaigns to be portrayed. For practical details not normally found in books, we conducted exhaustive interviews with our military advisors, who provided valuable feedback and suggestions that helped make the game that much more immersive. The Battle Chatter system and the thick obscuring nature of dust and smoke in Call of Duty 2 are examples of that feedback.

To capture the feel of the weapons in the game, we fired hundreds of rounds of live ammunition from authentic WW2 weapons, videotaping recoil effects and spread patterns. The sound department recorded all of the weapons from scratch, including the reloading and rechambering sounds of the various weapons.

For the environments, we sent groups of artists to Normandy and North Africa to photograph and video as much of the real places as possible. We took 10,000 photos on those trips, and they proved invaluable in achieving a real sense of place in our levels. For weapons and uniforms, we found and photographed the real thing. We have thousands of photographs of one of our military advisors and a few of our artists modeling dozens of different WWII uniforms in various configurations, and videos, photographs of every weapon in the game.

Can you tell us a little bit about the storyline in Call of Duty 2?

Call of Duty 2 traces the story of four soldiers in WWII:

• Private Vasili Ivanovich Koslov, 13th Guards Rifle Div., Soviet Red Army

• Corporal John Davis, 7th Armoured Div., British Army

• Tank Commander David Welsh, 7th Armoured Div., British Army

• Corporal Bill Taylor, 2nd Ranger Bn., United States Army

Through their eyes, players fight in historic campaigns, including the Battle of El Alamein in North Africa's scorching deserts, winter street fighting in the ruins of Stalingrad, and the cliff assault at Pointe du Hoc on D-Day.

By default, the player can follow a sequence of missions from beginning to end, in chronological order. The player may also choose to change nationalities within any given year in the war -- however, in order to progress to the next year, all of the missions in the previous year must be completed.

How will the improvements to A.I. in Call of Duty 2 change how gamers played the original?

Call of Duty 2's squad-based gameplay takes everything that was great in the first game and goes far beyond it. Because some of Call of Duty 2's level objectives are more open, we designed your AI squadmates to realistically support you no matter what path you chose and to call out your enemies with the Battle Chatter system. You will face a huge amount of enemy soldiers in very intense situations you haven't played before. You are going to need your squad to cover you without you having to tell them what to do.

At the same time, the enemy AI in Call of Duty 2 will call out your squad's position and make countermoves depending on which path you take and which objectives you go after first in any given level. Just like your squadmates, the enemies will lay down suppressing fire for each other to maneuver themselves into a position to destroy you. They are aggressive, yet they will take cover when needed. They seek out machine gun positions and will shower you with grenades. At close range, they will switch to hand-to-hand combat, trying to club you to death with the butt of their weapons.

Can you talk to us a little bit about the multiplayer and what to expect?

The favorite multiplayer modes from Call of Duty are coming back plus Capture the Flag, along with 4-player split screen for Xbox 360

Will there be any significant differences between the Xbox 360 and PC versions of the game?

Our goal is to give gamers the same, great consistent Call of Duty experience. This means that we have taken into account the differences in control schemes and tweaked the Xbox 360 and Windows PC versions to deliver an optimum playing experience tailored for each platform. Other than that, the only other significant difference is the ability to play 4-player split screen on the Xbox 360.

Can you go into detail about the new weapons featured in the game?

All of the weapons in Call of Duty 2 were created from scratch to take advantage of the graphical capabilities of the new engine - metal parts actually look like metal, stampings and wood grain show a more realistic sense of surface relief. The muzzle flash seen by the player has also been toned down from the original game, making it easier to see your enemy when firing while aiming down the sight. Some of the new weapons are the Soviet PPS-42 submachine gun, the American Grease Gun, and the German G-43 semi-automatic rifle. On sniper rifles, players will now have to use a 'hold breath' feature to steady their aim when zoomed in.

With so many games in the genre on both PC and console, how do you come up with ideas to separate Call of Duty 2 from the rest of the pack?

First, keep in mind that World War II was huge. No other war covered as much of the globe and had as much at stake. After the first Call of Duty, we knew there were other scenarios we wanted to put gamers in that they had never experienced, such as the D-Day assault at Pointe du Hoc or the British campaigns in North Africa. Second, we have a new engine that will bring a new level of realism and intensity to the first person action genre, going beyond what we've done before.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.