Call of Duty: Classic Review

By Jake Gaskill - Posted Dec 09, 2009

Call of Duty Classic revamps the 2003 PC classic with a new coat of HD gloss for console gamers, but buyer beware: what you played six years ago is quite literally what you get, minus keyboard and mouse.

The Pros
  • Cinematic and heart-pounding action still effective
  • Shifting perspectives equals varied objectives and missions
  • Updated graphics are clean and look great
The Cons
  • Plays like a six-year-old PC game
  • Weapons system hasn't aged well
  • Neither has the checkpoint system
  • Multiplayer is rather sad and barren

Call of Duty firmly established Infinity Ward as one of the industry’s heavy hitters when the game hit store shelves back in 2003. The intense, cinematic action and alternating narrative gave the game a style and sense of immersion entirely its own, and resulted in an experience that upped the ante for all subsequent first-person shooters. And while there are certainly moments that still impress throughout the mega-franchise-launching title, the HD remastered Call of Duty: Classic simply plays like a prettier version of a game made six years ago for the PC. Rather obvious, I know, but it’s true.

Call of Duty: Classic

Answer the Call…Again…In HD

As soon as the tutorial starts, and you realize you have to cycle through your weapons and select grenades before you can throw one, as opposed to simply hitting a shoulder button to toss, the game instantly shows its age. Cycling weapons isn’t a game breaker, but it certainly makes the game slower and clunkier than most of today’s gamers are probably used to. Why IW didn’t just replace the weapon managing system to reflect its modern day COD installments is beyond me. Perhaps it was for nostalgia’s sake, but it’s almost at the expense of fun as well, which is unfortunate.

Another of the game’s shortcomings is the checkpoint system, which hasn’t aged so well. I mean, there is nothing I enjoy more than having to replay 15-20 minute sections of battles three or four times because the checkpoints are spread so far apart, but even I have my limits. Also, it definitely takes some time getting used to once again having to find health packs in order to survive, as opposed to simply being able to regain health over time. Fortunately, there is more than enough health to keep you properly patched up.

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[No Clever Line. Reviewer Busy Running From Mortars.]

When it comes to action, COD still has some rather remarkable battle sequences, even if the character animations and sound design aren’t nearly as effective as they originally were. That being said, the water-landing opening of the Stalingrad battle remains one of gaming’s truly spectacular sequences. It’s during moments like this one where you realize why COD had such an impact when it came out, and why the franchise has gone on to be the juggernaut it is today.

Breaking up the insane action are a handful of stealthy missions, or at least quieter sections of missions, where you’ll be sniping or going undercover to infiltrate a Nazi-occupied battleship. I actually forgot about most of these sequences, especially the very first mission, which has you parachuting in behind enemy lines and quietly clearing out a Nazi guard post to set up a beacon to guide other paratroopers to your location. It’s a surprisingly effective and intense sequence, and yet it’s one of the quietest and quickest in the game.

Call of Duty: Classic

War is…Lonely?

On the multiplayer side, there is a fair bit of fun to be had, so long as you can find people online -- good luck with that, as millions fight their way to Prestige in COD: Modern Warfare 2. The game only supports up to eight players per match (another nostalgic aspect that could have received an update), and so far, I’ve only played a handful of games in which eight people were playing. And that’s in deathmatch and team deathmatch. I have yet to come across a full session in any of the other modes. The Killcam has become a staple of the genre thanks to COD, and it once again demonstrates its brilliance here.

Call of Duty: Classic

Tough Call

If you’ve never played the original Call of Duty, and you feel like taking a stroll down memory lane (or you can’t find your copy of MW2), then you might want to throw down $15 for COD: Classic. It looks and feels dated, but it’s also a thrilling ride that every gamer should take at least once. If you want to see the roots of one of gaming’s most popular franchise in recent memory, then take the plunge.