Back in 2003, the original Call of Duty was released on the PC, ushering in one of the most important and influential video games series of all time. Future Call of Duty titles--including Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 3, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: World at War, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 all shipped for the Xbox 360 as well as for other consoles and the PC. But now, thanks to the online-only release of Call of Duty Classic on Xbox Live, Xbox 360 gamers can check out the game that started it all. And if you're a Call of Duty as I am, this is an opportunity that can't be missed.

Wolfenstein for Xbox 360
Back to the trenches: CODC returns the series to World War II, where it belongs.

Unlike the Modern Warfare games, the original Call of Duty (CODC) is all about World War II, which is exactly the way I like it, and the events of the single player portion of the game mirror the events of that terrible conflict. If you're familiar with Call of Duty, the basics are all there, including point-by-point mission objectives, the directional compass, weapon switching, and so on. But much is missing, too, including capabilities we now take for granted. You can't even run, for example, which seems silly. There's no concept of secondary weapons, either. So everything, including grenades, are just weapons that must be cycled between.

Wolfenstein for Xbox 360
A scene from the Russian campaign.

The CODC single player campaign is divided into three wonderful parts, involving different soldiers in the US, British, and Russian armed forces. And as I started playing through the game, a sense of d?j? vu overcame me. But CODC isn't just about nostalgia. This is a good game, and nicely presented, even given the limitations of the technology of the day.


Graphically, CODC has been bumped up a bit to look better on the HDTV displays most Xbox 360 users have. Of course, it's not up to the HD standards of Modern Warfare 2, but then few current games are either. The effect is similar to that seen when you play any classic PC game at higher res; it reminds me of the original Half-Life bumped up to 1920 x 1200, though to be fair, the graphics in CODC are actually much better than those of Half-Life.

The single player storyline is a lot of fun, and I'll absolutely play through the whole thing at least once. And as an Xbox Live Arcade title, there are even some Achievements to be had, though as such a title, Microsoft only doles out 200 points total. It's absolutely worth it. Sure, the AI is terrible, and your teammates have that familiar, annoying habit of walking right in front of you while you're firing a weapon. None of that matters. It's just good stuff.

Wolfenstein for Xbox 360
Hot tank on tank action.

The multiplayer component suffers a bit more from time. Intervening COD titles have all established themselves as the premier multiplayer shooter experiences online, but most of the capabilities that define modern COD games aren't yet present in CODC. It provides different sets of weapons depending on which team--US, British, German, or Russian--you're on, and there's a pretty lame Game Lobby setup.

Wolfenstein for Xbox 360
Oh Carentan, how I missed you so.

In fact, it's just sad. The controls are vague, and the movement is unrealistic and is more like being at sea than walking. There's no visual indication of where enemy gunfire is coming from so unless you have great hearing--and a great sound system--you find yourself spinning in circles to figure out what's going on. (This makes CODC multiplayer especially unsuitable for the hearing impaired, like my son.) It's even hard to tell when you've made a kill.

Wolfenstein for Xbox 360
This level was later reused in Call of Duty 2 and, in heavily altered form, in Modern Warfare as well.

But don't let the dated multiplayer throw you. CODC is great nostalgic fun and the single player campaign makes up for a lot. It's still plenty fun and, at roughly $15, not a bad deal. (I'd like to see it closer to $10, but I'm just happy to see the original COD finally turn up on my console of choice.)

Recommended, but only for diehard Call of Duty fans like myself.