WW2 #18: Call of Duty

Picking up where Medal of Honor left off — and becoming a legend

june gloom
3 min readApr 2, 2024

This review was originally posted to Twitter on November 10, 2018.

Initial release: October 29, 2003
Platform: PC
Developer: Infinity Ward

October 29th, 2003 is a day that lives in infamy: it was the day of the birth of a juggernaut. Nobody could have guessed that this cute little World War 2 franchise — just another in a kingdom of dozens at the time — would blow up the way it did, especially considering its humble origins as an upstart competitor to Medal of Honor, a franchise that was already beginning to stumble. It’s not a surprise, though, given that Infinity Ward was formed by people who worked on 2015, Inc.’s Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. It’s this pedigree that perhaps explains how Infinity Ward seemed to understand what worked, and what didn’t, in the Medal of Honor franchise up to that point.

While Call of Duty has a very similar presentation to Medal of Honor (the use of historical footage and attempts at authenticism via audio, art direction and level design) it differentiates itself by shying away from the traditional “Goldeneye 64 ripoff” model that started with the original Medal of Honor. Rather than the OSS/behind-enemy-lines theme that Medal of Honor typically relied on, Call of Duty focused on frontline combat, recreating several famous battles (or, more accurately, movies and shows about those battles: Band of Brothers, The Longest Day, Enemy at the Gates.)
As you might have guessed from the Enemy at the Gates mention, Call of Duty also took the step of avoiding Medal of Honor’s Americentric “USA saves the day” jingoism to present a theme of international cooperation, with British and Soviet perspectives in addition to the Americans.

For the most part, all three campaigns play quite differently from one another. The US campaign is essentially a re-enactment of Band of Brothers; aside from a quick callback to The Longest Day with the Battle for Pegasus Bridge, the British campaign is full of Medal of Honor-like derring-do.
The Soviet campaign however is perhaps the standout in an already punchy, solid game. While obviously drawing from movies, its portrayal of the Battle of Stalingrad pulls no punches (save for the almost bloodless carnage, a curious holdover from Medal of Honor.)

What’s interesting to note is that this multinational theme wasn’t originally Infinity Ward’s idea. During early development, the game was titled simply “Medal of Honor Killer” and it was going to be a much more straight-forward American spy story — much like Medal of Honor. However, another company, Spark Unlimited, was also working on what would eventually turn out to be Call of Duty: Finest Hour for consoles, and their presentation of multiple perspectives from the three largest members of the Allies inspired Infinity Ward to rework or scrap some of their own ideas. (Fun fact: Spark Unlimited was also founded by people who had worked on the Medal of Honor series. Funny how incestuous this industry can be, eh?)

While Call of Duty is, at least on normal, a well-balanced game (especially if you don’t play it like Doom, or you’re going to be dying a lot) it does have a few artifacts of the era, such as the minimal blood and reliance on health packs and uneven difficulty. Despite this, as well as the fact that it has no real widescreen mode (2003 gaming in the house, y’all) or some of the features we’ve come to expect from later games, it’s still one of the greatest World War 2 games ever made, and a sterling repudiation to Medal of Honor.



june gloom

Media critic, retired streamer, furry. I love you. [she/her]