Dec
24
Posted on 24-12-2007
Filed Under (Game Stories) by NightCrawler on 24-12-2007

The Call of Duty franchise to me personally is a Love/Hate relationship, so that is where I will start this episode out.  Normally when the game finally got released, and I was lucky enough to find it on my local department store’s shelf the first time that I looked, I really ‘loved‘ it.  However, after several hours of immersive gameplay, locked into my PC game room, mostly in single-player game mode, I would completely game myself to the point of oblivion till the late hours of the evening.  After that experience I would move on to the multi-player mode and enjoy it for a little more time.  And I have to say with ‘little’ being the operative word here in that sentence, that I was normally bored out of my head in like 4-6 days of the game.  This basically means I would play it for a couple of nights, thoroughly enjoy the gameplay, and then normally move on to another game, which again was probably an older game that I liked to play.  That is the ‘hate‘ part of the equation.  Until the release of the latest edition of this franchise named appropriately Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.  But before I get to that game, let’s look at the previous versions of the game.

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The original, or the first Call of Duty (CoD), was released in the US on 10/29/2003, by a well respected publisher named Activision.  It must also be noted that CoD was the first game developed by a newly formed company named Infinity Ward, which consisted of game developers who worked on the Medal of Honor (MoH) series, which was published by Electronic Arts.  CoD is similar in theme and gameplay to MoH: Allied Assault, and like the latter includes various single player campaigns and missions.  However, unlike MoH, the war is seen not just from the viewpoint of an American soldier but also from the perspective of British and Soviet soldiers as well.  Those viewpoints were a very unique experience back in 2003 and drew rave reviews, along with the inception of the ‘killcam‘, through which a defeated player could view the last 5 seconds of their life through the eyes of their opponent.  This was also received very favorably by gamers, who saw this as a method to identify hackers.  But being a convert from playing MoH in the multi-player mode for a couple of years at the time, I guess I judged the CoD game from that experience, and it was not favorable to my personal ‘taste’.  I cannot say what that was that I did not like, but the movement of the in-game players just did not feel right to me, but I thoroughly enjoyed the single-player game mode of the game anyway.

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Then there was Call of Duty: United Offensive (UO) which is the first expansion pack that was released in the US on 09/14/2004.  It is developed by Gray Matter Interactive, with contributions from Pi Studios, and published again by Activision.  The biggest changes made by UO were in the multiplayer aspect of the game. There are new maps which are much larger than the ones in the original game, new weapons from the single player campaign, an in-game ranking system which grants additional bonuses with more points, and vehicles such as tanks and jeeps, which were similar to what you would see in Battlefield 1942.  This was by far the best component of the original CoD and drew more game players into the game servers and strengthened the series.  But again, the in-game player movements were not completely right for my liking, so it was that routine of play the single-player campaign about 3 times, play the multi-player for a couple of times, and then the CD was placed back into its container and back on the shelf it went.

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On 10/25/2005, Call of Duty 2 (CoD2) was released by Activision and again it was developed by the same group that gave us the original CoD, Infinity Ward.  The game again is set during World War II and is experienced through the perspectives of three soldiers in the Red Army, British Army and United States Army.  CoD2 was generally received well by both gamers and reviewers as alike.  The graphics and sound were widely praised, and the reactions to the regenerating health system were mostly on the positive side, with reviewers such as Gamespot and Gamepro stating it as an improvement over the previous health bar system. The PC version of the multi-player mode was highly criticized as being a step backward from that of the original games expansion pack, United Offensive.  Now CoD2 I again enjoyed both the single-player campaign, along with the multi-player mode, and even though it did have a very good feel to it, I was personally sort of getting tired of playing war in World War II.  You see after playing the MoH series for a couple of years, and then the previous editions of the CoD franchise, that war was getting tiresome to play for me.  I was looking for something up-to-date, and somewhat more current, than a history lesson running over and over and over again. 

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Now we finally come to the ‘cream of the crop’, in my personal opinion, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (CoD4:MW).  Infinity Ward again developed this award winning first-person shooter, which was published by Activision, and delivered to the US market on 11/06/2007.  Even though it is taunted as the ‘fourth‘ version, it is actually only the third PC installment in the CoD game series (Call of Duty 3 was only developed for consoles) and the first not to be set during World War II, which made this title way more appealing to many gamers around the world.  This is by far the best game of the series so far to be released.  As the name implies, CoD:MW leaves well worn locale of WWII far behind in favor of a more recent setting. Beginning in a fictional Middle East, where Russian ultranationalists are set on kicking off WW3 and remaking the world, a gruesome assassination triggers a series of missions that ping-pongs between an American Marine and a British SAS solider. The story is a step above most warfare, not afraid to make crucial choices without ever getting to political within the state of modern affairs.  Just recently in December it won the coveted Game of the Year 2007 award from GameSpy, and has garnered many other awards from leading magazines, along with other online entities. 

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It was report recently in the media that the next installment of the series, appropriately named Call of Duty 5, will be made by another developer named Treyarch.   The game is also disappointedly being reset back to the World War II era.  What I have also heard is that the game’s set in the under-utilized Pacific theater, which is a scenario, only one other major WWII shooter, the awful Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault has tried before.   While (if true) the move back to well-worn out WWII is terribly disappointing, if this game can branch out and explore some of the less “popular” aspects of the conflict (China, Burma, New Guinea), it might not be so bad.   But will I personally purchase it?  I have to say probably not.   That’s the most current up-to-date information that I have concerning the upcoming new CoD5, other than there is supposed to be a new installment of the series each coming year.  That will be great, IF they finally come back to Modern Times and finally put that sore and ragged WWII era to bed! 

Next Up:  The Medal of Honor Story……

Dec
13
Posted on 13-12-2007
Filed Under (My Stories) by NightCrawler on 13-12-2007

OK, this is not my story, but a story I just read on the CNN News website.  And since I myself am a former United States Air Force Dog Handler, this story touched my heart in many ways.    I personally charish the times that I spent as a dog handler while stationed at several USAF installations, including 2 in Europe.  The bond between handler and dog are very strong, and in many instances, you are both best friends while performing your assigned duties.   But one of these days I will share those stories as well with the readers.  But first off, here is a very touching story, and the family that knew what their son would have wanted.

Bomb-sniffing dog allowed to live with slain Marine’s family

Lex’s handler Cpl. Dustin Jerome Lee was killed by mortar

Wounded dog had to be pulled away from Lee

Lex is first dog to be granted early retirement

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SAVANNAH, Georgia (AP) — Marine Cpl. Dustin Jerome Lee and his German shepherd, Lex, scoured Iraq for roadside bombs together, slept next to each other and even posed in Santa hats for a holiday photo.  Lex, the bomb-sniffing dog, is going to live with the family of Marine Cpl. Dustin Jerome Lee, who was killed in Iraq.  Lee, 20, spent the final months of his life with Lex at his side. He was killed March 21 on a daily mission when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby. The dog was also wounded but crawled over to his handler, nudged his face, then lay at his side as a corpsman treated his wounds, Marines in Lee’s unit told his family.  That strong bond compelled the slain Marine’s family to adopt 8-year-old Lex even though the military said he still had two years of service.

The family lobbied the military for months, launched an Internet petition and enlisted the aid of a North Carolina congressman who took their case straight to the Marine Corps’ top general.  On Wednesday, the Marine Corps finally announced Lex could go home to Lee’s family. It is the first time the military has granted a dog early retirement to be adopted by someone other than a former handler.

“We knew that’s what Dustin would have wanted out of this,” said Jerome Lee, the slain Marine’s father. “He knew that we would take care of Lex and love him, just like our own.”  Lee’s family from Quitman, Mississippi, is scheduled to pick up Lex from the Albany base December 21, exactly nine months after the fatal attack.  Though some shrapnel remains lodged in his back, Lex has otherwise recovered from his wounds and has been serving alongside military policemen at the Albany base since July.  “It is extraordinary,” said Col. Christian Haliday, commander of the Marine Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia, where the dog is based. “As far as we know, it’s the first time that a waiver of policy of this nature has been granted.”  Officials at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, which trains dogs for all service branches, confirmed it is the first case of its kind.

Lee joined the Marines after graduating from high school in 2004. His father said his drive to become a dog handler came from Lee’s mother, who worked with search-and-rescue dogs for their local emergency management agency when Lee was a boy.  After finishing his military police and dog handler training, the young Marine headed to Albany. Lee adopted his first canine partner, Doenja, from the military and sent him home to Mississippi last year when the 11-year-old dog began losing his sight and had to retire.  Lee formed an equally strong bond with his new partner, Lex.  The military has more than 1,700 dogs that work alongside American troops, including about 260 in the Marines. Their bomb-sniffing skills have been in high demand in Iraq and Afghanistan.  U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, said he discussed the Lees’ case with Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine Corps commandant.  “The way I look at this, dogs are being trained every day to be a part of the armed forces,” Jones said. “This family gave their son for their country. This is a small gift back to them.”

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