- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Here’s a look at some software that pays tribute to the men who fought in World War II:

Call to Duty 2: The Big Red One Collector’s Edition, from Activision for PlayStation 2 and Xbox, rated T: for blood, mild language and violence, $59.99. Players virtually become part of the U.S. Army’s famed Fighting 1st Infantry Division — the “Big Red One” — during its most harrowing operations of World War II in this first-person epic that melds Hollywood firepower with historical accuracy.

The player assumes the role of a nameless foot soldier in the Big Red One as he begins 13 missions that have him fighting Nazis and their sympathizers across Europe and Africa during Operation Torch, Operation Husky and Operation Overlord.

The aura of moviemaking immediately appears as the player is quickly introduced to squad mates represented by actors who appeared in HBO’s critically acclaimed war series “Band of Brothers.”

Not only are actors including Michael Cudlitz, Rick Gomez, Frank John Hughes and James Madio now heard barking commands and helpful tips, which intelligent players will follow, but computer-generated cinematics use their motion-captured bodies to provide some incredible battle sequences.

After learning how to handle a semiautomatic rifle during a skirmish in Maubeuge, France, the story heats up for the player. On the North African campaign he can be found performing tasks such as using a Springfield M1903 bolt-action telescopic scope rifle to pick off German snipers, shooting down Junkers Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers, and getting inside a M3 Stuart Light Tank to blast panzers and Quad 20 mm Flakvierling anti-aircraft guns.

The game mixes in clips of the actual division in action during the war with footage of all of the major commanders and offers the use of three dozen authentic American, Italian, French and German armaments based on actual working models. It also provides an Extras area that can be unlocked and used as an encyclopedic interface to view bios on the characters, vehicles and firearms.

Although the latest Call to Duty might be treading on Ubi-Soft’s Brother in Arms series, the game takes a different direction. Instead of focusing on tactical strategy, the game requires the player to shoot first and ask questions later as he is led by teammates into a cinematically rich environment loaded with planes crashing, bullets pinging, tons of fiery explosions.

I actually preferred it to Ubi-Soft games because the tension associated with on-screen decision-making was gone and replaced by linear combat, This allowed me to concentrate on being part of a movie and blasting away at enemies.

Those tired of single-player missions can go online for robust multiplayer combat in which up to 16 players can choose Allied and Axis sides to fight in four modes.

The Collector’s Edition also includes featurettes on the making of the game, interviews with actual members of the Big Red One and walk-throughs with the developers of some of the multiplayer maps. Although the content is interesting, it does not justify spending the extra $10. I would recommend buying the regular version.

The Great Raid: Exclusive Unrated Director’s Cut Edition, from Buena Vista Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, unrated, $39.99. After experiencing virtual combat, gamers might want to watch a dramatization of actual war heroes who pulled off a daring rescue during World War II in a two-disc DVD set celebrating last year’s movie from director John Dahl.

For 131 minutes, viewers follow the harrowing mission of a select group of men from the 6th Ranger Battalion who successfully maneuvered through hostile territory in 1945 to rescue prisoners from the Japanese-run Cabanatuan POW camp in the Philippines.

Disc one offers the movie, a 20-minute “making of” feature, some deleted scenes and a fact-drenched optional commentary track from Mr. Dahl, technical adviser Capt. Dale Dye, producer Marty Katz, editor Scott Chestnut, and “Ghost Soldiers” author Hampton Sides.

The second disc offers a great history lesson with a 60-minute documentary and interactive timeline. The documentary, “The Ghosts of Bataan,” offers a sobering look at the Bataan Death March and events leading to the fall of the Philippines through interviews with survivors and primary source footage. The War in the Pacific Interactive Timeline has users clicking through the years 1927 to 1945, reading the entries and hearing audio clips from Mr. Sides.

The disc also includes a sound deconstruction of a three-minute scene that allows viewers to isolate the six audio elements used to bring the scene to life.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@ washingtontimes.com).

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