Shrapnel Sharp

With the added power of Source, DoD looks superb, but that wasn’t always the case. When early footage of DoD: Source surfaced earlier before its release it looked distinctly under-whelming: a half-hearted port from a company that isn’t known for doing things by halves.

Thank goodness then Valve saw the light and remodelled the levels from scratch. The amount of effort that has been put into each map is immense. Tiny, almost incidental, details fill every corner of a map turning them into miniature World War II battlegrounds. If you added grainy black and white filter it would be like watching a history channel documentary.

Light up, light up

Speaking of seeing the light, this is the first of Valve’s releases to use its new fangled High Dynamic Range lighting. To be honest it’s been rather hard to get excited about this new development, but beyond the boring techno-babble HDR is actually a very welcome addition.

In layman’s terms HDR is used to simulate the way that light affects the eye. So, for example, when you move from a dark passageway into the sunlight it takes a few moments for your virtual eyes to adjust to change. At first this seems a little odd, perhaps even jarring. However once you get used to it, you’ll never want to go back to plain-old dull lighting, which now looks artificial in comparison. HDR is another important step towards photo-realism.

Combined with the intricate map work and impressively modelled characters, comparing DoD: Source’s graphics to its older parent is like comparing Saving Private Ryan’s visual authenticity to All Quiet on the Western Front. Forget Battlefield’s cartoonish violence – this is online combat at its most visceral. Bodies crunch against walls from the force of an explosion, glass splinters and shatters and machinegun fire mangles soldiers and scenery.

War is hell (on your speakers)

The on screen carnage is complemented by a cacophony of fearsome audio effects. The weapons sound incredibly authentic, while some of the bigger bangs will threaten to send your subwoofer through the floor. What’s more the sound design makes for a more immersive battlefield- the faint sound of machinegun fire tat- tattering from around the corner gives way to screeching bullets as you frantic dash to cover.

Bullet in the head

Open ground is not somewhere you want to be for to long in DoD. When a single shot can take you out you’ll want to keep your head down as long as possible, using every nook and cranny of the map to keep out of sight and up the ante on your opponents. The detailed level design means there are plenty of places to find cover in or use as a vantage point. This can result in some players camping above and beyond the call of duty (forgive the pun) – which makes it all the more satisfying when a well-placed grenade takes out a machinegun nest or you sneak up behind a sniper to spadeface them with a shovel.

Sometimes a fortune favours the brave approach is required to succeed and win a round, either through a concerted push from the team, or some behind enemy lines solo sneakery. A lot of rounds will have the two teams to-ing and fro-ing, attacking and counter-attacking, across the map. Some will be vicious standoffs, with neither team able to make headway until someone pulls off a couple of good shots takes out a defensive position, opening the floodgates for a full assault.