Before the zeitgeist of perks, leveling and killstreaks consumed the multiplayer shooter market, Valve released an updated version of a successful team based World War 2 Half Life mod on their brand new engine and dubbed it Day of Defeat Source. Released in 2005, Day of Defeat was rooted in another industry fad—the world war 2 shooter. In the same year, Medal of Honor European Assault, Call of Duty 2, Brothers in Arms Road to Hill 30 and it's sequel Earned in Blood were all released. While the former games were largely single player story driven affairs, Day of Defeat Source was strictly a team based multiplayer game that distinguished itself by being extraordinarily balanced and offering phenomenal map design.
Players can enlist with either the U.S. Army or the German Wehrmacht and skirmish over capture points or attempt to arm bombs on strategic assets. Each side has six classes that utilize historic weaponry and almost every weapon sets itself apart from the opposite side's equivalent in some way. While the German's Mauser K98 is a single shot bolt action weapon that fires slower than the clip fed semi automatic Garand that the U.S. Army's rifleman class uses, it's also more powerful. Similarly, the Mauser M712 side arm carried by the German Panzerfaust units chews through enemies at close range but the M1 Carbine used by U.S. Rocket troops is far more versatile being semi automatic and highly effective at medium range. With these differences, players often built an allegiance to one army versus another based on their weapon preferences.
Each class also featured a set of quirks that required a bit of practice to master. Machine gunners couldn't effectively kill an enemy unless their gun was mounted, the recoil on these weapons is violent enough to have players staring at the sky box after pulling the trigger. This means that machine gunners are largely a defensive class along with snipers who are hopeless in mid range combat. The assault class utilizes early assault rifles which suffer from heavy recoil and are most effective when fired from a crouched position. Newcomers often favor the support class since their sub machine guns allow the kind of fast moving spray and pray tactics that modern shooter fans are accustomed to but the power and accuracy of rifle troops makes them easy prey at medium to long range where their automatic weapons are almost impotent. While it may be tempting to walk around with a rocket launcher, attempting to aim while moving is incredibly slow making players huge targets. These major differences in the play styles between classes make the experience rewarding and, in some cases, polarizing.
The six official maps offered with the game prove to be masterclasses of map design. In addition to the main lanes that take players to each objective, there are side routes that allow players to flank opponents and remove pesky snipers and machine gunners. Maps that are won by capturing all the territories feature a central capture point that requires at least two teammates to capture meaning it's impossible to go lone wolf and win a game. Uncoordinated teams will often find themselves entrenched in a bitter stalemate over these points—especially on Flash which is the most linear map of the bunch. Coordinating your teams efforts and making a big push toward an objective on multiple fronts often yields victory. It's a far cry from the lack of teamwork required by many modern shooter games. While six maps is a bit disappointing the community has stepped in to pad the play-list with hundreds of custom maps.
Valve has continued to support Day of Defeat Source over the years, updating the game to include achievements and trading cards. It's mechanics are almost unrivaled almost a decade after release, in spite of the fact that the popularity of first person shooters has never abated. The aging visuals do little to hamper the thrill of rushing capture points and there are few things more satisfying than putting a bullet in an opponent's head while on the move with a K98. It's a shame that more shooters don't require the skill and cooperation demanded by Day of Defeat Source.