Treyarch
Activision
Shooter
1-4 (2-24)
11.07.06

Call of Duty 3 (Xbox 360)


In the overcrowded genre of FPS, most games can be separated into two groups; realistic and non-realistic. Non-realistic FPS, like Halo and Prey, try to take the player into another world to fight malevolent aliens and hang out with computerized super-babes. Realistic shooters, like the Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and Castle Wolfenstein (minus the undead) try to bring the gamers back to a time of epic war (usually WWII). In this genre of FPS, attention is paid to historic detail, “realistic” combat, and visual authenticity. With the imminent coming of Halo 3, the realistic FPS needs a champion to stay “in the game” as it were. Enter Call of Duty 3, the latest of the CoD franchise and a worthy contender for the title that Halo 3 has all but inevitably won.

Gameplay

As one may have guessed, Call of Duty 3 takes you back to World War II, specifically 1944 during the breakout in Normandy. Charged with the duty of liberating Paris from Nazi Germany control, you will take charge of several Allied soldiers, fighting on behalf of Great Britain, Canada, Poland, and of course, the US of A. Each country’s involvement in the effort brings with it a unique and separate plotline (although the characters themselves are a little cliché, even for this genre), and lends a little more authenticity to a game, as opposed to other “one American soldier against the entire German army” FPS’ out there. It also helps give the gamer an idea of how unified an effort ridding Europe of the Nazis was, and it gives the United States its proper role as a team player, not a David Beckham (hey, I’m paid to review games, not come up with metaphors).

The game starts off with a training mission (as does just about every FPS ever). After firing a few rounds and tossing a grenade, you’ll find that the controls are identical to Call of Duty 2 (and if you’ve never played Call of Duty 2, there isn’t much of a learning curve anyway). You have your standard fire, your “snipe” fire, your melee, and your grenade buttons. Learning to use the grenades is a big deal, as you will have many uses for them; the smoke grenades will fog up enemy sightlines and frag grenades just get shit out of your way. CoD 3 also lets you pick up enemy grenades and lob them back, but this is tricky and you’ll probably kill yourself once or twice trying to get the timing right. The only flaw of the controls is that the ‘binoculars’ function is too easily accidentally triggered; sometimes you’ll be running for shelter (a big deal in this game since there are no health pick-ups) and accidentally pick up the binoculars, making you pretty much vulnerable for the next two or three seconds. At least you’ll get a good look at your enemy before he blows your brains out.

Taking cover in the game is a primary function in the game and fighting off the enemy behind cover will be one of the most important things you can learn to do well in this game. In the very first level, the importance of taking cover is made undeniably clear. Amongst one of the most carnage-ridden battles in the genre to date, you will have to duck under bombed out buildings and even graves as bombs, bullets, and fallen comrades get in the way of you and the Nazi soldiers trying to kill you. Unlike most FPS games, where deceased NPCs quickly just “dissolve” or disappear upon their deaths, your deceased allies are strewn about your path to remind you to move your ass. There’s also a really sick (but humorous) level where you have to take cover behind the corpses of dead farm animals to avoid the Nazis spotting you. War is hell.

The missions your various soldiers will have to embark on are your standard FPS genre objectives; get from A to B, defend this area from attack, blow something up, or rescue someone more important to the war cause than yourself. Although the game gives you a star on your little radar/map to show you where your objective is, it leaves you a wide array of options on how to do it. You can call in air strikes, hop a ride on a vehicle, or just go Solid Snake about it and take the fight to every last one of them. Some of the missions put you in a vehicle, be it a jeep or a tank. The tanks, although a pain in the ass to steer at first, eventually become a barrel of monkeys, and you’ll have loads of fun running over things and blowing stuff away.

Whatever your course of action, you won’t be alone. Unlike most games that promises “AI that fights alongside you”, your CPU-controlled comrades will do their share (albeit not much) of the fighting, putting CoD 3 in a gray area between tactical FPS and the Doom-like “Run Like Hell, Leave No Survivors” kind. Unfortunately, the enemy AI is not only smarter this time around, but they’ve learned to play dirty. With the new “Close quarters combat” controls, the enemies will occasionally surprise you, forcing you to fight them off in hand-to-hand combat. New troops will respawn where their comrades have died (only in outdoor levels) and given that they will always outnumber you, it is impossible to kill them all. As long as you keep it on the default difficulty, you will have no problem laying the smack down on them, despite their advantage. But if you really want a challenge, bump up the difficulty, and they’ll give you a run for your money.

Like CoD 2 before it, CoD 3 offers for lots of online multiplayer. While in 2 you could only fit 8 players online, in 3 you can fit up to 24 (4 per Xbox), not only tripling the action, but it also helps cut down on the “Master Chief” phenomena, where one player has mastered the game to the point where his teammates become more of an inconvenience than assistance. One soldier may have been able to top four by himself, but surely not twelve. There are 9 maps to begin with (with more to follow), and six different match types, including team deathmatch, capture the flag and headquarters. Like Enemy Territory, online play allows you to choose your specialty, including medics and “field ops”. Before everyone rushes to be one or the other, keep in mind that some of the game types will require your team to have a variety of skills, including reviving dead soldiers and delivering ammunition. There’s a surprisingly minimal (if any at all) lag, especially when considering that on top of specialized classes, you’ll also be given a variety of vehicles (including the motorcycle, woot). This opposes the single player mode, which occasionally has you falling into imaginary holes in the level and forced to restart the level because events failed to trigger.

Graphics

Despite the occasional “dead soldier floating in mid-air” bug that you’ll encounter, Call of Duty 3 has some of the best graphics on the Xbox 360, featuring fluid movements and motions based on real physics. The soldiers themselves look amazing, and look like just they would have in ’44 (‘cept, you know, less “digital program” and more “gritty and fleshy”). The designers took special care to make the game look authentic and awesome, which given the state of video games shouldn’t be such an achievement, but hey, that’s just the way of the game. Even if you’re not necessarily a WWII buff, you will get a real kick out of the realism of the game. If you’re not an FPS fan…then why are you reading this?

Sound

Best experienced through surround sound. A beautiful orchestral score underlies all of the bloodshed on-screen, and listening to your enemies and allies talking amongst yourself is not only amusing, but helpful as it will help “clue you in” on something you may have missed or needed to know. I wish I could’ve listened to the music by itself. It’s like the kind you hear in epic movie scores.

Replay Value

To have a high replay value for an FPS is like saying that you have coffee that keeps people awake. In the age of the online multiplayer, there’s no reason a game shouldn’t have excellent replay value. And CoD 3 does. 24-player battles set in WWII it not only an exciting and satisfying option, but it’s something you can’t experience in any other game to date. Most of the game’s replay value lies in its multiplayer, as the single player really doesn’t offer much reason to play it again, unless you’re a die-hard achievement collector.

Bottom Line:

Halo 3 will be compared to this game. With some of the best visuals and sound effects to date, intense multiplayer action, and unique twist on a sometimes beaten-to-death genre, Call of Duty 3 blows away its predecessors and challenges the future wave of shooting games to step up. Ranks right up there with Perfect Dark Zero and Gears of War. A must-buy for any serious Xbox 360 owner.

Related Links:

Official Website for Call of Duty 3

-Jimi Robertson




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