Thursday, December 07 2006 @ 12:41 AM CST
With a war raging on in the Middle East, the Call of Duty franchise has chosen to once again bring us back to World War II. While I am not entirely sure why the war in Iraq and Afghanistan relate, I merely remind you there has been plenty of battlefields since those in Europe. Call of Duty 3’s biggest fault is that despite the next generation facelift, killing Germans has finally lost the appeal.
The change in developer may seem like an easy target, but its impact can't be discounted. With series creator Infinity Ward moving straight on to development of the future Call of Duty game, publisher Activision turned to Treyarch, which had just wrapped up Call of Duty 2: Big Red One. This title told us just one story and was presented with Band of Brothers in mind. While this was a unique twist on the series and would have been welcome with Call of Duty 3, Treyarch decided instead to mix the two. What results is confusion. Jumping from theater to theater instead makes you wonder how you got there.
Call of Duty 3 presents us with the Battle of Normandy, culminating in the battle for Chambois. At any moment you play as the various Ally troops working together to push back the Germans. The problem is the game lacks any real story presentation. The abrupt shifting from one Allied unit to the next squashes any hope of connecting with your persona in any of them. While you sense that each of them are operating in the same theater, there's little continuity to the structure that takes you from one battle to the next.
Call of Duty 3’s major fault stems from the same sort of problems that trouble the story progression as a whole. The “Been there, done that” dilemma follows the game from start to end. Fighting through trenches, blowing up artillery, driving a frantic jeep chase, and so on. Through all of it you are waiting for something special, yet it never seems to arrive.
While the games presentation is lacking focus, the gameplay itself is far from perfect as well. The first is stupid AI squad mates. When you enter a building they'll often bundle in behind you, which is fine, but it's not so great when you try to retreat from a machine gunner, only to find the way to cover is blocked by said squad mates. Worse is that at various points my character and AI characters became stuck on scenery, forcing me to restart from the previous checkpoint.
Grenades can now be hurled back at enemies if you can pick up and return it in time, vehicle sections play a much bigger role, and you occasionally fight mano-a-mano with an enemy soldier. The addition to the grenade system is excellent, but the driving sections feel rather unpolished and the button-mashing fight sequences just feel out of place.
So now that all the gripes are out of the way we should mention that Call of Duty 3 features incredible audio. Some of the weapons aren't quite as booming as they are in Call of Duty 2, but the overall level of audio is just as good, with thunderous explosions, constant chatter from your squad mates and enemy soldiers, and some impressive voice work from a fairly large supporting cast.
If the review were to end right here Call of Duty 3 would be impossible to recommend. The single player game is lacking in so many areas you find yourself fighting through the levels just hoping to find those epic battles and unique experiences only Call of Duty could offer. Call of Duty 3 makes up for these blunders by giving Xbox 360 owners one of the best online offerings. Up to 24 players can play online (or over System Link) and you can even take four players online via a single system.
You get nine large maps to play on, with game modes covering all the favorites: Deathmatch (named Battle), Team Deathmatch (named Team Battle), Capture the Flag (plus a single flag variant), Headquarters (a defend a base mode), and War (battling for control over spawn points). It's pretty standard stuff, but added to this are drivable vehicles (jeeps, bikes and tanks), and a class-based character system.
It's brilliantly balanced, with each class having its own strengths and weaknesses, giving everyone a real purpose while on the battlefield. Achievement points have been split well between the single and multiplayer game, and they reward play with numerous character classes, so there should be a fair few players willing to sacrifice range and accuracy, for the ability to revive downed soldiers as a Medic.
Overall the game is a mixed bag. If you are looking for a new single player shooter Call of Duty 3 is not suggested as your first pick. Call of Duty 3 is the first game in the series to feel like more of the same. This cannot be blamed entirely on World War II, but I feel it is time for the game to evolve from Normandy. Call of Duty 3’s solid multiplayer is the only reason this game is worth the SKU. Fans of the Battleground series will quickly fall in love with the games multiplayer, though I still think we are all hoping the next Call of Duty game takes place outside Europe.