Video Game Rentals Delivered

Call of Duty 3

David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce) David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2008-02-07 07:06:59

Call of Duty 3 - Rank B

Developer: Treyarch
Publisher: Activision
Date: 11/7/06

Also available for Xbox, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, and Wii

It's important to note that Call of Duty 3 was not developed by Infinity Ward. In order to milk the franchise, Activision handed this amazing series over to Treyarch for an entry while Infinity Ward was busy working on Call of Duty 4. Treyarch is a good developer, best known for the first few Tony Hawk titles and Spider-Man games, but they aren't in the same league as Infinity Ward. Call of Duty 3 is a good game, but it suffers from having to live up to the massively high standards of the franchise. It plays identically to its predecessor, and this review will largely hinge on that as a reference point.

First, the bad. Call of Duty 3 is a rehashed, watered-down version of Call of Duty 2. The awesome cinematic experience of playing as Allied soldiers in multiple theatres has been pared down to focusing solely on the Normandy breakout following D-Day. War is perhaps the most primal form of conflict and I hate to trivialize it by calling it boring, but this wasn't particularly the most interesting portion of World War II. Spending the entire game staring at the increasingly familiar French countryside was disappointing after the globe-trotting Call of Duty 2 provided.

Call of Duty 3 lacks that spit shine polish that I've come to expect from the franchise. The controls seemed slightly looser and less precise. There are occasional glitches that force you to reload your last checkpoint. It's possible to get permanently trapped by displaced debris from explosions. Erroneous behavior on the part of my A.I. companions prevented them from showing up to a scripted event, causing the trigger for it to never occur. Sometimes they disappear entirely, leaving you on extended solo runs that seem incongruous with the squad based action of full scale war. The A.I. generally seems to be a downgrade, as friendly soldiers frequently bumble in your way, and I had two occasions where the Germans just stood around for a few seconds while I shot at them. This isn't a major issue; usually the enemy takes appropriate cover and assaults you intelligently, but the fact that it does break down even rarely serves to reinforce that aforementioned lack of polish.

Treyarch also added a few useless wrinkles to the gameplay. A few times over the course of the game, a scripted event causes a German soldier to grab you for some hand to hand combat. This is resolved by mashing the triggers like a madman. Button mashing is bad enough, but yanking the triggers that many times in quick succession is a strain on the ligaments connected to your index fingers. Also, simple procedures like planting explosives (previously accomplished by holding X) are now inane Simon Says affairs where you have to press buttons and twirl the thumbsticks in the correct order. These aren't terrible in any way, but they're also not one bit of fun and don't have any place in a game. By definition, games are supposed to be fun.

This is the part of the formula for writing videogame reviews where I talk about the good. As awesome as Call of Duty 2 looked, from a technical standpoint, Call of Duty 3 is a visual improvement. I still bemoan the sameness of the scenery throughout the game, but at least it looks terrific. Everything looks so natural, that it took me awhile to realize that the trees were swaying. That's the sort of detail that's easy to disregard, but goes a long way toward building a convincing environment. Textures are highly detailed, even up close.

The environments are semi-destructible. As I mentioned before, this can be a bad thing when it gets you stuck, but barring that, it also increased the level of realism. I hate games where I'm unloading machinegun rounds into a wooden crate, just to have it soak up the bullets and provide cover equal to a NORAD blast door. Call of Duty 3 allows you to toss enemy grenades back. Enemies used to do that to you in the last game, and I always wondered why you couldn't do the same. It's a high risk/reward maneuver that's a lot of fun when you manage to get it out of your hand before it explodes.

There's a sequence where you frantically drive a jeep around, trying to reach pockets of friendly POWs. It's actually pretty fun, and your ride even has an emergency brake for power sliding around turns. This is a wide open area, with extensive freedom of movement, which is a refreshing departure from the tightly enforced gauntlets that comprise the bulk of Call of Duty gameplay. The overall action is still intense and frantic, and the audio work is still terrific.

The biggest improvement Treyarch implemented is in the multiplayer function of the game. Call of Duty 3's online play reminded me of Battlefield 1942 (a strong compliment). You have your choice of several distinct classes and tons of maps to play in. Sniping has a distinctly different flavor than assaulting with a Tommy gun. You can be a sneaky scout directing artillery, or if you're less aggressive, you can run around as a medic keeping teammates in fighting condition. Good implementation of vehicles results in compelling battles. Pray you have an anti-armor bazooka guy on your team if a tank starts rolling your way. Most importantly, the player count has been upped from a miniscule 8 to a battle chaotic 24.

For all my badmouthing of Treyarch, Call of Duty 3 is a good game. It's worth a look-see, particularly if you want to play online. The single player is marred by bugs, but it's easily the best World War II based multiplayer game on consoles. My review would've been less negative if Treyarch's game had been given a completely new name, but I understand Activision's financially driven motive to cash in on the brand recognition. Apparently, Treyarch is currently ramping up work on Call of Duty 5. I have complete faith that it'll be solid, but it just doesn't excite me nearly as much as the prospect of a "true" Call of Duty developed by Infinity Ward.

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