Dissapointing but still fun.
CALL OF DUTY 3
1. STORY / GAME MODES
Call of Duty is back and it’s 1944, at the height of the allies ever increasing dominance over Germany in World War II. This time around you will be taking on the roles of 4 characters each from their own country (, , & ) all of whom will be killing and fighting for their lives on the battlefield throughout your play. As a whole the story mode in Call of Duty 3 is somewhat disappointing. After the grand, epic and cinematic scope of last year’s game made by Infinity Ward, Treyarch’s vision seems a little handicapped by its very limited timeframe and such events occurring. It also doesn’t help that the story’s lifeline is nothing more than 8 hours long.
However, not all is stormy and dull in CoD3. Take for instance, that even though the source material isn’t the best to work with, the developers have actually managed to create a great feeling of intensity and engagement with the war itself for the majority of the game’s 14 missions. This is helped in some part due to the game’s larger focus on making the story more personal, no wait, scratch that: more character based (at least in cut-scenes) than its predecessor. You see, as always you don’t do much s the 4 soldiers but fall over, blank out and look around whilst those around you will joke, argue, fight and die dramatically and to be honest, it works for the most part. At certain times throughout gameplay on the other hand, such cut-scenes will just get in your way and interrupt any good experience that you may be having, in-game. So the bad-side to all this is that you as a character are terribly detatched and have no real involvement with what is going on around you, apart from a few Germans being shot.
Game modes this time around are just as sweet as last years effort with a little more icing but some missing sponge. As I have just went over, the story mode from this year’s game is a little lacking in comparison to its predecessor, but to its advantage, Treyarch have brought along a couple of extra multiplayer treats for all to share. On the agenda are the usual Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Headquarters and Capture the Flag modes but thrown in as a bonus is the new ‘War’ and Single Capture the Flag modes. Now to be quite truthful, these additions aren’t really that new on the grand scope of FPS games, but to CoD, they are a great new and unanticipated arrival. War mode is essentially a territory game, where your team battles against another to capture certain predefined areas of the map in a certain order. What’s really great about this mode is the level of team co-operation is involved to get things right. Out of all the modes on display here in CoD3, this will certainly be the one of the best for your clan or friends to get together and battle it out professionally. As for Single Capture the Flag mode, instead of there being 2 flags (one for each team), there is only one, and that flag has to be taken from the flag area and returned to your opponent’s base. It’s a great idea and works pretty well too, adding a little bit more of originality to the franchise in instalment 3. One thing that avid players of last years game will probably miss is the equally fun Search and Destroy mode which sadly has been taken from the options available this time around. Not to worry though because as you can see, there’s still plenty for you to get stuck into, especially with 9 extremely varied maps at your disposal.
In terms of single player adventures however, the game does have its brilliant moments where story and immersive gameplay come together to create some of most intense and realistic missions found in a CoD game. Unfortunately things do a bit dull from time to time, and there will be the odd mission that you probably won’t play out of fun once you’re done with single player. Furthermore, I found the tank orientated missions to be a whole lot more approachable and enjoyable in this year’s game, with controls loosened up and missions offering a little more diversity through the great landscape (a welcome change from deserts).
Story (3) & Game Modes (5) Rating: 8/10
2. CONTROL & GAMEPLAY
One of the main gripes I have had with Call of Duty 3 is it’s consistent neglect for the user’s enjoyment through basic control functions. In other words: the controls are more or less very annoying. Now let’s not confuse button layout with in-game control because the button layout is essentially CoD2 all over again, which is perfect. What really lets the game down is the gameplay controls, of which do have their great positive sides but for the most part, will not help you at all, or in one case, help you too much.
First of all, this game has its fair share of bugs such as getting stuck in surroundings, team-mates getting stuck and scripted events not happening for any reason whatsoever. Now if that doesn’t sound aggravating enough then there’s also the fact that you can’t climb onto anything in the game unless you jump onto it. So if you have a tank to your left and you have to get a house infront of you but there’s a 3 foot wall in the way with a gap to the left, then you have to kamikaze style it, just to get past the wall a smurf could climb over. Now obviously someone at Treyarch’s design department wanted this feature in to cut down more bugs occurring and forcing scripts in the game, but ultimately, it’s not the best of decisions made by the team as it is an almost essential and trivial part of CoD’s gameplay.
Before I go onto more of the positive sides of the game’s control I will briefly mention the very limiting lack of control you have over your own games in multiplayer games: There’s hardly any form of lobby; kicking players is virtually non-existent; deciding on weapons or vehicles would have been nice but is not here either; viewing who is on each team before selecting yours would also have been handy but again, there’s no sign of it; and let’s not forget that there’s no spectator mode to familiarise yourself with the massive maps. What’s also rather suspect is the addition of sticky aim in multiplayer. Sure, maps are generally twice to 4 times as large as any CoD2 maps and enemies can be quite far away but surely there’s no need to include this insult to players who can actually aim a gun themselves (isn’t that what makes you good at a FPS game?). Now I’m not a hater of the sticky aim, in-fact I love it in single player (especially veteran mode) and it works great there, but I’m sure you can see that offering a player the option to track an enemy without even looking at the screen in competitive play is rather pointless.
Okay, onto the good points to CoD’s control system (other than the structure). So far I’ve managed to count 3 impressive additions to the game which are: the sprint feature (tucking away your weapons to run faster for a certain amount of time), even though it is nowhere to be seen in single-player; the ability to throw back enemy grenades; the ability to ‘cook’ grenades, that is, to hold the grenade for longer before throwing in time to create an explosion in a foe’s face. They are all great little additions to an already decent game in terms of control, but sadly there’s too much rubbish been added, too much core elements been taken away which overshadow the positives by a long shot.
Thankfully, Call of Duty 3 doesn’t do much to hurt the core gameplay of the series and does quite a few things to improve it. First to mention is the array of weaponry available. As far as I can tell there isn’t as much guns available in this version of the game but I could be wrong. Most of the weaponry is the same as CoD2’s selection but there are the select substitutions here and there. For the majority of the single player mode you will probably be using Axis weapons, found on the battlefield, but when you start out it will either be an American or British rifle/automatic combination. I found the lack of Polish and Canadian specific guns slightly disappointing but to be honest, the weapons of the US/British are more than enough to satisfy any WWII weapons enthusiast. Add to this the much wider selection of heavy artillery such as mortars, and you can probably see that the selection at hand is pretty fun to play around with and does offer something new to the series’ veterans.
Gunplay itself is seamless and very similar to CoD2, with only very slight differences which I wont pick at, because most casual CoD players won’t care that much. As you can probably guess, picking up a rifle, aiming down the sight and pressing the trigger is just as fun as ever. As well as all those forms of taking down the Nazi-War-Machine, you have the revisited ‘spotting’ gameplay mechanic which works by you looking through your binoculars and selecting where to land an air strike or where your tank should fire. The difference in this game however is that it is undeniably easy to do and will almost never get you killed, which is quite a contrast to some of the same situations in the previous game. As a whole, it’s still a relatively fun concept but seeing that even on veteran difficulty, it’s still easy as pie, there’s something wrong there.
One of the newest and most original features to be brought to the series by Treyarch this time around is the additional (often mundane) tasks that you must do by pressing buttons or revolving the thumb stick, which in turn plant explosives, operate cranes and operate valves. One specific element of this added mechanic is the probably now famous ‘close quarters combat’ moments where a German attacks you by surprise and you must tap buttons to escape him and kill him in a kind of interactive movie like way (see Fahrenheit). I say famous because Treyarch never stopped mentioning it in interviews as if it was better than shooting people in the game. Sadly it really isn’t that great and once you’ve went through them all once, having to do it again will in turn prove that it’s nothing of any real substance, just like all the other button matching tasks.
Further elements of the single player gameplay worth mentioning are the destructible environments, driving missions, and the game’s scripting moments as a whole. First of all, the destruction of environments includes a whole new dimension of realism to the series which CoD2 so dearly lacked. It also opens up a whole new set of tactics that you can employ to get through the game, whilst also adding a greater deal of difficulty to the game, forcing you into considering specifically where you need to run to next to survive the gunfire. Driving missions as fun as they may be at first, suffer from the same disease as the event driven button mashing tasks in which they don’t take long to get old and distracting. The scripting itself works really well when required and really does act as an enforcement of your senses to see, hear and experience war to a great extent of believability. However, when not required, the scripted acts as a complete handicap to the game through its willingness to stop what it’s doing at times when you stop and look around. It all comes down to how successful the game manages to pull you in, because if it doesn’t and you don’t go along with the flow, you’ll notice just how superficial this war really is, in reality.
Now onto multiplayer gameplay, and this is where I possibly get a little controversial. The first thing I want to mention is the removal of the ever-original and brilliant Kill-Cam from CoD2. I don’t see what Treyarch could have had against this great feature, maybe it lowered frame rates or destroyed memory altogether when mixed with 24 player matches but to be honest, 4 on 4 matches with Kill-Cam were almost perfect. Now when you get killed on the battlefield your screen will fuzz and you’ll be able to call for a medic or respawn after a certain amount of time, how original I say, oh no wait, didn’t I see that in almost every other military FPS game that’s been out in the past few years?
Herein lies my main complaint about the ‘evolution’ of Call of Duty. Instead of actually improving anything or doing anything remotely original, Treyarch went and made Battlefield 1944: America Vs. The Nazi’s. Not only do they limit you to 2 teams but they try and make up for it by allowing you drive over-powered vehicles (you can drive and use a tank to destroy enemies at the same time) which do absolutely nothing to enhance gameplay experience other than to allow you to get from one end of the map to the other. This of course brings me onto yet another complaint: map sizes. Some of the maps in CoD3 are ridiculous and require a minimum of around 16 players to be any good, which doesn’t happen that often. Sure, they can be a lot of mindless fun for a while but ultimately things are going to cool off and the personal ties that you could have with either team mates of enemies throughout one game of 4 on 4 in in CoD2 would take several matches to produce through a game of 10v10 Battlefield 1944.
Now before you hunt me down, be sure that I do appreciate and enjoy the multiplayer games to certain extend but firmly believe Treyarch went backwards rather than forwards with the CoD series this time around. Among the positive sides of the gameplay is the brilliant class system which allows you to choose from various assortments of soldiers from medics to scouts and riflemen to support troops. Each has their own special ability and their own assortment of weaponry, which I have to say, is pretty much balanced almost perfectly. There is also the ranking system through ranked games (there is some for on player games, but is reset after each match and doesn’t carry much significance with it) which let you progress through all the class systems and gain higher privileges in those classes as a result. On face value alone, there’s not much wrong with it and so far to my experience, works very well as a multiplayer mechanic. What is really great about the class system though is how it forces your team to work more closely together as a unit to win the match, far more effectively than was ever produced in last years game.
As a whole,
Control & Gameplay Rating: 7/10
3. GRAPHICS AND DESIGN
Call of Duty 3 looks better than its predecessor but only on pure face-value judgement. Many reviewers have been claiming the game to be one of the sharpest looking games ever to be released on the 360 which is more or less true yes, but what they don’t mention is all the crazy stuff that happens when the game moves. Sure you can look at screenshots and stop and stare at the gorgeous scenery all day, but fundamental aspects of the game are a little off, and sometimes make you curse all the processing power taken up by leaves in the wind and cockroaches on your boots. The bottom line is I had some really horrible frame rate troubles with Call of Duty 3, which ended up making me look at the entire game differently. You see when I first started the game I gave the usual, “wow, look at that church collapsing… and the grass is moving!”, but as time went on, things got choppy and slow, and my interest in such petty graphical details waned. Now only this but I realised soldiers were dying like boneless chickens thanks to the addition of *drum roll*, rag-doll physics! Why do game designers insist on this mediocre form of character physics? Yes they are entertaining for a short while but after seeing it for the third time you begin to only see it for how stupid it looks, especially in Call of Duty.
Now don’t get me wrong, Call of Duty 3 is an excellent looking game, there’s no doubt about it. Textures are highly detailed throughout, character models look defined and realistic, facial expressions are really progressing with the technology at hand and particle effects are as strong as ever. Furthermore, the added feature of focal blur is a great addition and shows real progression in terms of graphical representation of character perspective in FPS games. Let us not forget the destructible environments placed throughout both single and multiplayer modes and how fun they are to… destruct.
It’s this amount of realism and graphical refinement however that tends to point out any loose ends so to say and make you realise this is simply a simulation you’re playing, and so the illusion quickly disappears along with the atmosphere of war. Among these spoilers are of course the frame rate problems, bad textured and unfinished look of most guns (as my brother said, the Lee Enfield looks like a carrot), overly confusing lighting effects coming from various sources in levels that don’t make any sense and last but certainly not least, the many times where a Nazi will simply appear in front of you out of thin air and shoot you. Nice.
Graphics & Design Rating: 8/10
Music this time round in Call of Duty 3 is again, disappointing. Where CoD2 was inspiring, cinematic, epic and representative in scale of your surroundings, CoD3 is mediocre, inappropriate, and most of all contrived. There are the moments when music does kick in that is very reminiscent of the previous game and it works quite well but for the majority of the game, things just don’t feel all that great and sometimes you’ll feel like you’re playing Splinter Cell if you close your eyes.
Sound effects are a little better, but still hit and miss. Guns can sound amazing (mostly the automatics) whilst others can sound like cap guns (rifles in particular). Among this, other background sound effects are a little unbalanced in terms of volume as I often found it very hard hearing reload sounds or if I had picked up ammo (I’m still not sure if it actually plays any sound). Furthermore, the sound effects themselves I found clipping a few times through the single player campaign, sometimes stopping for a few seconds while another effects played, or cutting off altogether because I entered a new area.
As a counter balance to all this negativity, there are of course good points to the game’s sound department which include the great voice-over talent, and background sound effects (the gunfire and bombing sounds exclusive to actual gameplay). When you put together the sound of Call of Duty 3, the whole does equal more than its parts as it does for the most part feel like you are in the middle of one big bag of chaos and brutality.
Sound Rating: 8/10
Call of Duty 3 won’t last very long if you don’t have Xbox Live, bottom line. The single player campaign should take around 8 hours on normal difficulty with a further replay value of around 25 hours if you fancy going through one of the harder difficulties. However if you do have a connection to Xbox Live you can be almost guaranteed a good amount of hours with CoD3. Even though the online mode for this year’s game is said to be ‘improved’ I still feel that it won’t last as long as last years game did. The average player will probably get about 45 hours online without loosing interest too easily, so on the basis of around 80 hours gameplay time altogether, you have yourself pretty good value.
Lifeline Rating: 8/10
6. DIFFICULTY BALANCE
Although more or less progressive in level-to-level difficulty, there is the odd bump on the way there that shakes things up in terms of difficulty in campaign mode. Things will eventually get quite challenging towards the end of the game however, and the game does well to build up your skill level so as to make it pretty fair and balanced. Also well done this time around is the checkpoint and save system which will more often than not save and check points throughout levels that don’t make things too straining nor too simple. The only real problems arise when things get too easy (usually involving the gameplay gimmicks such as planting explosives, driving a car or spotting enemies), ultimately unchallenging and misplaced. Multiplayer on the other hand is more or less well balanced in terms of classes and abilities, but such things as tanks and artillery strikes do offer favour significantly in some areas that aren’t really that necessary for balanced play.
Difficulty Balance Score: 8/10
Let’s face it, this is hardly an original title. I mean it’s probably the 6 or 7 game in the CoD series, and any new features themselves have more or less been borrowed directly from other popular games of the past 6 months. There are some original qualities to CoD3 such as the impressive visuals and changes to core CoD gameplay but let’s not forget that there’s not even a Kill-Cam anymore.
Originality Score: 3/10
There’s a whole lot of fun to be had from Call of Duty 3 but it is with restraints and limits. If you liked Battlefield:MC You’ll probably rejoice in this revamp of CoD2 but just as that game suffered, it seems this title is bound to as well once newer, better looking titles come out with even faster and bigger gameplay mechanics. The single player campaign will entertain for hours on end on the first play through but can get very tiresome after a while and enjoyment will inevitably lower. Fortunetely for a lot of people out there, this is just the multiplayer experience they have been looking on the 360 and if that’s not enjoyment value, I don’t know what is.
Enjoyment Score: 8/10
Story & Game Modes: 8
Gameplay & Control: 7
FINAL SCORE: 7.3/10 (GOOD)
Don’t believe the hype, Call of Duty 3 isn’t just CoD2 repackaged, it is quite different and certainly boasts a whole new multiplayer experience for all those who didn’t love CoD2’s offering all that much. Treyarch do a good job of keeping the CoD spirit alive but don’t do much else to improve on last year’s game of the year. CoD3 is a very enjoyable and entertaining game that will last you quite a long time in its own respect, but certainly isn’t the best to come out from the series.