Review: Call of Duty 3 (XB360)

Call of Duty 3 (Xbox 360)
Activision

The first Call of Duty game was something like a breath of fresh air. On an elevator. After someone farted. Somehow the developers at Infinity Ward showed a war weary gaming population that there was still some excellent gaming to be found in World War 2. Then with the release of Call of Duty 2 and Call of Duty 2: The Big Red One, the developers milked that cow just like EA had done to Medal of Honor before them. Both were serviceable games but they followed the same pattern of automatic scripted events and nothing much new in the gameplay department. In other words, good but could be better. So now we have Call of Duty 3, the second game to be released on the 360 under the CoD banner. How’d it do?


Story:

In a departure from previous editions, CoD3 has dropped the Russian portion of our guided tour of the Third Reich. In fact Call of Duty 3 doesn’t even enter Germany, instead focusing entirely on occupied France, and the battle that led to its eventual liberation. While in the Big Red One they stuck to an American infantry division for the entire game, in the games where they show the Allies different points of view there has always been an American, British and Russian/Soviet solider leading the way. This allowed the developers to give the gamer some variety in terms of weaponry and locality.

In Call of Duty 3 they have opted to focus on the Normandy Breakout, which is the battle that followed the Normandy landing. Don’t worry though, no storming the beaches for you. One minor problem though. No Russian troops were involved in the Normandy breakout. So instead, you get to see that countries other than the big 3 had something to do with liberating Europe. Canada, for one, finally gets its chance to shine on the big stage. Poland too gets to have its shot at glory.

Unlike in the past games, the characters you play all have a vested interest in the success of your other characters. The success of your mission as the Canadian soldier for example will allow the story to advance on the American side, as Germans defeated by the Canadians and British and Polish will all head towards the American position, leading to a very hectic battle. This isn’t a dynamic event system, if you fail your mission as a Canadian you still have to finish it properly before you can move on to the American portion, but to see your characters talking about what’s going on in the war is a nice change of pace from past games where you never hear anything other than oh yea, we won the war.

There are a couple of confusing moments in the game, where the developers are just trying to move the story along. At one point you see a cut scene begin that makes you think you’ll be playing as the Polish, only to have that scene end and another begin where you play as the British. This isn’t exactly a flaw in the story so much as it’s a flaw in the story telling.

But who cares. After heck knows how many World War 2 games, I can finally say I played a Canadian soldier in one. That, and the fact that Treyarch didn’t have every Canadian soldier talking like Bob and Doug McKenzie made this game a very pleasant one.


Graphics:

Call of Duty 2 on the 360 was the game that everybody pointed to when they wanted to show off just how amazing next gen games would look. With Call of Duty 3, we see what can happen when the 360 is given to a developer who has had time to play with it for a while.

Whether it’s pushing smoke effects, explosions, bullets splashing in the water around you, or the s of all the tanks and other vehicles you see in the game, they all look superb. And the focus on one setting for the entire game means that setting has a lot more people working on it to make it look fantastic also.


Sound:

First off let me say that the voice work is exceptional. In the Canadian Army, for example, I could detect 3 distinct dialects, Quebecer, Middle Canada and Western Canada. The American’s had your typical New Yorker and various others, while the British had Scottish and English, not to mention the French resistance troops. All of them were outstanding, with not one boring or irritating performance. The Germans, when you could hear them, seemed to be the same Germans I’ve been killing for 30 games now. In fact I could swear they were screaming about English infantry while I was playing the Americans. I could be wrong, I don’t speak German.

Many of the guns seem to have received a new sound effect, as they no longer sound alike. Tanks rolling on their tracks are clearly audible, and so to are mortar rounds being fired out of their tube. And again when they land obviously. Explosions are well done, making for an auditory delight if you have the stereo to keep up with it.
There is nothing to really grab your attention music wise, but then again that’s often the mark of good music, it doesn’t distract. Great music can enhance the enjoyment, bad music and detract; good music will just compliment the game.


Controls/Gameplay:

The controls for most of the game are somewhat standard FPS controls. Use one stick to aim, the other to move. Right trigger is for firing, while the left trigger is used to zoom in. On some guns that means iron sights, while on others it’s whatever scope is attached to the gun. I’m not going to talk too much about these controls, you’ve seen them before, they either work for you or they don’t. I’m assuming if you play FPS games on a console and enjoy them, they work for you.

What I am going to talk about though is the additions to the gameplay that Treyarch have attempted to include. At certain points in the game you’ll be faced with unexpected close quarters combat. It will only be unexpected once (as the events are scripted), but that first time is going to be a surprise. You then have to hit the left and right trigger buttons quickly enough to make your opponent lose his advantage and then eventually to kill him. This, along with setting your own explosives by pressing face buttons and rotating the right analog stick; and firing mortars by rotating both sticks to adjust the aim, are the new elements added to the game. Some of it works better than others. The mortar for example, feels right at home in the game. Planting explosives feels less at home but isn’t unwelcome in the house. I can accept the fact that they tried. The whole surprise encounter bit though is just annoying, and the faster it disappears the better. Kind of like that unloved relative who popped by unannounced for the holidays.


Replayability:

Since the game is a rollercoaster of scripted events, you won’t really have any reason to play the game over again once you finish it, unless you want to earn some achievements. Oh and by the way Treyarch, thanks SOOOO much for making the Canadian Campaign achievement worth the least amount of points. Appreciate it. Really.

Anyway, aside from the achievements and just all around playing the game again because it’s fun, there is no reason to play this game again. Not even multiplayer. I logged onto X-Box Live and found one single solitary player to play against. Nobodies interested in fighting World War 2 when Gears of War is out there it seems.


Balance:

The game doesn’t ramp up the difficulty in the sense that some games do, instead it ebbs and flows. I found some missions to be very easy, with only a few really tough levels. Strangely the really hard levels for me were the American ones. Oh, and that last Polish level. That was a real stone cold bitch. But anyway, on foot, tire or treads, the game is never so difficult that it make you throw the controller down in disgust.


Originality:

Canadian and Polish soldiers in WW2. Awesome. New gameplay elements using the analog sticks. Pretty good with some flaws. Storyline. Kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel here. I think the only battle left is the Battle of the Bulge as told by the Free French Foreign Legion.


Addictiveness:

Overall the game is certainly enjoyable, and it’s a pleasant enough experience to sit down and play through, but you aren’t going to wake up in the middle of the night and say damn, I need to go play me some Call of Duty 3. I played this shortly after finished Gears of War, and while I found CoD3 to be the more enjoyable game, I found myself more addicted to Gears of War because it was a more unique storyline and graphical experience.


Appeal:

WW2 nut? Canadian sick of seeing the Americans get all the gaming glory? American sick of hearing Canadians whine about Americans getting all the glory? German with a sick for killing your own ancestors? Gamer who has played every other Call of Duty and feels the need to keep up in the series? Person who enjoys playing FPS games that are basically well thought out even if you are really getting tired of M1 Garands, Stens and MP-44s? Then Call of Duty 3 is the game for you.

If none of the above applies to you, or if you are just really that sick of WW2 games, then you’ll find nothing new or interesting in CoD3.


Miscellaneous:

I think that about covers everything. In regards to multiplayer, this is the second or third game in a row where the gaming population online is pretty sparse when I’m attempting to play a WW2 game online. Perhaps this is just people knowing I’m coming, and stopping to let the man go through, but I’m thinking it’s more likely that people just aren’t interested in playing WW2 games online. Halo 2 and Gears of War are king. And will be for the foreseeable future. So why not take a break from including the online component unless you really think you can bring something new to the game. Like perhaps giving players the chance to use those wonderful tank missions you’ve given us in the past few games. I think a tank battle online could be a blast.


Story: 8/10
Graphics: 8.5/10
Sound: 8/10
Control/Gameplay: 7.5/10
Replayability: 5/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 6/10
Addictiveness: 6/10
Appeal: 6.5/10
Miscellaneous: 5/10

Short Attention Span Summary
If I were to say that this is a stellar game, the best on the system, I’d be lying through my teeth. If however I were to say that the game is an example of an excellent game in a genre that needs to rest for a while, I wouldn’t be lying at all. Much of the flaws in the game can be traced to boredom with WW2 games, and the developer’s attempts to keep interest of gamers at least one more time. Call of Duty was once a shining example of what can happen when a developer took the time to take what worked about a genre and shine it up really nice. But if you shine something too much you’ll wear it out, and that appears to have happened to Call of Duty..