Call of Duty 3 (360) – Review

Call of Duty 3 - Cover Continuing the popular series of World War II-themed first person shooter, Call of Duty 3, developed by Treyarch and published by Activision, pretty much stays the course from it’s prequels, adding a few small items to gameplay and story that generally make the game a bit better. Unfortunately, the game ultimately lacks anything really new or exciting to add to the current gaming market; I wouldn’t call it stale, but pretty much lackluster despite being a good challenge.

Story: A-

Changing the pace a little but for the better, COD3 tells the story of 3 different soldiers during the liberation of France during WWII in August 1944, intermingling each story aspect to maintain chronological order. While the previous COD games did this same approach, the individual stories were spread out across the overall war and usually in vastly different arenas, so there never was this overlap possible. However, this gives a feeling to some extent that by clearing a mission for one character, you make the next mission for another character happen. Additionally, the story for each of the players has ancillary characters that get some additional plot for themselves throughout the mission, such as a private that gives an attitude towards his commending officer and definitely not happy to be enlisted.

Call of Duty 3 - ScreenshotGameplay: B

COD3 pretty much plays as the previous COD games. Armed with only 2 weapons (though you can swap with any on the field) and grenades, and numerous friendlies, you attempt to defeat the German invasion in France by proceeding from checkpoint to checkpoint as indicated on the map. If you take a lot of hits, your vision will redden, and you need to find your way to cover to recover your health, after which you can fight again. You can use cover effectively, alternating between standard, crouching, and lying positions, and other tactical aspects of the numerous environments that the game presents, from wide open fields with minimal fences, dense forests, or ravaged houses in the French countryside. Allies generally have minimal AI; they’ll help you fight, but usually to progress and advance you have to take out key targets or provide the cover for your troops to take them out – effectively, they’re cannot fodder. In addition to fighting on foot, you’ll take control of a jeep or it’s mounted gun, anti-aircraft guns, mortars, and tanks throughout the game.

There is only two small changes to gameplay that I’ve noticed. First, many of the special actions like planting charges or fighting off a German soldier in melee combat use reactive commands in order to complete the action; for example, triggering the change requires a button to activate, rotating the right thumbstick to insert the detonator, and then another button press to trigger it. This addition isn’t major, though it does give a sense of urgency to place the charge while bullets are still flying. The other addition that I saw was that it’s possible to now grab live grenades thrown at you back to the foes, though you’ve got a time limit to get it away before it goes off.

While levels tend to be linear with points that you have to wait until your troop can clear out the way forward (like kicking open a door), there are also some improvements to make it feel less linear. Several points in the game give you the option of ‘taking point’ and leading part of your troop in one of two or three directions, with the rest of the troop going in the other. In a few cases, your actions on one path help the other team on another path to proceed forward and clear the way further for your team, much like as was done in Gears of War. Also, a few levels are somewhat ‘open’ in that you’ll cross and double-back through them as you complete objectives, such as the last level that involves defending a town from German rushes on different sides of the town. As the game tends to require the linearity for the objective-based gameplay, both these aspects help to remove the staleness of a completely linear path.

While the gameplay is gradually increasing in difficulty, it does have a bit of a presumption that you’ve played a previous COD game – the first level puts you immediately in the heart of an intense battle with minimal cover though the numbers are on your side. You generally start with missions that you have the upper hand in, whether through numbers, position, or the like, but as you get to the latter missions, you start to have to play a lot more defensively against near-endless numbers of foes. The opponent AI is about as limited as your own friendly AI – they will nearly always take up clear cover positions and never try to flank you unless it is part of a scripted event. Basically, through the 14 game missions, it’s the amount of firepower and limited cover you have to deal with as opposed to smarter opponents, as well as becoming more accurate in your aiming.

Value/Replayability: B

I’d say the single player mission took me about 10 to 15 hr to complete, with latter levels taking a bit longer to work through. The length felt about right particularly given the linear nature of the game, but it did remain sufficiently challenging throughout. Unfortunately, while there’s multiple difficulty levels for the single player game, there are no real additional features beyond multiplayer. I felt challenged, but again, there’s not much in COD3 that is really new or groundbreaking, and if you’ve played the previous COD or even Medal of Honor games, you may be getting your fill of WWII FPS.

Multiplayer for the 360 version of COD3 can work with 4 players on a split screen or system link, or with up to 24 players through XBox Live. Most of the usual match types are present (deathmatch (team or solo) and capture the flag with one or two flags). “War” mode is similar to the Battlefield games or Unreal Tournament’s Onslaught mode – you have to progressively hold 5 points on each map while the other side is pushing back against you for the same goal. “Headquarters” provides similar capture challenges, requiring a team to take control of a random point on the map and hold it for as long as possible to score points. To help promote teamwork, there’s several classes that you can pick from each with their own strength and weaknesses but combined can be a powerful unit. There’s still a few buggy issues with the online game (as of late Dec 2006) but otherwise is a good addition to the main game.

Graphics: A-

The game’s graphics do a good job of taking advantage of the 360 hardware. There’s a lot of detail on the various textures, and numerous graphic filters are used for when you take damage or a shell goes off next to you, or when you focus down a rifle scope, or just combing through dusty home wreckage for position. I noticed a few slowdowns in rendering on the last few levels but certainly nothing to wreck gameplay. One aspect that comes from having the story all take place in the same arena is that there is a consistent, if not repetitive, aspect of the graphics – for some reason, I found this slightly more immersive than the multiple theaters approach in the previous COD games, as you get used to the look and feel for the various levels.

Sound: B+

Sound is pretty good – I recommend playing this though at a low volume due to the loudness of explosions and the realism of the war sounds. While the voice overs that tell you of the next objective or warnings about incoming Germans are loud and shouted by the voice actors, they can still be muffled by everything else going around; fortunately, subtitles are available if needed. Music is only used sparingly at the start and ends of each missions for success, but is typical of the victory pieces in WWII movies.

Overall: B

Like many of the FPS games today, there’s nothing really wrong with Call of Duty 3. They’ve tried to add some additional elements to shake up gameplay and get away from the usual linear nature of these types of games, and there’s no obvious technical faults beyond issues with multiplayer play. But as an addition to the “WWII FPS” genre, there’s really nothing special about COD3 – it’s just another Call of Duty game, albeit one using next-gen technology. It’s a good challenging FPS, but otherwise nothing special or outstanding.

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