For all its new features, such the ability to throw grenades back, some proper driving sections and higher detail levels, there really is very little difference in this from last year’s epic Call of Duty 2.
Of course that is not a bad thing, especially considering the overall quality of CoD2. But what about the issues and niggles with the game, such as the dreadful server quality online, and the occasional sticky wall and annoying team AI? In the last twelve months has the developer ironed all of those things out and given us a more solid and polished experience this time? Sadly, the answer is no, and in some cases it’s actually worse than we saw in CoD2.
Original developer Infinity Ward has taken a step back with Call of Duty 3, and whilst busing working on CoD4, Treyarch have stepped in to develop this game. For those that don’t know, Treyarch were the guys behind CoD: Big Red One last year which appeared on PS2, Xbox and Gamecube.
For the most part, this is a really great WWII first person shooter. The atmosphere is intense, and the action and gameplay is just as frantic as it’s ever been, and perhaps more so now as there are far more explosions, smoking rubble and generally much more going on on-screen. Surprisingly, all of this comes without a hitch in the 60fps framerate, even in HD resolutions which is a damn miracle considering the state of most Xbox 360 games we’ve seen so far - so lots of kudos to Treyarch for knowing the limits of the engine, yet still pushing the game graphically, it really is very impressive…
The environments are all lovingly crafted, with some fantastic set pieces such as forests with hanging mist and shafts of light poking through trees, to utterly destroyed towns and corn fields that get churned up as you drive your tank through them. I don’t think there is as much variation in the environments as CoD2, but they are still interesting and you are never disappointed in what the game presents to you.
As mentioned earlier, you can now throw grenades back that have landed at your feet. You only get a few seconds to press and hold ‘X’, then throw it with ‘RB’. It’s pretty cool, and definitely gets you out of some otherwise nasty situations. The controls are the same as CoD2, with the neat usage of ‘LB’ and ‘RB’ to throw smoke and normal grenades respectively, and your character still moves at a slightly slower pace than most first-person shooters, which does feel strange at first, but you soon get back into it again.
I played the game through the first time on Normal setting, which I found to be really quite a challenge at times, and quite a step up from the last game. Unfortunately it wasn’t always challenging in a good way, and I found some sections incredibly frustrating, and ended up swearing at the TV and threatening all sorts of nasty things to my 360 and its joypad. That rarely happened on CoD2, and I finished that on the intense “Veteran” setting.
I think the raised difficultly is more noticeable because now you tend to get stuck to objects more than you used to. Sticky walls and floors which seemingly have nothing protruding from them, but for some strange reason you simply cannot move. There are also some pretty bad collision detections when shooting enemies with sniper rifles, sometimes no matter how many times you shoot them in the face, they simply won’t register. Couple this with over the top camera shaking, grenades you can’t always pickup and throw, and AI squad mates that like to get in your way and you end up getting frustrated, and it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. I was glad to have finished the single player, but then I started going back through the game on Veteran difficulty, so with all its problems, it’s clearly still an addictive and enjoyable experience, albeit one that is occasionally frustrating.
Call of Duty 3 has an all new online mode, with lots of new features, game ideas and a neat new one called simply “War”. You choose your character type (Rifleman, Light arms, heavy arms, medic, etc), and you go out onto large maps and battle it out. There are multiple vehicles available, such as motorbikes, jeeps and tanks, and when it works, it works superbly. Unfortunately my experiences with the online mode are not good, and most of the time has been spent in lobbies searching for games, or waiting around for the room to fill up, or rebooting because the game disconnects for no reason. It’s a known issue apparently, and looking on forums everyone is suffering, but if it’s a known problem, why wasn’t it fixed before release? I spent two hours playing the game in my last session online, and I got one single completed game. The rest of the time was just spent searching for games and rebooting my Xbox 360.
It’s really not all disastrous though, Call of Duty 3 is a fine game, and even with the problems highlighted the single player will still offer you at least 8 hours of solid entertainment, and even if the online mode never works properly it’s definitely worth checking out, as it’s superb to look at and the few games I did manage to play were highly enjoyable. Just take into account that whilst playing through it, CoD3 will most likely piss you off a fair few times, and you may well want to lob an Xbox 360-shaped grenade out the window.