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Friday, November 17, 2006

Game Review 20:Call of Duty 3

(First play-through) It is time to return to World War 2 again with Call of Duty 3 this year-end. Being the successor to last year’s Call of Duty 2 that was the number 1 selling launch game for the Xbox 360, I expected Call of Duty 3 to follow in the footsteps of Call of Duty 2 – cinematic, good graphics, sound and intense. So did Call of Duty 3 accomplish that?

Firstly, I must say that the graphics of Call of Duty 3 has been vastly improved from Call of Duty 2. Colors look more vibrant and the water looks real. The environments are painted in stunning details and parts of some structures like walls can be broken down with grenade blasts. Call of Duty 3 does retain the rich sounds from Call of Duty 2. Yes, the sound will make you feel as if you are in the war itself. The cracking of gunfire surrounds you all the time, making the game feel real. The music is better, providing a suitable atmosphere for the gameplay.

However, do note that there are a few changes from Call of Duty 2. New gameplay elements like snatching a weapon from the enemy or repelling an enemy who is trying to strangle you with his weapon. You will have a chance to row boats and drive jeeps as well. Or you can sit on a friendly tank and use your binoculars to direct fire. All these add variety to the gameplay, but I cannot help but think whether all these are necessary or not – for the Xbox 360, at least. While these new gameplay elements act as mini-games, they are clearly built for other versions of Call of Duty 3. For example, to row the boat, you need to half-rotate the right analog stick on your Xbox 360. Obviously, this gameplay element is built around the Wii-mote (Call of Duty 3 is on the Wii too). Snatching the weapon from your enemy or wrestling your enemy requires you to press the left trigger and right trigger buttons of the Xbox 360 controller alternatively and as quickly as possible. Again, this new gameplay element was obviously built for the PS3 SIXAXIS controller or the Wii-mote, both of which have motion-sensitivity. These gameplay elements do not translate well on the Xbox 360, becoming a mindless affair of button mashing. The developers, Treyarch, could have omitted these for the Xbox 360 version. Of course, allowing you to ride more vehicles is enjoyable. Also, you can now have a new style of throwing grenades. You can hold the grenade for a few seconds and ‘cook’ it before throwing it or hurl it straight away. It is fun, but why am I not getting the ‘wow’ factor that I was heavily felt in Call of Duty 2?

There are 14 chapters in total, but I have only played the first 5 chapters. As far as the 5 chapters go, I can tell that each chapter is comparatively short. The game has 4 difficult settings, namely Easy, Normal (the default difficulty setting), Hard and Veteran. I tried the Normal setting, which was also what I did when I played Call of Duty 2 last year. Then, I discovered Call of Duty 3’s fatal mistake. Enemies perish too easily. Try it. 3 to 4 bullets would be enough, which is unlike Call of Duty 2 that I feel provided more challenge. I found myself rushing from room to room in enemy-invaded houses downing enemies by the triple at once. Call of Duty 3 was played straight after I completed Gears of War and I clearly felt the great divide between Call of Duty 3 and Gears of War: the A.I. Well, yeah, the A.I.-controlled enemies are stupid, real stupid. While they are hiding in cover and with you shooting them while they are doing just that, do not expect any reaction. They will just happily let you drill them to their graves. And they would not even know you are advancing towards them and are slow to react even if they know. This is a serious flaw that any game can make: an A.I. that well, is stupid. Enemies DO NOT run when a grenade land at their feet, unlike (as I say, I played this game straight after completing Gears of War) Gears of War whose enemies will escape from their cover if a grenade lands nearby.

The gameplay here has a standard template as well. Basically, it just run, hide, shoot, next objective with a few cut scenes here and there and no humor whatsoever that was so ever present in Call of Duty 2. Perhaps it is because the development of Call of Duty 3 has changed hands from Infinity Ward, which developed Call of Duty 2 to Treyarch, which developed Call of Duty 2: Big Red One for current-gen console (PS2, Xbox, GC) last year. An agreement has been reached by both parties that each odd-numbered sequel of Call of Duty will be developed by Treyarch and each even-numbered Call of Duty 2 sequel be developed by Infinity Ward. But that is not the main concern here. The way the game plays is worrying – because it is dull, though it offers several authentic WW2 weapons for the taking. The gameplay is boring, at least up to chapter 5. Every mission looks the same to me; there is no variation. During the course of 14 missions, you will get to play an American, British, Canadian and Polish soldiers. But hey, how come each mission is still almost the same thing? That is not helped by the fact that the game is too easy on Normal setting. Very soon, the game will settle into a monotony of shooting enemies who like to come up to you, clear out the house (or secure the house), destroy this gun, that gun, oh come on, within my 3 and a half hours of play to complete the first 5 missions, the game drove me to a headache, forcing me to halt the game and take a painkiller and start writing this review. Some missions take place at night and visibility is extremely poor. At times, I cannot even tell that there is an opening in the wall or whether where my platoon mates have gone (seriously, they need to get their brains examined for abandoning you).

As I have only cruised through the first 5 chapters of the game, I cannot give the game an overall score yet. Perhaps, and I really hope that the game will improve beyond the first 5 chapters. More variety, more vehicles to ride, better game design that offers more variations from the run-gun-hide-clear-house-destroy-gun formula. As of now, I feel that Call of Duty 2 is better. But wait, let me finish the game first and let me evaluate it as a whole. Note that this (first play-through) review does not represent the quality of the entire game.

Overall score: Unfinished; score pending
Good points (up to chapter 5): Good graphics, sound, many vehicles to ride, many authentic WW2 weapons
Bad points (up to chapter 5): Dull gameplay with little variation, lack of humor that was so ever present in Call of Duty 2, feels like port of the Wii and PS3 version with mini-games that were clearly built for the motion-sensitive controllers of the said consoles

* Due to occupancy of my time slots with other games, the full review of this game will be delayed till December.


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