Call of Duty 3 Xbox 360 Review

Remember the time when a new WWII shooter was being released every week? Maybe to some it still seems like there is one too many of them on the market but right now in the run up to Christmas 2006 the genre has definitely cooled down a bit. Now after this small cool-down period COD is back for yet another edition to the genre. We all know that for any sequel to any game to be labelled a success it has to improve on its predecessor… maybe not with some mind-blowing new features but you would definitely expect some new extras. Of course most developers know this and now with Treyarch taking the reins from Infinity Ward they have gone down the line of “little extras” in the hope of keeping fans of the million-selling Xbox 360 launch title happy.

Upon first glance COD3 looks exactly like COD2… If a buddy of yours came round your place mid-campaign you could easily forgive him for uttering the line “why are you playing that old game again?” Of course if you’re not the forgiving type you could start off on a tirade telling him that the game he is watching is COD3 and that it focuses on the 1944 Normandy Breakout, including D-day and the liberation of Paris. Then you could also tell him that it tries to be historically accurate just like COD2. You could also tell him that you now get chance to plays as the American, British, Polish and Canadian forces. Of course he will have probably left the room by the time you get through all of that but at least you tried!

There are however a few more changes that affect gameplay… the most interesting is the ability to throw back grenades the enemy has thrown at you. This was a feature many wanted in COD2 and now it’s finally here. One of the many features which remains from COD2 is the option to have regenerative health… I personally like this in FPS games and think it works but I know many dislike it and it could easily put them off playing the game. If you really think it makes the game too easy you can always up the difficulty to give yourself more of a challenge. But no matter what difficulty you are on the enemy and friendly AI always seem well able to handle themselves and make smart attacking and defensive decisions.

There are some new extras I did not find entertaining at all and they were a selection of mini-games to perform tasks which were automated in COD2. The most notable of these was when you have to plant a charge on a tank. In the original you just ran to the flashing mark on the object you wanted to make ‘go boom’ then press a button and run. In COD3 you have to run to an eerily similar flashing mark but instead of hitting one button you now have to press a selection of buttons in order, then rotate the analogue stick I certain directions which correspond on-screen to movement until the bomb is armed… then leg it… then ‘go boom’. It really is an unnecessary extra which just slows down the pace of the game. Another new feature is the inclusion of Close Quarters Combat where some enemy soldiers grab your gun and you have to fight them off by pressing the left and right triggers rhythmically. These encounters also slow down the pace of the game and quite honestly look a bit silly. Thankfully these events only rear their head half a dozen times throughout the campaign so the daftness is kept to a minimum.

Just like COD2, the game offers a selection of three difficulty levels and achievements to play through and unlock. Each difficulty level is a big step up from the one before – offering a good challenge, even if you choose to play through the game three times. If you are focusing on Gamerpoints you can unlock them for beating levels on all three settings – however if you beat a higher difficulty before completing the one under it you will get the points for both. Fans of the series should take note that the veteran difficulty in COD3 offers a stiffer challenge than its predecessor – it is however still fair, meaning if you die it will have been your fault for rushing too far ahead. More Gamerpoints are given out for beating levels under specific stipulation such as getting through a level without dying, getting through a level without shooting and getting hit by less than 30 bullets. The final achievements are all online orientated meaning you have to jump on Xbox Live to get them.

Speaking of online; COD3’s multiplayer can be best described as COD2 with its patch, and then some! Anyone that’s a fan of online gaming knows COD2 had many problems with many bugs hindering stable online play for many weeks after it release. Thankfully COD3 does not share these problems but unfortunately it is not perfect either. A lot of the problems from COD2 are sorted out and the only thing that seems to hamper a good online battle is the fact that too many people want to play at once thus overloading the servers and as a result hitting game with nasty lag. When the servers are not as busy it is possible to get a full complement of 24 people battling against each other without a hiccup. There are a selection of nine good sized maps to play on with lots of modes available such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Headquarters, and War.

COD3 looks and sounds great, offering highly quality graphics and equally impressive compositions to get you hyped up for battles. Graphically the textures are a step up from COD2 and remain as visceral as ever although now the soldiers all seem to have a slightly glossy look to them. Nevertheless they look a lot better than the “bald space marines” seen in franchises such as Quake and Doom. Effects such as the all encompassing smoke from smoke grenades and dirt getting kicked up from frag grenades are also out in force once again and look as good as ever. The framerate also seems stable enough and only starts to chop slightly in the very action-heavy sections. The selection of levels on show is also very impressive with many indoor and outdoor battles taking place. The outdoor levels are undoubtedly the most amazing with details stretching far off into the distance far away from where your battle is taking place.

Audio is more or less on par with its predecessor – particularly if you are hooked up to a good surround sound system. As mentioned above the music is superb; the reason for this is that Joel Goldsmith (who has done lots of work for Stargate SG1) wrote the score especially for the game. Sound effects are also a treat to the ears – particularly when heard through a 5.1 system. Gunshots have good bass to them and any bigger explosions from tanks or mortars could easily rattle a few walls. Voice acting is also top notch with soldiers throwing out many one-liners to help immerse you into the battle.

With only a 12 month development time Call of Duty’s third incarnation does not have the same sheen that made its predecessor such as successful 360 launch title. Also the main campaign probably won’t be as memorable as that of COD2 as it does not contain as many stand out “wow” moments. Regardless the game still offers enough small changes and little extras in both single and multiplayer to entice fans of the series back for yet another fight against the odds. However it should be noted that if Ubisoft’s Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway and EA’s Medal of Honor: Airborne Assault had not suffered delays and WWII shooters once again filled store shelves COD3 may not look as tempting as it does now.

The best WWII shooter available this Christmas.

8.2 out of 10

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