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» Call Of Duty 3 (Xbox 360)
Introduction

Call of Duty 2 stood out as one of the most prominent launch titles for the Xbox 360 last year with its jaw dropping visuals and intense combat experience. Instead of being developed by Infinity Ward, however, Call of Duty 3 was made Treyarch, the makers responsible for Big Red One on the PlayStation 2. Although the gameplay mechanics haven’t evolved much, the immensely revamped multiplayer modes and great production values make this release worthy of the Call of Duty name.

A Whole Year Later

After having an entire year to tinker around with the 360's hardware, it's clear that developers like Treyarch are surely getting an understanding of what can be done. For starters, the newly introduced semi-destructible environments are a step in the right direction. Seeing crates explode and wine bottles leak amidst a heavy firefight adds a realistic touch, but, as is the case with most games, there are still a handful of invincible objects that don't fit right at all. Another major improvement includes the toned up environments. Every blade of grass will rustle in your face as you go prone, and traveling through the deep vegetation in a forest setting has never looked so good. In addition, there's a cool new depth of field blur effect that replicates your soldier's eyes adjusting to the sights, and all of the little features like this really add up to a nice package. The texture detail looks marginally better than Call of Duty 2, while the explosion and particle effects look sharp as always. The outdoor levels look distinct and varied, but it's not uncommon to be overcome with déjà vu once you've made your way through several buildings. The only other problem is that you are unable to skip through cutscenes, and even though these cinematics are more engaging than last year, it can be real annoying to have to forcibly watch the same intro after you restart your Xbox.

As expected from this series, the sound here is nothing short of exemplary. The character accents, including the Americans, British, Canadians, and Polish, are nice and strong to truly emphasize their differences. Characters are also played up to help you become more attached to the storyline, so cliché comrades like the hardened war general and the nervous radio operator make appearances. The sound effects on the battlefield are possibly this games best feature. Especially if you have a surround sound setup, it's hard not to appreciate the nonstop bombardment of explosions, whizzing bullets, and battle cries as you struggle for survival. Now, your squad will shout commands that actually give good advice, so if you hear orders to flank an enemy or take cover behind an object you better listen. The musical pieces are as inspiring as always, so you can expect to hear some fresh instrumental pieces to get you in the mood for fighting.

It’s Off to Normandy

Past games have a more broadened focus on the WWII era by featuring campaigns that span throughout Europe and Africa, but Call of Duty 3 has a centralized focus on the Normandy Breakout. We join the Allies on their struggle to liberate Paris, so your objective is to control each of the four aforementioned nations to get the job done. For the first time ever players can control both the Canadian and Polish forces, and it's always good to view the war from different perspectives.

The combat system hasn't evolved too much since the last release, but that doesn't mean the new changes have gone unnoticed. For starters, players can now cook grenades instead of tossing them off right away, so if you time it just right your enemies will have no chance to scramble. However, if you carelessly throw a frag without cooking it, the opposition now has the ability to pick it up and throw it right back. This can be a dangerous maneuver because waiting too long will result in death, but on the other hand there's nothing more satisfying than killing a friend with his own weapon. Smoke grenades make a comeback here, except this time around these grenades emit an appropriately thick fog that can help your presence go undetected. Like last year, the health bar has been replaced, allowing gamers to be fully restored if they find cover for a few seconds. The screen will increasingly become encompassed with a crimson red circle if you're in danger, and this sign should definitely not be ignored.

To help spice things up a tad, some of your mundane tasks can no longer be performed by the press of a button. For example, if you are going to plant a fuse you have to press a face button, rotate the control stick, and then press another button. This does make the process a little more involving, but it seems as if this was tacked on just for the sake of being different because it frankly isn't fun at all. On a more exciting note, sometimes an enemy will charge at you and attempt to melee you with his rifle. This will engage a minigame in which you press the two triggers back and forth to push him away, and if you are successful you can deliver a finishing blow. These moments only occur a handful of times throughout the entire fourteen mission campaign, but when they do show up the brief change in pace is certainly welcome.

In addition to straight run-and-gun shooting, turret missions and even driving levels make the overall experience more diversified. Reigning machine gun fire from the back of a jeep can be fun in short bursts, but the real fun can be found in the driver's seat. Several times you'll be able to race your crew through war-torn territory in order to meet up with your squad, and this racing is heart pounding to say the least. Rather than sticking to the dirt roads, often times you need to drive off the road and use various hills and ramps to your advantage. One achievement can even be unlocked if you catch enough air! The physics aren't the greatest, but that doesn't prevent crusing around from being fun by any means.

Above everything else, though, the combat system in Call of Duty 3 is as strong as anything this series has ever seen. The computer AI can be a little shaky on the easier difficulties, but if you're playing on Hard or Veteran be prepared for a challenge. Opposing troops search hard for cover, lob back grenades if you don't cook them, and as a whole are great at analyzing the wartime situation. If they see your squad pushing crossing their lines, they will push back and attempt to take you out from a defensive standpoint. This makes it especially crucial to try and gun them down while they're on the run before they can find a good vantage point. In some of the outdoor levels, you'll find that enemies keep reappearing regardless of how many of their companions are killed. Without knowing this, it can be extremely frustrating to hang back as a sniper and pick off people only to find out that they keep returning. In instances like these, the only way you can wipe out the enemy is by pushing them back. This does force players to be aggressive at times, but it would be nice to at least have the option to fight more conservatively.

A Worldwide Conflict

The single player enhancements help to add a little more value to this game, but Call of Duty 3 really shines in the multiplayer aspect. Previously, gamers were limited to rooms of only eight people online, but Treyarch has since tripled this amount. With up to 24 players across the current nine maps (more will be available as downloadable content), the online portion is essential for this release. The standard modes like deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and headquarters are all still here. Seven different character classes can be chosen from after each death, and when balanced properly teamwork can really pay off. The medic and armor support classes might not seem appealing at first, but having helpful players on either side can really change the tide of battle (plus you can earn achievement points this way too). Vehicles have also been added to make travel through the larger environments less tedious, and it's always a blast to run over your friend with a speeding jeep or lumbering tank.

The whole structure of the online portion has been improved so you are no longer kicked out to the lobby after each round as well. The frame rates were extremely smooth and we never experienced any problems with lag, even on crowded servers, so Treyarch did a great job on making Call of Duty 3 online a true next generation experience.

Conclusion

World War II shooters have been done to death, but somehow Call of Duty keeps coming back and making us say otherwise. The single player campaign lasts a solid ten hours and has plenty to offer if you play through on the more challenging difficulties, but the heart of this game lies within the multiplayer. The problems in last year’s release have been dealt with, so now we’re left with an online component that should keep any gamer busy for at least another year. Although it doesn’t compare to Gears of War in terms of innovation, fans out there yearning for another Call of Duty will not be disappointed.

Gameplay
17/20
Graphics
17/20
Sound
18/20
Value
18/20
Preference
17/20
Overall
87/100

 



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