“Call of Duty 3” review

by on Mar.04, 2010, under Wii Game Reviews

Game: Call of Duty 3
Developer: Treyarch, Pi Studios

After our less than stellar opinion of UbiSoft’s Red Steel, we give the first person shooter genre another chance with our detailed look at the latest release in the Call of Duty franchise.

Those of you familiar with the standard game-play formula of any Call of Duty first-person shooter will not be surprised by Treyarch’s latest creation. Once again, you will take on the roles of key characters in the Allied army as they participate in over a dozen cinematic squad level battles across the French countryside in 1944. The game focuses on the pivotal operations around the Falaise Gap as Polish, British, Canadian and U.S. forces attempt to cut-off the retreat of a large German Army defending the Normandy coast. As the campaign progresses, your controlled character will switch between a handful of individuals in each army as they advance relentlessly upon the key town of Chambois.

The Wii console version of the game doesn’t match up to the more visually impressive renditions seen on the other seventh generation game consoles, primarily due to the restrictive picture resolution of 480p for this platform. Nevertheless, the developers have done a remarkable job of leveraging the limited graphics power available to them. Call of Duty 3 (COD3) is definitely one of the best looking Wii titles I’ve seen so far, with beautifully rendered textures on terrain, weapons and even the soldier’s uniforms. The only niggling issue observed is that the Wehrmacht have managed to discover near perfect camouflage patterns, which is evidenced when you get repeatedly killed by Germans that you cannot make out from the background clutter in some of the less well-lit missions. Conversely the exceedingly shiny surface of our balding Polish tanker who makes an appearance mid-game is enough to make you wish he’d applied some camo-paint to his scalp!

The various weapon sound effects, ambient background noise and voice acting is at the typically high level of quality that you would expect in a COD3 title. Of course, you would hardly expect less given the extensive audio library that developers must now have at their disposal after a half-dozen games and expansions. You’ll definitely appreciate the results of cranking up the TV volume or piping the audio through your Home Theatre system (stereo only on the Wii unfortunately) as this increases the immersion factor considerably. The soundtrack is equally impressive thanks to Joel Goldsmith’s sterling work (for the record, Joel is the son of Jerry Goldsmith, the prolific composer of film and TV music during the last three decades of the 20th Century.) The music is perfectly integrated into the game, with appropriate tracks and tempo triggered as the action plays out on-screen.

Unlike the first two Call of Duty titles where each nationality had its own separate campaign, COD3 presents the Battle for the Falaise Gap as an interlinked storyline, told from each of the four Allied nationalities perspectives. As the game progresses, you’ll take on a number of disparate roles ranging from a Polish tank gunner defending against a German counterattack, to a British SAS commando carrying out operations with the French resistance. During each of the fourteen missions, you will get plenty of chances to play with a wide range of small-arms. You are limited to only carrying two weapons at a time but you can pick up weapons and ammo from dead soldiers freely providing you with more than enough ammunition to deal with the enemy. There are also a number of emplaced weapons like mortars and anti-tank guns and the odd vehicle to drive as well. In each instance, on-screen guidance is provided to show the player how to use the Wii-mote and Nunchuk to control the equipment being used. For example, you drive a jeep by holding the two controllers as you would a steering wheel and then guide the vehicle by rotating your hands. It’s a surprisingly fun and accurate control method.

The developers have also created a number of small mini-games that need to be completed to perform contextually relevant actions in-game, such as placing a demolition charge on an enemy tank or engaging a handful of German soldiers in melee combat during the game. Unfortunately it is the melee component of the game that nearly caused me to give up the game in frustration during the first mission! You will encounter the first of these set-piece hand-to-hand encounters within the first 5 minutes of playing. The trouble is if you follow the instructions on-screen by turning the controllers perpendicular to the screen and punching your left and right hands forward, you will lose the combat and the game each and every time! Rather than bore you with the long and arduous process I followed to discover a solution, investigation has revealed that you need to hold the controllers normally rather than tilting them at right angles to the screen! I can only assume that the developers changed their minds at some stage during the games development but forgot to change the on-screen prompt! The other mini-games didn’t have any implementation issues and they do provide a brief distraction from the usual “fire and manoeuvre” tactics that form 90% of the game.

As with all Call of Duty titles, pacing within the game is controlled by the actions of your in-game personae. If you decide to hunker down behind a wall and take pot-shots at the enemy, you’ll end up exhausting all your ammo as a steady stream of feldgrau clad opponents spawn in front of you. To achieve your objectives you’ll need to advance from cover-to-cover, providing an example to your squad-mates who will charge forward to assist your heroic endeavours. Level design is on a par with previous games in the series. While there are a few non-linear sections where you can handle objectives in any order you choose, the majority of the game is a highly scripted, linear affair that still manages to get your adrenaline levels dangerously high. The last two missions are some brilliant examples of level design at its best; I doubt that any player will be disappointed with the concluding sequences.

Unfortunately, I do have to report a few technical issues that were discovered during my gaming sessions. At several points during the game, the Wii controllers refused to respond to player input and/or functioned erratically (this occurred more often when there was a LOT of on-screen action.) In most cases reconnecting the Wii-mote using the Home button on the controller was enough to resolve the issue but occasionally a restart of the level or game was the only way to get back into the battle. There was also a “no mission objective bug” that occurred on the last mission where I found myself defending Chambois from what appeared to be an endless flood of Germans spawning into the game! Once again, a quick mission restart resolved the problem.

This version of the game doesn’t have any multiplayer component, unlike the other console releases, which will reduce much of the game’s replay value. Once you’ve finished the 10-12 hours of game-play on offer in the campaign, you’re only left with a handful of real-life interviews featuring veterans of the campaign to view. On the other hand, I’ve never been a big fan of split screen action, and as there is no net-code to facilitate multi-console death matches, you’re probably not missing much anyway. If friends pop around unexpectedly looking for some Wii action, insert your Wario Ware: Smooth Moves disk into the console instead.

In conclusion, while the technical glitches mentioned above do detract from the overall enjoyment of the game, they can be considered mere blemishes on what is probably one of the best cinematic first-person shooter experiences available on the Wii console to-date.

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