Being a huge fan of the Call of Duty series from the beginning, I was extremely disappointed to discover that COD3 is not up to par with its predecessors and feels like it would be a better fit as part of the Medal of Honor series.
The Good: It’s a step up from COD2 in terms of visuals. Ability to cook grenades and throw enemy grenades back before they explode. Lots of dudes on screen.
The Bad: Extremely linear to the point where it almost feels like you’re being lead by hand. Tons of invisible walls and spots that you simply can’t get to. Never-ending streams of re-spawning enemies. AI is lacking the intelligence part. Long load times disguised as cut scenes that you can’t skip. Story jumps all over the place and isn’t interesting in the least. Overall, a very dark game on default settings and brightness preferences don’t save once you restart the game. Multiplayer match-making has its own set of issues. Frequently unable to find games or sets you up in games with only a few people.
Gameplay Video (15:04)
If you’ve been around these parts for a while now, you’ll now that I’ve always been a huge fan of the Call of Duty series. Specifically, the original game on the PC and the sequel that was released last year on the PC and Xbox 360. It pains me to have to tell you how much of a disappoint COD3 is and how it simply doesn’t compare to COD2 or even the original for that matter. When I would rather be playing a 3 year old game over a brand new one in the same series, something has gone wrong. I think we all know where to point our fingers. It seems that Activision just had to have another COD game on the shelves this holiday season and enlisted Treyarch (developers of the mediocre COD Finest Hour and COD Big Red One games) to handle COD3 which was released in early November across all consoles (including Xbox, PS2 and GameCube).
I know what some of you may be thinking – “But, but, but, insert big gaming review site here said it was awesome!” It’s true. The majority of the online gaming publications have given COD3 some ridiculously high ratings that it does not deserve and touted some truly ludacris statements like “Though it plays nearly identical to Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 3 is a fantastic game with top-notch production values.” Hardly. There are a few differences that knock COD3 nearly 2 full points down, in my books. Let’s get the bad out of the way first, shall we?
Treyarch managed to do something that I’ve not yet experienced in a COD game. They took the fun of shooting Nazis. There were times in COD3 that I just wanted to throw my controller at the screen I was so filled with frustration. Many of the objectives in the game are to clear buildings and fight your way through hordes of enemies. This is all well and good, but the enemies spawn faster than bunnies in heat. Fuckin’ Nazis popping out of every other bush, from behind blown up vehicles and even supply crates. In most cases, it’s not even about killing all of the baddies, because they simply don’t stop coming. It’s about moving forward and progressing through the level or waiting until a certain amount of time has passed. Once I figured this out, I pretty much lost interest in it. It’s so bad that you can get away without even firing a single shot in some cases. A few missions require you to hold a position until air support or reinforcements arrive and this is where I tested it – hid behind a barrel and chilled until the screen started to fade and the mission was over. Kind of pointless, isn’t it? But the constant re-spawning is what truly drove me mad. I recall clearing out a house and as I left a room that I had just mowed down, I was shot in the back. “WTF? Where’d he come from?” – crossed my mind on more than one occasion.
The COD games have always been broken down into factions – three of them. American, British and Russian. The Russian missions were always my favourite as they were just crazy intense from beginning to end. There’s no Russian missions in COD3. 🙁 This time around there’s 5 factions (I believe) and instead of grouping them together or letting you decide how you want to play them (as they did in COD2), you jump from one to the other from mission to mission. There’s these dis-jointed cut scenes in between that are extremely un-interesting which you can’t skip. You can’t skip them because they’re actually load screens. When I was at X’06, the COD3 dude was bragging about the fact that this game had no load screens. Nice try, this hardly counts. Instead of a simple screen with some facts from the war or quotes, you’re forced to watch the same cut scenes time and time again. Even if you’re loading a checkpoint within a mission. In any case, there’s so much going on between the 5 factions and the story jumps around so frequently that it’s really hard to follow and it doesn’t hook you at all. You get the sense that everyone’s working together, but it never truly feels that way.
Of the 14 missions, there were 5 or 6 that I really enjoyed. The others were m’eh or simply ruined by the aforementioned flaws. But the missions I did enjoy, were great! I was reminded of why I have such fond memories of COD and COD2 and for a few minutes, was able to look past all of the glaring annoyances. The first mission in particular, you find yourself amongst what feels like hundreds of soldiers fighting your way through the German lines. There’s bullets flying from every direction and things blowing up left, right and centre. And speaking of blowing up, there’s a fair amount of destruction in COD3. Some buildings, vehicles and crates can be destroyed, but not everything. It’s pretty selective what can be damaged as well.
The visuals are a step or two above COD2, and that says a lot! Characters look great and the environments look incredible. There’s tons of long grass and other foliage in just about every level. It’s not until you get really close to something that it starts to really look like a texture. The smoke grenades from COD2 are back as well as an abundance of clouds of smoke from explosions near and far.
While I don’t love the soundtrack as much as previous COD games, it’s still quite good. The weapon sounds are loud and sharp and depending on where you are, some times have a great echo that really fills the room. Enemy voices are loud and obnoxious, also as you would expect in a WWII/COD game.
In terms of gameplay, there are some slight improvements and also some things missing. Finally, you can return enemy grenades! The grenade indicator remains in tact and changes to a fist wrapped around a grenade if you’re over it. Pressing “x” will pick it up and you’ll only have a couple seconds to send it back before it goes off. You can also cook grenades (pull the pin and hold before throwing) which is definitely handy and ensures it won’t be returning to blow off your face. You still can’t lean, which is wicked annoying. When you’re faced with having to take cover at every turn, it would really be nice to be able to simply pop your gun out and pick some dudes off before fully exposing yourself. No such luck here, though. And one thing I noticed was missing that I really liked about COD2 was the ability to hop over things. Railings, fences, you name it. In COD you simply had to walk up to them and push the jump button and in one smooth motion you were up and over. I was pretty bummed when I tried this only to find myself bunny hopping in place.
Apparently, the multiplayer is a massive improvement over COD2, but I couldn’t tell you. It appears to be plagued with connection issues and I’ve only successfully joined one game. The game I did make it into only had 5 or 6 dudes total and the map was pretty large. I only ended up coming across one bad dude in the 6 minutes I was in the game. I caught wind that a patch is on its way to correct the connection issues, but there’s no sign of it yet.
Unless you’re really hurting for something to play (which is hard to believe considering the onslaught of awesome titles that just hit over the past few weeks), I wouldn’t bother picking up COD3. It’s a worthy rent, but I think I’m going to trade mine in for a copy of COD2. Suddenly, I have this urge to rekindle the flame of COD greatness.