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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Call of Duty 3
(Activision for PlayStation 3)

By Michael Palisano

Call of Duty 3 is an impressive installment in the popular combat franchise. It brings players into real world combat with a cinematic, intense shooter that brings a new level of realism to the genre. This installment adds vehicle sequences, additional multiplayer modes along with some extra features. Its gameplay is challenging and intense as you'd expect, with smooth controls and an unrelenting pace. Call of Duty 3's visuals show off the PS3's processing power effectively and this helps to bring the brutal reality of World War II to life vividly, making it one of the console's most satisfying launch titles.

Set during the allied invasion of France after D-Day, Call of Duty 3 brings the battle to liberate the country from Nazi occupation to life vividly. As an allied soldier, your mission is to battle the enemy forces through a variety of locations from burned out villages to country sides while staying close to your unit. An immersive storyline unfolds throughout the game as you and the allies battle through the French countryside on your way to the final battle to defeat the Nazi forces and liberate Paris. Along the way, you'll meet a variety of character who make up your units. This helps to make the player feel more immersed in the action, and creates a more interesting gameplay experience that feels more like a move. There are some drawbacks to this approach, which we'll outline later, but the overall cinematic feel of Call of Duty 3 makes it one of the more impressive World War II games we've played to date. This gritty, no-frills approach to combat underlines one of the key reasons why games in this historical genre are so engaging. Instead of relying on fancy weapons, gimmicky gadgets and special effects, these games offer a back to basics experience where the emphasis is on the skill and instincts of the player.

While Call of Duty 3 follows many of the standard FPS conventions, there are some interesting twists in the formula that help to keep things fresh. Unlike other games, where you are given a single health bar, Call of Duty 3's screen gets blurry and turns red if you take too much damage. When this occurs, you need to find cover and wait a few seconds for your health to rejuvenate. It's not as realistic as it could be, but it helps to keep the game flowing nicely. Each level offers a surprising amount of variety as you travel from one episode to another, which helps to give each battle a defined plot. While most combat titles offer the usual one man against the world, here the operative approach is to work with your unit to clear out an area. It's tempting to go in with guns blazing, but if you allow the other soldiers to go ahead of you, they'll clear out an area which reduces your risk. One of the most important thing you need to do is listen to the other soldiers since they'll frequently point out the strategy and objectives during the heat of battle. The game requires some strategy, since you can't run right into a machine gun nest without getting killed instantly. The better strategy is usually to find a path around enemy locations and attack them from the rear or side. You have a basic set of weapons such as machine guns, pistols and grenades to use, and can pick up additional weapons and ammo from fallen soldiers you find. Players can also use a pair of binoculars to scout an area and then target enemies more accurately using each weapons sighting mode.

Call of Duty 3 takes you through a variety of realistic locations including burned out houses, fields and other areas. Each type of terrain requires a different approach. When you are inside a house or a base, enemies will often take cover behind walls, making it important not to rush in. However, when you find yourself out in the open, it's important to find cover behind objects so you aren't exposed to attack. You also have to be aware of the locations of your fellow soldiers, since you can usually look to them to see what to do next. Sound also plays a role in locating the enemies as well, since you can usually hear the enemies screaming from behind a wall, alerting you to their location. Battling through each mission involves different, unique strategies and this helps to make the game feel more realistic with an ebb and flow that swings from intense battles to reconnaissance and back. One of the more impressive additions to the game this time around is vehicular combat. As in many other war games, players can jump into these and perform one of several different roles. You can sit in the back and use the binoculars to point out enemy locations or later on, drive a vehicle through dark areas as you try an evade capture. This keeps things interesting throughout and requires players to master a variety of skills. None of this is overly complex, but Call of Duty 3's superb level design throws enough curves to keep your interest level high throughout. The game's engaging storyline is integrated into the play itself, which makes for a seamless experience.

The controls are fairly standard and the game isn't too difficult to understand. Most actions, such as shooting, switching weapons, strafing and ducking are fairly self-explanatory. Players should be familiar with the basic construction of the PS3 controller, but we found the added tactile feedback of the new trigger-style shift buttons made it much easier to push the right one during the heat of combat.In a surprising addition, Call of Duty 3 supports the new Sixaxis controller's tilt mechanism to shake off enemies when they come too close to you. You can also use this new technique to steer vehicles during these sections as well. It takes some getting used to, but it's definitely a clever addition to the gameplay and doesn't feel gimmicky at all. Aside from all of that, the game controls well and most players should have little problem with the game's mechanics and interface. In addition to its immersive solo campaign, Call of Duty 3 also includes some impressive online modes which support up to 16 players simultaneously. While the standard deathmatch, co-op and capture modes are included, the game includes vehicle missions as well, where multiple players can each take roles driving and shooting at opponents. It was a pain to download an update in order to play, but once we got things up and running, the game performed smoothly and flawlessly on the PS3's servers.

Call of Duty 3's cinematic approach is quite impressive and this production polish extends through every element of the game. This is truly a next generation experience, with a cohesive appearance and brilliant design that brings the brutality and sense of danger to life vividly. The sense of scale is also impressive, with large expansive environments, realistic maps and believable physics bringing the sensation of combat to life vividly. The use of extensive voice acting is superb, giving each character a unique personality. Detailed facial expressions add to the sense of realism. An impressive graphics engine is quite impressive in most areas and there are plenty of visual treats as well. From a visual standpoint, the game's graphics engine is quite impressive, with a remarkable level of detail evident. Light sourcing, explosions, smoke and weather effects are convincing and feel authentic. This level of realism is astonishing at certain points. This creates a palpable sense of danger throughout that makes the experience all the more visceral. You rarely feel like you're involved in a game, it's more like a movie throughout. The game's production polish extends to the elaborate cinematics that ties the levels together, making Call of Duty 3's missions feel more like chapters in a story than levels in a game.

Call of Duty 3 is one of the most impressive PS3 launch titles and it delivers a polished, addictive and truly cinematic experience. From an aesthetic standpoint, the level of realism is impressive throughout with massive battlefields, detailed environments, an engaging storyline and intense battles. You feel like you are literally on the ground throughout the game, though there are some instances where the design seems to fall a bit short of its ambition. The biggest problem with Call of Duty 3 is that several sequences are almost completely linear and this on-rails approach can feel limiting and constrained. This is especially disappointing when this occurs after you've played in some of its more open-ended areas. Still, this push and pull between interactive and cinematic approaches is handled well for the most part, and Call of Duty 3 largely succeeds in its goals and objectives. It's not a flawless shooter, but the sheer intensity and realism of its battles combines to make for a thrilling experience that should rank it as one of the PS3's best early releases.

Grade: B

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