First Impressions: Duty's calling again? Sign me up!
Let's face it: Call of Duty 2 was one of the most thrilling and intense shooters ever made. Yes, the multiplayer was broken but you can chalk that up to the intense pressure from all sides to rush it out as an Xbox 360 launch title. Even so, you can't deny just how much damn fun it was, which is why a sequel is on its way.
The responsibility of trying to top that kick-ass winner belongs to Treyarch, who was behind the current-gen console exclusive Call of Duty 2: Big Red One ? a considerably dull and sub-par shadow of the Infinity Ward title we all know and love. So it's understandable if gamers are a bit wary about Call of Duty 3, wondering if Treyarch has learned from their mistakes in Big Red One.
But based on what we've seen so far, fans can relax. CoD 3 is shaping up to be a worthy successor and is promising to provide us with even bigger battles to sate our Nazi-killing appetites.
The game will take place during the heroic campaign to liberate Paris, running 88 brutal days from D-Day on June 6, 1944 to August 25. The story is inspired by classic films like A Bridge Too Far and The Longest Day, and as usual each of the 14 missions will be based on actual battles. The CoD franchise is known for its attention to historical accuracy and this version will be no different, with military consultants, soldiers and actual Normandy vets working with the development team to ensure they get everything right.
As before, you will get to play as a soldier from various Allied countries such as the omnipresent Britain and the US, along with franchise newcomers Canada (yay!) and Poland. The previous games had been criticized for being too linear, so the missions are being designed with branching paths on bigger, more open maps permitting different tactical options to complete objectives.
But enough about the background stuff; what about the gameplay? Well, expect the return of the chaotic heart-pounding insanity of CoD 2 but enhanced all around, especially in the graphical department. The game will look more realistic thanks to improved smoke and particle effects (yes, hard to believe but it's going to be even better than before), enhanced fire and heat shimmer effects, and subtle additions like soft cloth physics on uniforms and a slight blurring effect in your peripheral vision as you aim down your sights. Improved character animation will cause NPCs to individually react when they're killed instead of simply collapsing in a repetitive pre-programmed manner. In a morbid touch of realism, bodies will now float in water. Even the grass has been upgraded with realistic wind and ?foot trample? physics.
The frantic action should be even crazier thanks to more things happening onscreen at the same time: tanks pounding at enemies, planes and bombs falling out of the sky, more frenzied shouting, more deadly enemies and more things blowing up. Buildings will now have a new damage system that allows expanded and more realistic location-based destruction, a great improvement over the pre-programmed fixed damage modeling of the previous edition.
Speaking of damage, the interesting addition of Soft Cover Points should make combat even hairier that before. Previously, everything you could hide behind was an impenetrable shield, but this time some types of cover will be destructible and provide only temporary protection. To make things worse, the enemy AI will know which cover is ?soft? and will pelt it with bullets in an attempt to expose you; of course, you will be able to turn the tables and attack enemies who are foolish enough to hide behind soft cover of their own.
This latter point also illustrates enhancements to the enemy AI, which has been tuned to make them act more like a team rather than a collection of individuals doing their own thing. Enemies will now charge forward or pull back together as the situation merits, and make better use of cover and flanking techniques.
The new Battle Action system is also promising to make combat a bit more intimate. It's basically a simple button-mashing mini-game that will pop up in specific situations like setting an explosive or disabling a trap. But the really cool application of the new system is when a Nazi jumps you and initiates a grappling struggle to the death. To break out of the grapple, you have to rapidly flick between the left and right triggers; if you're successful, hitting another button will cause your rifle butt to give the Nazi a rather swift and painful kiss.
As cool as these single player enhancements may sound, future PlayStation Network Platform players are more interested about what's in store for them online. First off, you should know that the multiplayer frustrations of CoD2 should be a distant memory; but if you're still feeling the pain, maybe a three-fold increase to 24 players would make you feel better. How about the inclusion of multi-passenger vehicles like jeeps, tanks and even a side-car equipped motorcycle? Let's not forget the new class-based role system similar to Battlefield and Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, which will include:
Includes Light and Heavy classes, capable of carrying anti-personnel mines;
Self-explanatory, can revive teammates;
Can fire rifle grenades;
Can call in artillery strikes;
Includes Anti-Armor Support and can drop ammo packs for teammates.
Sounds good, doesn't it? Also like RTCW: Enemy Territory, you can earn points and medals for your performance in each individual role. Gametypes will include the standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, along with a revised Headquarters, a new single flag CTF and a new mode called War (details pending on this one). And for those of you with smug PC-gamer friends who have been bragging about CoD for years, you'll be pleased to know that CoD 3 is exclusive to next-gen consoles only ? at least for now.