IGN Review of Call of Duty 3
Graphics vs. gameplay. That's the battle Nintendo is facting this generation, and now that final copies of Wii games are hitting our desks, we as reviewers are trying to sort through the ups and downs of the "HD vs. Innovation" debris. Take, for example, Call of Duty 3. Hitting nearly a 9.0 score on both 360 and PS3 just a week ago, we've now had our run with the Wii version as well. Is it essentially the same game? Minus a few changes, yes it is. Interestingly enough though, it feels like a totally different experience. Whether or not the sacrifice for notably weaker graphics is worth it will come down to your personal preference. For us, the game is a great start to a new way of playing, though we wouldn't go as far as to say it's better than its console counterparts just yet.
Developed by Treyarch, Call of Duty 3 takes a bit of a different approach to the traditional COD world. Rather than playing in token battles of World War II and switching from area to area all over the map, Call of Duty 3 is based on one specific set of battles centered around the Normandy Breakout, working up until the liberation of Paris just 88 days later. Taking control of each region represented, players will jump from the American troops over to the Canadians and Polish, as well as the British forces as they push against the elite German Panzer forces. Enough with the story though; lets kick some Nazi ass.
Breaking it down:
Call of Duty 3 has been reworked and reinvented this time around, following a more specific story and centered around a more cinematic approach due to Treyarch's design. Taking a few notes from Call of Duty: Big Red One, the team has added a ton of cinematic flair, with constant action surrounding the player at all times and the same solid gameplay mechanic as the previous games. Where the title sets itself apart form the other console versions is in the revamped FPS control. Working along the same lines as Metroid 3: Corruption, Call of Duty utilizes a bounding box that gives the player faster and more precise controls, very similar to a PC mouse and keyboard. When the cursor is in the middle of the screen, the player is still. Start moving the Wii-mote against an invisible bounding box, however, and you'll start to move your character's head as well. The farther from the center of the screen you move the controller, the faster you'll turn.
But does it work? That's the question on everyone's mind. After all, Call of Duty 3 got a huge graphical overhaul on the other next gen systems, so the game's control better be worth it, right? Well, the overall feel is definitely solid, but we wouldn't go as far as to say any and every player out there is going to enjoy it more than the traditional dual-analog setup. When you're in the heat of battle, the controller is amazing for snapping your head in a direction, sighting up while holding the A button, and then blasting a soldier with pixel-perfect precision. In that sense, it's a success. Still, there are a few control issues inherent in the FPS design at this point. While the ability to control turning speed is there, the sensitivity isn't as complex as we'd like it. Let us change the bounding box. Let us change the sensitivity of the cursor movement speed. Simply put, let us make the controls ours.
The controls work great when firing at a distance or navigating through large, wide open spaces. Where they lack a bit of finesse is in up-close combat. When at a range, players can quickly turn into any direction, sight in, and tweak their shot to deliver lethal blows with ease. When working in hallways or around staircases, however, it's difficult to move and turn at the same time, and the quick feel that we're used to in a dual-analog setup isn't quite there. Even still, the controls work well enough for us to genuinely enjoy Call of Duty on Wii, but we'd say they're at about 90 percent. The flaw with control relies entirely with how the head turns dependant on the body. To turn, you're moving your gun to sort of shove your head around. Bottom line: Call of Duty 3 is the most natural feeling FPS on Wii thus far, but there's still room for improvement.
As the other main change between Call of Duty 3 for Wii and the other next generation consoles is the execution of the in-game "battle actions" that have been added to further immerse players in the experience. Ranging from driving a car to rowing a boat or literally fighting a Nazi for his gun, the battle actions are all about alternate play forms on Wii, whereas they were broken down into button mashing and mini-games in the other versions. A few of the battle actions work very well, while others are nearly broken.
When using "Call of Duty driving" as Treyarch has called it, players will actually hold the Wii-mote and nunchuk controllers up like a steering wheel. To be totally honest, we were very skeptical about this one, since it relied on not only the Wii-mote but also the nunchuk to detect motion, and as it stands right now the nunchuk seems to be less reliable in the motion department for some reason. Still, Call of Duty 3's driving feels very natural and entertaining, and the change in hand position actually does a nice job of transitioning you into truly feeling like you moved from aiming a gun to actually driving a jeep into battle. The amount of analog on the control is solid, and the only letdown is the lack of force feedback on the nunchuk side (which is obviously a hardware issue).
When it comes to a few of the other battle actions though, the game has a few issues. Fighting a Nazi for his gun, for example, can be amazingly frustrating, as it isn't always the most responsive motion control. When going hand-to-hand with an enemy, players will have to hold both controllers horizontally - as if you're actually gripping a gun sideways - and jab forward and backward with the controllers. The sheer amount of energy that has to go into the wresting is far too much though, and countless times we'd shake the controllers and feel like it was some kind of cruel joke as the Nazi pulled the gun away and smashed us with it. Once the initial wrestle is completed, players have to make a two-handed slash with both controllers, and again the controllers aren't too responsive. There's nothing more frustrating than doing a motion and not seeing it represented. Good idea, just a lacking execution.
As a few other odds and ends about control, Call of Duty 3 has a few other areas it works to achieve immersion. When throwing grenades players can either chuck with a button press or with motion. We'd suggest using the button though, as the nunchuk controller didn't always sense our action when trying to throw. As another minor annoyance, some of the larger guns in the game move at a slower pace, so while you've been used to aiming with pixel-perfect precision, these situations will find you moving your hand a ton to aim a tank turret or .50 cal machine gun. It's just to slow, and it needs work.
As for the overall presentation of the game, Call of Duty 3 does a fine job, but it's seriously lacking in the graphical department. It isn't even fair to compare the game to its next-generation console counterparts. Actually, the visuals seems to fall somewhere between the Xbox and GCN versions of the title. Sure you'll still see planes flying overhead, lightning cracking during a storm and muzzle flashes in the dead of night, but everything has a generally low-res look to it, and it just isn't up to snuff visually.
As our final main gripe with the game, Treyarch didn't have time to include multiplayer, which is a huge part of the Call of Duty 3 experience on PS3 and Xbox 360. Not only is there no online included (faulted by Nintendo), there's also no split screen. While Call of Duty 3 on 360 puts up to 24 players against each other in a class-based team battle, Wii players will have only the single player missions to keep them busy, and when multiplayer is as amazing as it is in Call of Duty 3, not having anything for Nintendo fans is definitely a letdown.
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