Call of Duty 3 Hands-On - Deeper Into Europe

Activision shows off a number of levels from all three next-gen versions of its WWII sequel, and we grabbed the controls to compare them all.

Activision released one of the most successful Xbox 360 games to date last year with Call of Duty 2, and now it's back with the third game in the popular World War II shooter series. As we've reported in our previous coverage, the game's development has been taken over by Treyarch from series creator Infinity Ward, and this time the action will focus on the Normandy Breakout campaign, which pushed from the Allied landing on D-day all the way to the liberation of Paris some weeks later. Call of Duty 3 is due on all the next-gen platforms--Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii--but until a recent Activision press event, we hadn't had the chance to see all three versions up and running simultaneously.

Having played all three games, we've gotten a feel for their relative merits, as well as the feel of Call of Duty 3 in general. Activision showed off different levels in each version, so we got to experience a broad cross-section of the sort of action the game will offer. In short, if you've played the previous Call of Duty games, you won't be terribly surprised by anything here, since the core conventions remain the same. Running from cover to cover, experiencing dramatic scripted events, using your iron sights to gun down Axis soldiers from afar--the gameplay here has remained basically the same from one installment to the next, which isn't really bad considering this series has consistently been among the most visceral and satisfying first-person shooters on the market.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, Treyarch has chosen to intensify the action elements that were already in place in past games. The team has promised a larger scope for the combat, and from what we saw during our time with the game, it seems to be delivering on those promises. In the Xbox 360 version, we played a mission in which we had to advance on an enemy position amidst a raging thunderstorm, trudging through a field filled with tall grass. It's not easy to make progress with the Germans raining fire down on you from up the hill, but luckily we had a tank on our side, and we had to keep close behind the tank and use it for cover as we moved along. On either side of us, we had allies scrambling through the cross fire, ducking behind cattle carcasses and diving among the individually modeled blades of grass in an effort to stay low.

Four Allied nationalities--American, British, Canadian, and Polish--are represented in Call of Duty 3's depiction of the Normandy Breakout campaign.

Later in the level, we met up with a larger squad of troops and moved through a path the tank had created toward our objective, which was a fortified Nazi position atop a small hill. But before we could move out into the clearing, a truck came roaring through the grass and exploded in front of us, kicking the firefight off with a bang. Once we got into the clearing, we found it extremely broad, with fortified machine gun positions along the top ridge. This area was large enough that when we died repeatedly trying to reach the top of the hill, we were able to attempt flanking either side of the enemy and using different routes to try out different strategies, before we finally found one that let us avoid enough of the cross fire to make it to the top and help take control of the hill. After cresting the hill, we were thrown to the ground and shell shocked by an incoming artillery blast, which initiated a first-person cutscene in which our allies had to drag us out, cursing our character's sorry butt all the way.

We spent the most time with the Xbox 360 demo and felt that it showcased Call of Duty 3's wider and busier levels most prominently. The PS3 demo level, the Forest, showed off a different sort of action. This one was a bit more linear, sending us down a heavily wooded corridor with Nazi soldiers hiding behind trees all along the way. We were fortunately armed with a scoped Springfield rifle, so we could pick off foes from a distance here, but the underbrush was so thick that going prone to steady our aim proved more trouble than it was worth. After intense tree-to-tree fighting, we finally reached the end of the level, where the Germans had dug trenches to establish a base and then populated it with far more soldiers than we thought we had a chance of realistically taking down.

You'll see nary a loading progress bar, as loading is covered up with a video mission briefing.

Some ballyhoo has been made of Call of Duty 3's seamless presentation of the Normandy Breakout campaign, which will have you playing as officers of the American, British, Canadian, and Polish forces in turn. The way this works is that you'll simply see a full-motion video briefing in place of the loading screen. In other words, as soon as one level is over, you'll move to a video showing maps and old footage that detail the particulars of your next mission, all while the data for that mission is streaming off the disc. So you won't actually be playing the game nonstop from start to finish, but you won't glimpse a loading bar, either, which will hopefully make the game feel more streamlined as you progress.

It's worth noting that the 360 and PS3 versions are identical in terms of content; the only difference we noticed is that you can thrust with the sixaxis controller on the PS3 to make your character do his melee attack (though you can still use the button if you want). The games looked quite similar, too, from what we could tell. The level of detail in the maps and characters has been noticeably ramped up from Call of Duty 2, such as with the aforementioned individual grass blades and rays of light filtering through the trees. The characters' facial expressions, clothing, and animations are also appreciably more realistic than in the past. You'd be hard pressed to say which version looks better, especially since they're both running in 720p resolution, but neither one is a slouch in the visual department.

The Wii version, as it turns out, is content-identical to the 360 and PS3 versions, for the most part. It's reasonable to expect that the relatively weaker system will have fewer enemies and simplified geometry in some parts, but in terms of storyline, basic level design, and so on, you're getting the same game across all three platforms. The Wii version naturally doesn't feature the extreme detail of the other versions, but it does play much like we're coming to expect first-person shooters to play on this unique new platform. Like Metroid Prime 3 and Red Steel, COD3 has you using the remote for fine aiming, and moving the cursor to the edges of the screen will make you turn. The analog stick on the nunchuk makes you move, and the various other buttons of the Wii's controllers let you perform other actions like ducking, jumping, and going to iron sights.

The Wii version will have scaled-down visuals but more realistic, motion-based controls to make up for it.

There are a few more motion controls available on the Wii. Thrusting the remote outward will perform your melee attack, while twisting it to the sides will make you lean. Finally, you can switch weapons by flicking the nunchuk to the side or throw a grenade by moving it in a tossing motion. The Wii level we played was Crossroads, which featured more-typical house-to-house fighting through a ruined, bombed-out village. When we entered one doorway, we engaged in one of Call of Duty 3's scripted hand-to-hand combat sequences, which have you struggling with an enemy soldier in a cinematic fashion. When we last saw one of these minigames on the Xbox 360, we had to merely hit the right buttons at the right time to succeed, but on the Wii, you'll actually have to hold the controllers out in front of you in a facsimile of the onscreen action and struggle as instructed by the game to save your skin and take down the bad guy.

Aside from this difference, the game played like you'd expect. All the core mechanics are the same here as in the PS3 and 360 versions--the difference is merely in how you interface with the game. Luckily, horizontal and vertical sensitivity adjustments were available in the build we played, so we could fine-tune the aiming to our liking, and afterward, we found the actual shooting gameplay to be more satisfying and skill-based than when played with a standard analog thumb stick. With the more flexible aiming, it became more realistic to switch to iron sights and squeeze off a quick headshot to take out that soldier just barely peeking over the barrier. We're looking forward to getting more time with this and other Wii games to get a better feel for this sort of unique FPS gameplay, which seems to approximate the feel of mouse aiming on the PC.

Online play was one of Call of Duty 2's most enduring strengths, and we got to try a few rounds of the third game's improved multiplayer mode on the Xbox 360 to see just how improved it is. This consisted of deathmatch on a typical village map and then a couple of rounds of capture the flag on a map called Eder Dam, which (as you'd expect) places each team's base at opposite ends of a large dam. You can run across the top of the dam or inside it, but the catch is, the middle section has taken artillery fire and there's a gaping hole you'll have to get around by jumping and inching along girders each time you cross.

The big news with COD3's multiplayer is that it's now class-based and features vehicles, Battlefield style. There are a number of classes available, from light and heavy infantry to sniper, antitank, and medic. This merely affects your initial weapons loadout, since you can pick up other players' weapons when they die to change it up. Each class has some special abilities, as well. As the sniper, we were able to sight in the enemy's flag base with our binoculars to call in an artillery strike--and then we died laughing when the kill list lit up with the name of nearly every member of the other team.

The class-based, vehicular multiplayer feels more robust than in past Call of Duty games.

The vehicles also add a madcap element to the multiplayer, such as the tank on the village map that let us savagely mow down infantry with impunity. That only lasted until one antitank player found a good vantage point from which to destroy us, though. On Eder Dam, a jeep with a mounted machine gun and a motorcycle with a sidecar were both available, which let us circumvent the dam entirely and get to the other side more quickly. They also made for some comical moments, especially since the hole in the top of the dam has a ramp on either side of it. At one point, we killed the driver of a motorcycle while he was on the opposite side of the dam, but even though the driver was dead, that didn't stop the momentum of the bike. It hit the ramp and came flying at us anyway, and it was all we could do to scramble out of the way before the runaway machine plowed over us.

With such an established franchise as Call of Duty, you don't want to make too many big changes to the core formula or you risk alienating the series' fan base. Thus Treyarch seems to have incrementally improved on all of the previous game's strong points, creating a sequel with the same flavor as the original but with enough new gameplay and increased realism that fans should find an incentive to enlist yet again. Call of Duty 3 is due out in early November on the Xbox 360, with the Wii and PlayStation 3 versions to follow thereafter.

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Discussion

260 comments
ps3_forsure
ps3_forsure

Kruegmeister could not have agreed with you more. very good point

DazKurupt
DazKurupt

The developers obviously didnt utilize the ps3's advantages . They just wanted to make the game across 3 platforms as simply as they could. Its Activision its run of the mill stuff.

perfect_chao
perfect_chao

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darklurker1
darklurker1

Kruegmeister: First of all, you need an HDMI cable if you want to use a PS3 in 1080p (plus its just easier to hook up). That costs atleast $60 and atleast $100 for a high quality cable. Secondly, you can actually get your hands on a 360 this year, something you can't say with PS3. XBLive is the best overall online service, Sony and Nintendo haven't even revealed their online gaming services yet. Although, I agree with you that M$ shafts 360 owners. Finally, I DONT WANT TO REPURCHASE ALL MY MOVIES AGAIN!!!! SCREW BLU-RAY AND SCREW HD-DVD!!! THERES NO GOOD MOVIES OUT FOR THOSE FORMATS AND I'D RATHER UPCONVERT MY DVDS!!!!! One thing you forget is that we know that 360 upconverts movies to 1080i so -$140 to 360 (I don't know if PS3 does it too although theres no reason why it can't)

Kruegmeister
Kruegmeister

Vektron11 You are wrong. My 360 was $399. The $299 version is worthless, no where to save your game and you cannot go online with the $299 version. Plus there are no HiDef Cables. If you compare the 2 systems the PS3 is a better value. Here is my total. 360 $399 XboxLive $49 (EVERY YEAR) I am on my second year $99 I am not getting the HD-DVD $199 (Minimum) Need the hard drive for this too. PS3 is $499 and includes BluRay, 20Gig hard drive and the Online is Free. Now lets get into Backwards compatibility. It cost me over $100 to transfer my game saves for my XBox games, of the few that are backwards compatible. Still waiting for over half my collection to become backwards compatible. The PS3 will be 99% backwards compatible. I have given up on my 360 because I am afraid when the next Xbox comes out Microsoft is going to stick it to me again. Except for Halo3 (must have halo3). You have to be on Drugs to think the 360 is a better Value. I own one it is not a better value. Here is Apples to Apples comparison System + Nextgen DVD + Online + Backwards Comp + Wireless 360 $399 + $199 + $49/yr + $100 sucks too + $99 PS3 1 $499 PS3 2 $599 The 360 is above is $846 plus $49 EVERY YEAR YOU OWN IT !!!!! The PS31 does not have the Wireless built in so if you need it you get the $599 version and you get a 60Gig harddrive instead of 20Gig in the other 2. $850 is better how? Who is overpriced? Microsoft is!

SimmySamSam
SimmySamSam

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

fastgamer01
fastgamer01

Vektron11 the ps3 is not under valued if you can get a £279 xbox and a £100 hd dvd drive it works out more than the core ps3 and it cant play 1080p yet either metal gear four will make gears of war seem like childsplay god knows how much microsoft will charge for a 60gb if its £69 for 20gb

Vektron11
Vektron11

Like to correct you there PS24EVR, but read Electronic Gaming Monthly's preview on COD3 and they say that the PS3 version will have more lighting effects and more "advanced physics". Thats funny, didn't they just say each version looks the same? PS3 is overpriced and undervalued. The 360 will reign king and put Sony six feet under. Ohh, and one more thing, Gears of War will destroy any and all PS3 launch titles. Mark my words.

PS24EVR
PS24EVR

Well for those saying that the Sony's BluRay is worhless please rememberthat COD3 was created equally for all machines the only differeances are the controls for the Wii and the PS3 . And also the Wii is graphically downgraded to run on it. As for Blu Ray just wait for some of the Games being created solely for the PS3 like Resistance and MGS4 they will take full use of the loads of storage that BluRay gives them. Also I must say I didn't preorder COD3 for the PS3 because I want the rumble feature which is present on the 360 version the Games I preordered were Resistance and Mobile Suit. I thought about Genji but not sure yet whether I want a Onimashu lookalike. I wish Motorstorm and GTHD was being released with the system. Also Keep in Mind that it is sad that the 360 is on its second game release and that Sony's First Game Releases look the same as theirs. I may pick up the Wii version of COD 3 in the future when it drops in price just to try the remote with it. Thanks Peace Joe

piecake
piecake

360 is the way to gooo

SimmySamSam
SimmySamSam

lancerVI and yawnannataco, ur both wrong about the wii. the ps3 version will be the best. it will have the graphics, the tilt gameplay, and the online. the wii will have the tilt gameplay.... sure it will be fun to play on the wii, but no online like i said before is a shot in both feet if you ask me.

yawannataco
yawannataco

I think we cann all agree the real winner here is the wii, so long as you don't value gameplay over graphics.

Yupper3D
Yupper3D

Hmm, I was expecting the PS3 to present noticeable better graphics than the XBOX360. I guess the price tag does not mean better graphics. Well at least on this game.

vjso2
vjso2

Call of duty 3 is going to be great on Wii and 360. Nobody except rich people are going to play it on PS3 so I can't judge whether it will be good on PS3 or not.

R3DN1N3
R3DN1N3

Call of Duty 3 looks great! Xbox 360 reporting for duty!

TomN0
TomN0

well said ninpo_osa. Come on gamespot when i read all the detail for the 360 version i thoguht finally Ps3 will have a good review and then we get the whole ' the ps3 level was different' and 'we spent most ove our time on the 360 version. WHY!!! tthe console has been out for a year then you have the chance to play on the latest console but no I WONDER WHY really gamespot dont make it so back stabbing.

soldierofww2
soldierofww2

lol 2 systems, 2 different games, hard to choose.... this this a good price thing? a xbox360, a game(CoD3), a LCD monitor or some kind of HD tv under $400, and XBL--------------- OR! a ps3, a game, and that is all...

RandX
RandX

Will the PS3 be broadband only Online ?? What does the Mic look like for the PS3 ?? - does it plug into a usb port or the standerd imput like the 360 Mic. Is the Kill Cam in this game ?? Which was Cod3 mastered on ?? ( then ported to which systems ) /or was ths game made for the systems at the same time, which seems unliky... What RPM does the PS3 HD run at ??/ and RPM for the 360 HD If you know any of that info please respond here. HERE IS A TECH TREAT PS3 http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/power/library/pa-fpfxbox/ http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/aug06/4256 XBOX360 http://hardware.teamxbox.com/articles/xbox/1144/The-Xbox-360-System-Specifications/p1 http://interviews.teamxbox.com/xbox/1190/Xbox-360-Interview-Todd-Holmdahl/p1/ The CoD3 offical Xbox360 game forums are up http://forums.xbox.com/558/ShowForum.aspx

soldierofww2
soldierofww2

Wait, dou have to pay online to DL mappacks and other good features for CoD3 on 360 and PS3?

_Sam_
_Sam_

I really liked the previous games

Ninpo_Osa
Ninpo_Osa

"In the Xbox 360 version, we played a mission in which we had to advance on an enemy position amidst a raging thunderstorm, trudging through a field filled with tall grass. It's not easy to make progress with the Germans raining fire down on you from up the hill, but luckily we had a tank on our side, and we had to keep close behind the tank and use it for cover as we moved along. On either side of us, we had allies scrambling through the cross fire, ducking behind cattle carcasses and diving among the individually modeled blades of grass in an effort to stay low." --------------------------------------------------------- "The PS3 demo level, the Forest, showed off a different sort of action. This one was a bit more linear, sending us down a heavily wooded corridor with Nazi soldiers hiding behind trees all along the way." Weak sauce. Spending an entire paragraph giving a good description of one version and then bashing the other? Has it really come to this, Gamespot? Thanks for a whole lot of nothing.

4esth
4esth

"You'd be hard pressed to say which version looks better, especially since they're both running in 720p resolution, but neither one is a slouch in the visual department. " What's the benefit of blu-ray here?

murlow12
murlow12

You heard it here first: the controls are better and more intuitive on the Wii, but the graphics are better on the other consoles. Not a big suprise, just confirmation of what we all expected.

pcanepa
pcanepa

well. i say xbox 360 since the system cost less and the online is guaranteed to be better. come on, ps3 sounds like a good system buts it too much money... 600 dollars is crazy, i rather get the wii for 250 and buy me a whole bunch of games. both same graphics, ps3 not worth it then. plus we got the camera now too so we can interact better online with our fellow gamers. i cant wait for call of duty 3. o yeah and for those who are gana get gears of war lemme know so we can rock. take care.

soldierofww2
soldierofww2

so 360 or ps3? ps3 for free online and tilt.... 360 for good FPS controller and good XBL. which one?!

fshrmn419
fshrmn419

COD3 isn't that special and if you think that the ps3 version has better graphics you obviously did not read the article for this particular game.

JBiker51
JBiker51

COD3 for the 360 is where I want to be, which isn't with Sony, with the Giant Enemy Crab didilydee.

oosoup2
oosoup2

i cant wait to play clans competitively again

StumpyTrash
StumpyTrash

I own a 360 but the Wii's gameplay has me thinking it might be better on that system. My relatives are going broke this Christmas! lol

Sharvie
Sharvie

Bring on COD3 for the 360

Elwor
Elwor

I am getting the game for Wii:)

Keith4RFC17
Keith4RFC17

Couldnt care less which version was the better because im getting COD3 for the Xbox 360 and even if the PS3 version was better whats the chances of anyone waiting that long to get it especially if you live in europe

Maj_Wood
Maj_Wood

that was one honkin BAR and I do prefear the COD 2 health system it was more realistic than COD3's appears to be

SimmySamSam
SimmySamSam

This looks awesome. Its funny how fast it came out after COD2 haha! I bet the PS3 version will be the best with the tilting and multiplayer. the Wii version would be but no multiplayer is a shot in the foot. And the Xbox 360... well its COD2 ramped up a little on that. i'll be picking this one up for my PS3 for all my nazi killing needs!

glennwinton
glennwinton

ok, trigun123, you are completely wrong about all versions being all the same, look at the Wii version, its graphics aren't as good, and the there won't be as many enemy's on the screen at on time, but the controls are goning to be completely different from the other versions, while the ps3 and xbox 360 versions play almost identical, also your wong about games on all platforms being the same gecause the people might get mad, i remember splinter cell caos threoy, the xbox had the best while the ps2 version was ok, and the gamecube version was terrible wheather or not the differnt versions are good depends on weather or not the developers think it worth it or not(for some reason most third party developers do like the gamecube) and who there target audience is( most ppl believe the gamecube is for little babys, they are completely wrong)and the developers of COD3 knew that all versions needed to be good(well i hope anyway, it hasnt come out yet)

TheVelvet
TheVelvet

frankeyser, That is hilarious. That is just what I needed to start off my day.

frankeyser
frankeyser

amaranth_aeon akruan Why is Sonic the Hedgehog on the list of similar games? -_- Because Sonic is a hidden playable character in COD3. His spinning attack allows him to bounce from nazi to nazi while dodging their bullets. It's common knowledge that blue hedgehogs were a key asset for the Allied forces during WWII. As was Captain America, of course. didnt sopme ice guy help out also? he was one of the first captain americas buddies. got ate buy an ice worm. hard to remember it was so long ago i read that comic.

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

ROLF on the sonic Part ~~~~1!!!! go gamespot ftl *cough FTW

andre_rappa
andre_rappa

amaranth_aeon, that was frikkin awesome....what an imagination...lol

predator1015
predator1015

Wow. This looks Awsome. I'll wait for the PS3 version though simply cuz of the meelee attack. (And probably better graphics) Thanx 4 the update gamespot!

GaseousSnake007
GaseousSnake007

Can't wait for this, sniping guys out of jeeps with your teams flag is what makes United Offensive so much fun. :)

amaranth_aeon
amaranth_aeon

akruan Why is Sonic the Hedgehog on the list of similar games? -_- Because Sonic is a hidden playable character in COD3. His spinning attack allows him to bounce from nazi to nazi while dodging their bullets. It's common knowledge that blue hedgehogs were a key asset for the Allied forces during WWII. As was Captain America, of course. :D

blackIceJoe
blackIceJoe

COD3 is sounding really good. I can't wait until I get my hands on this game.

akruan
akruan

Why is Sonic the Hedgehog on the list of similar games? -_-

FreezAJ
FreezAJ

Hell Yeah at Trigun123!

Chaos_Daro
Chaos_Daro

It kinda sucks for PC gamers having to miss out on this game an' all. And are people seriously still getting the PS3? I thought people would have come to their senses by now. Oh, well.