Call of Duty 3
(Activision; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii)
Kids! You might be able to convince your parents to buy this game for you based on its historical content. It is virtually impossible to play without learning a bit about World War II. That's a nice side effect.
The latest incarnation of the popular Call of Duty first-person shooter series takes place in 1944 at the Normandy Breakout. American forces have already landed in France and are about to liberate Paris from the Nazis. The game does a great job of giving a bigger picture of the war than is often presented. Fourteen missions cover 88 days, culminating in the liberation of Paris. You play alongside platoons from Britain, Canada, and Poland. It's neat to hear a variety of languages while shooting brains out.
The graphics are nothing short of stunning. The smoke, trees, grass, and buildings are simply incredible. To get the full effect, you have to play on a high-definition TV, but even on a stone age set, the game is beautiful.
Although the game play is fairly straightforward, an array of modes and challenges keep things interesting. Fans of the series will have no problem jumping right into the action, and newcomers will be brought up to speed via a training mission at the start. The aiming system takes some getting used to and provides two options. The right trigger allows you to shoot from the hip. It's not too accurate, but it's quick. Pulling the left trigger brings the sights up to eye level and enables you to take precise shots. The trade-off is that while you're aiming, enemies have a clear shot at you. The game takes advantage of all the buttons on the controller, including the analog sticks. Pressing the right analog stick initiates a melee, while pressing the left brings up your binoculars. Those will pop up when you least expect them — as you're frantically manipuutf8g the stick to make an escape. It's a flaw in the control scheme. Or maybe it's a perfect simulation of how messed up combat situations can become.
Speaking of simulations, the game includes a challenge that has players trying to get through a level while being hit by fewer than 30 bullets. Who takes 30 bullets and calls that a success? The game would probably take weeks of nonstop play to complete if you weren't permitted to absorb a few slugs. Other challenges ask you to complete missions for assorted countries, work as a medic, drive a jeep, drive a tank, and arm explosives. The range of challenges and three difficulty levels make for a long shelf live.
The greatest aspect of Call of Duty 3 is the multiplayer game. A four-player split screen enables buddies to get rowdy at home, but the online universe is where things really get nuts. Xbox Live allows for as many as 24 players, four per Xbox, to play at once as warriors or medics, with the latter deciding whom to help and whom to ignore. Online stats are tracked, and players build their rank. The online play chain of command is determined by rank — pretty cool.
The sounds are as beautiful as the sights. A surround sound system is recommended, because it's insane hearing bullets whizzing by from behind. Star Trek composer Joel Goldsmith's orchestral score makes one wish everyday life were accompanied by one.
All in all, Call of Duty 3 is one hell of a game. For the full experience, buy a $4,000 HDTV and get on Xbox Live.