Also Available For: Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox
I know what you’re thinking: Why am I playing Call of Duty 3 when I haven’t played the first two? Well, it’s firstly because, to my great shame, I have to admit that I am not really a fan of the Call of Duty franchise (Various, 2003 to present), which has endured through multiple releases, spin-offs, and other related media over the years and collectively sold over 250 million copies. This is mainly due to two things: I’m not much for military-style shooters and my love for first-person games died out shortly after the release of Perfect Dark (Rare, 2000). A lot of this is due to my personal distaste for being shot in the back or by enemies I can’t see, struggling with the perspective and the controls, and generally just finding first-person shooters (FPS) difficult to navigate at the best of times. Also, a while ago I was gifted a copy of Call of Duty 3: Gold Edition for Xbox 360 and, having recently burned through the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Trilogy (Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Games, 2016) set that came with my console (and since it is “CoD Month” here on my site), I figured I’d pop the disc in and give it a go if only to see if my bias against the series was justified and to obtain a bunch of Achievements.
Like the first two Call of Duty titles, Call of Duty 3 takes place during World War Two, specifically in 1944 and featuring missions relating to the Battle of Normandy that have you taking control of various silent protagonists that make up the Allied Forces of the United States, Britain, Canada, and Poland.
Call of Duty 3 is a first-person shooter whose narrative is split between four different silent protagonists: Private Nichols of the American 29th Infantry Division, Sergeant James Doyle of the British Special Air Service (S.A.S.), Private Cole of the 4th Canadian (Armored) Division, and Corporal “Bohater” Wojciech of the Polish 1st Armored Division. While their mission objectives, weaponry, and resources differ, each character basically controls in the same way: you jump with the A button (an action that is largely useless), view distant targets through your binoculars by holding in the left analogue stick, switch weapons with Y, and reload with X.
By pressing B, players can either crouch, go prone, or stand upright and each of these stances will affect your speed, aim, and level of stealth. When standing upright, for example, you’re more likely to be hit by incoming gunfire so it’s best to crouch behind cover or go prone to be largely undetectable to the Nazis. Unlike in subsequent Call of Duty titles, there’s no option to dash here, which is a major drawback when trying to navigate through heavy gunfire or keep up with your squad, so I’m glad that the developers fixed this in the game’s sequel. Pressing in the right analogue stick allows you to melee enemies and you can toss grenades or smoke bombs with either the Left and Right Buttons, respectively. Aiming and shooting is performed the Left and Right Triggers and you can choose to either shoot from the hip or aim down the sights of your gun with the Left Trigger. Given that the game’s setting and weapons are far more antiquated than those in later Call of Duty titles, this can be problematic as you don’t have the aid of a laser sight and the in-game reticule is largely useless, meaning that it can be difficult to get a good shot at your target, especially when they’re effectively camouflaged by the drab environments.
As is largely the genre standard these days, you can recover your health by ducking behind cover and avoiding damage for a few seconds; you have to be mindful of your surroundings, though, as enemies are known to lob grenades at you and pop up out of nowhere to riddle you with bullets. The game also has an annoying tendency to endlessly spawn enemies into its environments until you reach specific points or objectives, so my usual tactic of clearing an area from a safe distance was largely ineffectual in this particular game. To help you head in the right direction, a compass sits in the bottom left of your heads-up display (HUD); this displays your allies, any enemies in the area, and a star marking your objective. Sadly, though, there’s no mini map and the compass doesn’t really take into account floors or layers, meaning it’s easy to get a bit lost and confused about how to progress (here’s a hint: try using your melee attack to break wood panels). Also, your objectives are only really accessible by pressing Select and they can often be a little too vague at times.
Gameplay is broken up a bit through the use of driving and tank sections; as Doyle, you’ll have to drive your team mates around in a jeep, avoiding Nazi soldiers, barricades, and tanks as you smash through gates and across fields and, as Bohater, you’ll get to control a tank, blasting at other tanks and soldiers. While the tank sections are fun, the jeep driving sections are not; the game defaults to a first-person view (which you can thankfully change by pressing in the right analogue stuck), the controls are both loose and slippery and clunky and stiff at the same time, and the compass is more of a hindrance than a help, especially in the mission where you drive around rescuing Maquis fighters. While stealth is an option in the game, it’s nowhere near as prominent as it would become in later Call of Duty titles. At the same time, the game features more quick-time events (QTEs) as Nazis will sometimes leap out at you and you’ll be forced to mash the shoulder buttons and then press a button to fend them off. The game is also a lot tougher than its successors, featuring far fewer checkpoints and much more durable enemies; these Nazis take a lot of bullets to put down, even on the game’s easier settings, making tasks such as holding out against their vast and infinitely-spawning forces a tall order in later sections of the game.
Graphics and Sound:
Despite rendering many of its locations with an impressive level of detail, Call of Duty 3 definitely shows its age even compared to its immediate follow-up. Character models are off, resembling action figures more than human beings, and the overall presentation of the game’s menus and various screens is bland and leaves a lot to be desired. A lot of this is exacerbated though the game’s use of in-game cutscenes, all of which are completely unskippable, which, while good for character and plot development, really don’t do the in-game graphics any favours.
I found a couple of amusing glitches at times, too, that betray the age of the game, such as Nazis running through mid-air, spazzing out half-in-and-out of walls, and blinking in and out of existence. Luckily, though, when playing the game proper, locations, weapons, and vehicles all still look pretty impressive. There’s a definite attention to detail in all of the environments and the way the weapons look and feel to really recreate the feeling of war-torn Europe during the height of the Nazi regime. I’m even far more understanding of the long reload times for certain weapons as it adds to the aesthetic of the period the game is recreating, though it’s still way too easy to get turned around or lost and overwhelmed by the ceaseless German troops that swarm every area.
Call of Duty 3 mostly makes use of period-fitting music and rousing military tunes to really set the tone for the game’s setting. Much of this is rendered mute during gameplay, however, when all you will hear is gunfire, explosions, and the inane dialogue of your team mates. There’s not a lot of variety here, sadly, as you’ll here the same shouts of “Move, move, move!” and “Germans in the open!” and “Outta here!” over and over again, to say nothing of the constant repeated yells from your Nazi foes. During cutscenes, it doesn’t get much better, with the Nazis constantly being referred to as “Jerry” (I get this was a popular slang term for them but having every single character refer to them in this way every single time got old really fast) and a great deal of xenophobia and paranoia on display from your team mates. While this is, again, probably very true to the way things were during World War Two, and it does serve as a character arc for one of your team mates, it’s more annoying than anything and I would have loved to have to option to skip these cutscenes.
Enemies and Bosses:
When you play Call of Duty 3, you’re playing to cut down Nazi scum left, right, and center with no remorse or hesitation. There are literally no other enemies to encounter here, no other members of the Axis Powers to go up against; it’s just hate-filled Nazis from start to finish.
Most of these are little more than cannon fodder to your superior weaponry and skills but their sheer numbers and nigh-unstoppable movement can still cut you to ribbons in seconds. This is aided by their ability to hide behind cover, jump out at you without warning, toss a Stielhandgranate at you, or bash at you with the butt of their rifles. Ordinarily, I like to clear areas of out enemies to make for easier progression but Call of Duty 3 doesn’t always let you do that as Nazis continually spawn in until you reach certain parts of the map; at the same time, though, if you spot a Nazi sniper or manning a machine gun, it’s best to take those guys out quickly or you won’t last long.
Call of Duty 3 doesn’t feature bosses in the traditional sense; perhaps the closest thing the game has to an actual boss is when you (as Bohater) have to awkwardly navigate your tank through a small village while exchanging shells with Richter, a Nazi tank ace known as the “Black Baron”. The rest of the time, you’ll be holding out against superior numbers, desperately trying to survive, plant explosives, or call in an air strike to fend off the Nazi invasion.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Due to Call of Duty placing a greater emphasis on realism compared to other FPS titles, there aren’t really any power-ups or bonuses to be found in Call of Duty 3 beyond the large array of weaponry made available to you. You’ll be wielding all kinds of World War Two-style guns and rifles, many of which I found burn through their ammo quite quickly and have small capacities, meaning you’ll be liberating fallen Nazis of their hardware as-and-when required.
You can only hold two weapons at a time, though, and it seems a lot of the opposition’s munitions are inferior to yours, so it becomes a question of strategy: do you grab a German rifle and risk being caught in a long reload cycle or do you stick with your American-made hardware and hope you have enough ammo? While there are vehicles to make use of, you’re relegated purely to driving duties when inside the jeep, which is a real shame as I much prefer shooting than driving. Luckily, Bohater and his tank are on hand to make up for that but, unfortunately, the game’s controls and environments are largely too clunky and awkward to really enjoy either experience.
Call of Duty 3 features a number of different difficulty levels that increase, or decrease, the game’s challenge and, of course, a bunch of Achievements. You’ll get a fair few of these simply by playing through the game’s main single-player campaign but others require you to fulfil certain tasks, such as throwing five grenades back at your enemies, driving off a ramp while in your jeep, avoiding damage, or using only German weapons.
Given that is an FPS title, Call of Duty 3 also includes a multiplayer component but, unfortunately, it’s only available to those with Xbox Gold so I wasn’t able to see if it’s still active. From what I can gather, though, it sounds like the standard player vs. player death match you can find in any other FPS title, though it seems like an odd decision to not include a split-screen multiplayer mode that you can play offline as well. If you have the Gold Edition of the game, it also comes with five free extra maps for this mode and a bonus DVD with making of features and interviews, if you like that sort of thing.
I’ll admit, it’s hard for me to get excited or interested in a Call of Duty title; they’re just not that interesting to me and all I wanted to do was burn through and grab the Achievements and call it a day but…man, Call of Duty 3 is not very good at all. It’s so weird how the very next game in the series is leaps and bounds above this one in terms of presentation, options, and accessibility. Obviously, you have to cut it some slack as it’s quite an old game now but, still…I found nothing in Call of Duty 3 that improved my view on the franchise and was more frustrated than anything thanks to the unskippable cutscenes, dodgy vehicle controls, near-useless compass/map system, constantly respawning enemies and graphical glitches, and the sheer mind-numbing repetitiveness of the game’s dialogue and gameplay and I can’t say I’m interested in seeing what the previous two titles were like after slogging through this mess.
What did you think of Call of Duty 3? Where does it stand in your ranking of the Call of Duty titles? Do you think I have committed the ultimate sacrilege by besmirching the good name of the Call of Duty franchise or do you agree that the series is somewhat over-rated and stagnated? Whatever you think, drop a comment below and be sure to check back next week for another Call of Duty review.