Game Corner: Call of Duty: Black Ops (Xbox 360)


Released: 2010
Developer: Treyarch
Also Available For: Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 3

The Background:
It’s the final week of “CoD Month” here on my site. So far, I’ve played all three titles in the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Trilogy (Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Games, 2016), Call of Duty 3 (Treyarch, 2006), and Call of Duty: World at War (ibid, 2008) and I’ve been less than impressed with what I’ve seen so far. For the longest time, I’ve never been much of a fan of the Call of Duty titles (Various, 2003 to present), mainly because I don’t really get on with first-person shooters (FPS) at the best of times. The perspective can be difficult to judge, enemies shoot at you from nowhere, and I just find them (especially military shooters) quite generic and uniform and, so far, the Call of Duty games I’ve played haven’t done much to change my views. World at War was probably the one I enjoyed the most and, it turned out, spawned a spin-off series for the Call of Duty franchise that continued with this title. Black Ops was another title that happened to come with the Xbox 360 I bought a while back and I’ve heard a lot of positive things about this title, especially, among all the Call of Duty games. So, one last time, I sat down to plough through one more Call of Duty game simply for the Achievements and to see if my personal bias could be swayed.

The Plot:
Sixteen years after the events of World at War, the United States and the Soviet Union are locked in a “Cold War” that moved warfare away from the trenches and towards more clandestine operations. Black Ops revolves around the discovery of “Nova-6”, a deadly chemical weapon that is in the hands of several Russian sleeper agents placed across the globe, and the race against time to locate, isolate, and destroy it before it can kill millions.

Call of Duty: Black Ops is a first-person shooter that sees you in the role of SAD/SOG operative Captain Alex Mason; unlike the other Call of Duty games I’ve played so far, you primarily control Mason throughout the game’s campaign but, at various times, you’ll also play as CIA paramilitary operations officer Jason Hudson. Also in a change from the previous Call of Duty titles I’ve played, Black Ops’ protagonists are actually vocal, talking during gameplay and in cutscenes, which is a nice change of pace.

Call of Duty‘s control scheme was pretty standard by this point.

When it comes to the controls, you know the story by this point and nothing is really different here: you reload with X, jump with A (still as useless as ever unless you’re vaulting over walls), switch weapons with Y, and sprint for a bit by holding in the left analogue stick. Grenades and other explosives are tossed with the Left and Right Buttons, you aim and shoot with the Left and Right Triggers, respectively, and can shoot wildly from the hop or try to be a bit more accurate but pulling on the Left Trigger to aim down your sights. Pressing B allows you to assume one of three stances: standing, crouching, or prone, each of which alters your aim and ability to be stealthy or open to enemy fire.

There’s no regenerating your haz-mat suit so stay out of gunfire!

Health still automatically replenishes when you avoid enemy fire, and you still get a generous amount of checkpoints to help you reload when you’re inevitably blown up by a random grenade but Black Ops mixes things up a bit by having a few missions where your health “bar” doesn’t really mean shit: the first is when you pilot vehicles (such as the Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter and an attack boat) and the vehicle’s damage doesn’t auto-repair and the second is when you (as Hudson) must walk through a cloud of Nova-6 in a haz-mat suit. As you take damage, the suit cracks and doesn’t auto-heal so you’re at risk of being exposed to the deadly nerve agent if you linger too long or rely on the traditional auto-heal mechanics, which is actually a nice touch and harkens back to FPS games of old where auto-healing wasn’t a thing.

Mason’s plight is a central part of the game’s narrative.

A helpful mini map is located at the top left of your heads-up display (HUD); this shows your location, the location of your allies, enemies, and the direction of your objective. Maybe I’m just used to them by this point but I actually found this mini map quite useful as it actually gives you a far better idea of the layout of your current area and where you need to go. As always, the game isn’t all just mindless shooting; in fact, story plays a major role in Black Ops. Having a vocal protagonist really helps with this and Mason is right in the middle of the Russian’s plot to gas their Capitalist enemies as he was captured and brainwashed by the Soviets; the narrative is framed by several cutscenes wherein Mason is interrogated by US personnel regarding his actions and the action frequently cuts away to more of these scenes. Sadly, these cutscenes can’t always be skipped; sometimes, you’re able to skip them by holding the A button but you’ll have to sit through a fair few which is annoying on repeated playthroughs.

Black Ops also sees you piloting helicopters and driving attack boats.

Also breaking up the action are a variety of other gameplay sections; there’s the vehicle-based ones I mentioned above which are basically similar to the tank- and helicopter-based missions of previous games but actually much more enjoyable. When controlling the Hind, you both pilot the craft and shoot with a machine gun and missiles; while it’s quite difficult to manoeuvre and get a good bead on targets (especially other helicopters), it’s still quite fun to be up in the air and have a greater field of view. The boat mission is pretty much exactly the same as a tank-based mission from World at War except you’re on a boat, in the water, and it’s night-time in the jungle; the boat is still a bit slippery and awkward to control but it’s fun just wrecking shit up with its armaments.

Guide your ground team from the air and then infiltrate with stealth.

One mission also sees you inside of an SR-71A aircraft; from here, you’ll use a thermal radar to direct your ground forces and then switch down to them to clear out the opposition. Once the mission switches to the ground proper, you’ll have to rappel down to a facility and utilise the same stealth tactics seen in the previous games to progress further. Stealth also plays a big part in another mission where you must first avoid an overhead helicopter, silently dispatch of two guards, and then infiltrate a Soviet missile based while wearing their uniforms. As dark and grave as World at War was, Black Ops is even more so. The game opens with Mason escaping from a desolate Soviet prison where he reconnects with Viktor Reznov from the previous game; Reznov’s edict is literally burned into Mason’s mind as he finds himself compelled to assassinate a number of Axis scientists throughout the game’s narrative. Oh, and did I mention that you end up going to Vietnam? Well…you do. Similar to how the Japanese elements made the last game more brutal and affecting, seeing the Viet-Cong charge blindly into gunfire and try to slice your throat out is legitimately jarring, almost as much as them capturing Mason and his comrades and forcing them to play Russian Roulette!

Graphics and Sound:
Building upon the level of detail seen in World at War, Black Ops is probably the darkest, grittiest, and most detailed of the series thus far (at least, of the ones that I’ve played). Character models continue to be the weakest aspect but it’s easily forgiven when you realise how detailed and elaborate many of the game’s locations are: the Vorkuta Gulag isn’t just a desolate, rust-filled prison; it’s a desolate, rust-filled prison in the middle of a snow-swept landscape that is perfect for a high-speed motorcycle escape to a train. Khe Sanh, and Vietnam in general, is rendered with a horrifically affecting realism that really captures the humid and horrific conditions of that particular conflict and stands in start contrast to the dark urban landscapes you run through in Kowloon City.

The game’s attention to detail and voice cast is just as good as ever.

Voice work is even more important than ever to Black Ops because it actually features a speaking protagonist; Sam Worthington (remember when he was a thing?) takes centre stage as the tortured and haunted Mason, Gary Oldman returns as the revolutionary Reznov, and even Ed fuckin’ Harris shows up to voice Hudson. I also took much greater note of the music in this Call of Duty title; there’s a foreboding, heavy feel to the tunes of this game alongside the traditional stirring military melodies and, in true Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979) fashion, the troops stationed in Vietnam like to blast the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” at full volume in their base camp and when blowing enemy encampments to smithereens.

Enemies and Bosses:
Like World at War, Call of Duty: Black Ops has far more enemy variety than in the previous titles. Rather than simply gunning down Nazis, you’ll mostly be clashing with Soviets, Vietnamese, and even British Commandos. As always, these enemies are formidable thanks to their flagrant use of cover, melee, and explosives to whittle your health to nothing in no time at all.

Storm the Rusalka to end the threat of Nova-6.

While bosses aren’t really a thing in Black Ops, when flying the Hind, you’ll come up against a couple of enemy attack choppers that must be destroyed before you can progress and, when in your attack boat, you’ll specifically have to trade shots with another boat to complete the mission. When joining the assault on the Rusalka, you’ll have to provide cover fire from your attack chopper and also bring down another enemy Hind, before eventually confronting and killing Nikita Dragovich, one of the key minds behind Nova-6, in a quick-time event.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As with other games in the series, Black Ops is going for realism over the more flamboyant aspects of other FPS titles so the closest thing you’ll get to upgrades is when you are able to call in air strikes, take control of armoured vehicles, or happen across an armoury.

Blow enemies into flaming chunks or cut them down with duel pistols.

Despite this, and the setting of the game, Black Ops has some pretty nifty weapons on hand for you to use; though you’re still limited to only having two at a time, some of the stand-outs for me were the Franchi SPAS-12, a pump-action shotgun that can also fire incendiary rounds, the Python (a high impact .357 Magnum), and the Beretta Model 682, all of which are great for close-quarters dismemberment. You can also grab a crossbow (that can also fire explosive arrows) and a couple of nifty grenade and rocket launchers, like the “China Lake” and the M72 LAW, and even duel-wield pistols and smaller submachine guns at various points.

Additional Features:
As with the other Call of Duty titles, you can choose to play on a number of different difficulty settings and earn a fair amount of Achievements. These are generally earned after clearing missions in the main solo campaign but also pop with when find all of the Intel hidden throughout the game, complete certain missions with certain weapons, kill a certain amount of enemies in certain ways, or slaughter some poor, innocent test monkeys as quickly as possible. Multiplayer returns in Black Ops but, this time, you’re able to set-up a multiplayer match against computer-controlled opponents, meaning I was actually able to experience a Call of Duty free-for-all deathmatch for the first time. When in this mode, you can select or create a class where you customise your weapon loadouts, perks, and other aesthetics, which is a nice touch, and you can tweak the level of difficulty of your computer-controlled foes but I was absolutely owned by the computer even on the easiest setting and found it was little more than a standard deathmatch.

The “Zombies” modes continue to be a lot of fun.

Returning from World at War is the “Zombies” sub-game wherein you must try to survive for as long as possible against endless waves of zombies in a variety of maps; one of these has you playing as John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Robert McNamara, and Fidel Castro in a fantastic piece of ridiculousness that is massively at odds with Call of Duty’s more serious tone…and I love it! The more zombies you kill, the more points you earn to spend on fortifying your defences, unlocking new areas, or accessing better weapons but the best part about the “Zombies” mode in this game is the inclusion of Dead Ops Arcade, a top-down arcade title that plays very similar to Smash TV (Williams, 1990) and Dead Nation (Housemarque/Climax Studios, 2010) and was honestly the most fun I’ve had playing a Call of Duty title.


The Summary:
Call of Duty: Black Ops was far more enjoyable for me than any of the Modern Warfare titles and a fine follow-up to World at War but I still find myself largely unimpressed. If anything, it’s annoying that it took this long for the series to feature a speaking protagonist right from the get-go but, while the game is better for it, I didn’t find Mason particularly compelling; you can see the big twist in his narrative coming a mile away (thanks in no small part to the constant cutscenes that jerk you abruptly from the gameplay to slap you in the face with the twist before it’s revealed), it’s outrageous to me that he was allowed back into active service after the big reveal, and the idea of chemical attacks or sleeper agents isn’t exactly new by any stretch of the imagination. Still, by taking everything that worked in the Modern Warfare games and in World at War and applying them in a more intimate story with greater stakes, Black Ops actually worked for me on a level the other Call of Duty titles didn’t. It helped a lot that areas were far more recognisable, varied, and interesting, that the locations were unique and engaging, and that the developers included Dead Ops Arcade and so many recognisable political figures happily blowing holes in zombies.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think of Call of Duty: World at War? Where does it rank for you compared to the other 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, please do leave a comment below and come back for more content and reviews in the near future.

Game Corner: Call of Duty: World at War (Xbox 360)


Released: 2008
Developer: Treyarch
Also Available For: Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 3

The Background:
At this point, I have played four Call of Duty (Various, 2003 to present) titles and I have to say that, so far, I am less than impressed with any of them, and the series in general. Before I played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Trilogy (Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Games, 2016), I had little to no interest in Activision’s long-running franchise (that kicked off its first spin-off with this title) primarily because I don’t really like military-style shooters and my love for first-person games died out shortly after Perfect Dark (Rare, 2000). Admittedly, a lot of this is due to my personal bias against 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. However, when I bought my Xbox 360, it came with a couple of Call of Duty titles, one of which was this one and, since I’m doing “CoD Month” on my blog for January and I would hate to waste the G associated with the game, I sat down and rushed through it mainly to see if my bias against the series was justified and to obtain a few extra Achievements.

The Plot:
Despite Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Treyarch, 2007) bringing the series into the then-modern day, World at War returns the plot to World War Two, specifically focusing on the Pacific and Eastern Front skirmishes between the Allied Forces of the United States and Europe against the Axis Powers of Japan, the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany.

Call of Duty: World at War is a first-person shooter that casts you in the role of Private/ Private First Class C. Miller of the United States Marine Corps’ 1st Marine Division, Private Dimitri Petrenko, and Petty Officer Locke. While each character’s narrative sees them fulfilling different objectives in different parts of the world (or at different parts of the same location), each controls exactly the same and just like the characters in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The A button lets you jump and vault over walls, Y switches weapons, X reloads, and pressing in on the left analogue stick sees you break out into a finite sprint.

The controls are exactly as established in the Modern Warfare trilogy.

Pressing the B button allows you to either crouch, go prone, or stand to avoid or engage with enemy gunfire while pressing in the right analogue stick allows you to melee kill enemy soldiers. You can toss a variety of grenades and other explosives with the Left and Right Buttons and aim and shoot with the Left and Right Triggers, respectively. Again, you can either shoot somewhat wildly from the hip or snap to the nearest target and aim down the sights of your gun by pulling on the Left Trigger and, similar to Call of Duty 3 (Treyarch, 2006) this can be problematic as you’re aiming without the assistance of modern technology such as laser sighting. As is largely the standard for FPS titles, your health will automatically recover once you avoid damage for a few seconds; the more damage you incur, the longer it will take to replenish. There are a number of checkpoints in the game for when you do inevitably die, though, and there’s plenty of cover for you to duck behind but you have to keep your wits about you as your enemies won’t hesitate to throw a grenade at you or come charging at you head-first with their bayonet drawn.

The action is broken up by some intense missions involving assassination and dog-fighting.

A helpful radar/mini map combination sits in the bottom left of your heads-up display (HUD); this shows you the location of your allies, enemies, and a star marking your objective. Should you forget your objectives, you can bring them up at any time by pausing the game, which you may have to do from time to time as the game can be both painfully linear and frustratingly unclear at times; if you miss a vague order from one of your team mates, you may find yourself shredded to pieces or blow up before you even know what it is you’re supposed to be doing or where you’re meant to be aiming or directing your air strike. Gameplay is broken up a bit through the use of vehicle sections: as Miller, you’ll call in air strikes and jump on a small tank-like vehicle and use remote-controlled rocket strikes to destroy enemy tanks; Petrenko meets up with Sergeant Viktor Reznov in Stalingrad (who promptly wastes a lot of your time lecturing you about the finer arts of sniping and the evils of General Heinrich Amsel) and is tasked with performing a tricky assassination; and Locke later pilots a PBY Catalina flying boat to shoot down Japanese planes and ships.

World at War is probably the darkest of the Call of Duty‘s I’ve played.

Overall, the game is far more intense and gritty than the other titles I’ve played; for one thing, the Japanese troops you encounter are far more sadistic and aggressive than those of previous titles, leaping up from hidden bunkers, charging at you head-first, and even detonating themselves and your own dead comrades. Similar to the controversial airport mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (ibid, 2009), you’ll also accompany Reznov to Berlin and murder a whole bunch of injured and surrendering German soldiers, which is a bit disturbing. A similar event occurs at Shuri Castle, where Japanese troops appear to surrender and instead assassinate one of your team mates with grenades!

Graphics and Sound:
Call of Duty: World at War is the best of both worlds in this regards as it takes the classic World War Two setting of the original games and applies the modern coat of paint the series had received in Call of Duty 4; this means, again, that locations are recreated with a fantastic level of detail and, thanks to the fact that we travel to more exotic locations (Makin Island, Peleliu, Okinawa, and the Reichstag among others), actually make this game far more visually interesting than its predecessors.

Gore is plentiful in World at War.

While character models are still the weakest part of the game, they’re largely garbed in elaborate camouflage outfits or rugged guerrilla outfits that, again, help them to stand out compared to their more uniformed Nazi counterparts but also against their environments. Also, unlike previous games in the series thus far, enemies can be dismembered by your shots; arms and legs will blow off, chests will be blown apart, and large pools of blood accompany the many dead bodies you’ll leave in your wake. Again, though, locations, weapons, and vehicles still have the same high level of attention to detail I’ve come to associate with these games that really emphasises how desolate and horrific the Second World War was.

Gary Oldman reassumes his famous Russian accent to bring Reznov to life.

Call of Duty: World at World really brings the big guns to its vocal performances thanks to the inclusion of Gary Oldman as Reznov and Kiefer Sutherland as Corporal Roebuck. Of all the Call of Duty titles I’ve played so far, I had the least amount of issues with World at War’s dialogue; it wasn’t fully of overly macho “Hoo-rah!” or military slang like the Modern Warfare games but also wasn’t repetitive and annoying like in Call of Duty 3, though it still sticks to the stirring military tunes that pepper these games.

Enemies and Bosses:
Call of Duty: World at War has far more variety in the types of enemies you’ll encounter than the other Call of Duty games I’ve played in that you’ll battle both Japanese troops and Nazis this time around. Generally, the enemies you come up against are just as wily as ever; hiding behind cover, tossing grenades at you, and bashing you with their weapons whenever you get close but the Japanese troops are on another level entirely. The Japanese are aggressive, suicidal maniacs who burst out from hidden bunkers in the fields, clamber up and snipe at you from trees, charge at you head-first screaming “Banzai!” and trying to skewer you, or simply blow themselves up to kill you and your comrades. They also don’t hesitate to rush at you in waves upon waves, clambering over their fallen brethren to get to you, and force you into a quick-time event whenever they try and grapple with you.

The game’s final mission sees you storming the Reichstag.

As always, you won’t really come up against boss battles in the traditional sense. You’ll need to make use of air strikes and heavier weaponry to take out tanks and enemy placements and protect some naval ships from kamikaze pilots, which is about as deep as that gets, and the game’s final mission sees you (as Petrenko) storming the Reichstag in a bid to liberate it from Nazi control. This was easily one of the most frustrating and tiresome missions in the game as you have to disable some anti-tank guns, wipe out the ground forces who pop up out of nowhere, have the high ground, and throw grenades at you, and then try to not get crushed by a falling column or roasted alive by a flamethrower-wielding Nazi.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Call of Duty has always placed a greater emphasis on realism compared to other FPS games and, as a result, your power-ups are largely limited to the lovingly-recreated weaponry and vehicles made available to you. As always, you’re limited to holding only two weapons at a time, some more suitable than others. Given the setting of the game, you’ll often find yourself running through and clearing out trenches, so you might need to Trench Gun or the shotgun to make bloody corpses of your opposition. The Panzerschreck is perfect for taking out tanks and enemy aircraft and you can make use of Molotov Cocktails and flamethrowers to roast your enemies alive if you’re feeling particularly sadistic.

Jump in the tank and wreck some Nazi shit!

You also get to jump into a flame tank and use its cannon to blast Nazi bunkers, tanks, and towers while roasting soldiers with its flamethrower and pilot a PBY-5A Catalina aircraft to shoot down Japanese fighters. One thing I did like about this mission was that you had to constantly switch from the front, back, and side turrets as the mission progressed and you really got a sense of the claustrophobic space in this small aircraft but actually shooting at and hitting your targets (especially the planes) as a tall order thanks to the game’s less-than-helpful aiming reticule.

Additional Features:
Call of Duty: World at War features a number of different difficulty settings for you to play on, each one affecting the challenge in different ways, in addition to a number of Achievements. The majority of these can’t be missed as they’re tied to story progression but others will have you performing more specific tasks, like air bombing a certain number of enemies, burning soldiers out of trees, or completing a sniper assassination with a handgun. If you explore your environment well enough, you’ll also find Death Cards attached to makeshift graves; find all of these and you’ll get another Achievement and special gameplay options for the game’s co-operative mode. As with its predecessors, World at War features a multiplayer component that I wasn’t able to fully explore since I don’t have Xbox Gold. It also features a co-operative mode, however, that allows two players to player through the main campaign at the same time, which is a nice touch and I wonder why this wasn’t incorporated until the fifth game in the series. Brand new to the series, though, is the game’s “Nazi Zombies” mode in which up to four players are forced to survive against endless waves of Nazi zombies in a variety of maps. The more zombies you kill, the more points you earn to spend on fortifying your defences, unlocking new areas, or accessing better weapons. While an interesting mode to include, I can’t say that it hooked me too much as you have to play and grind quite a bit to get the most out of it but it’s a nice breath of fresh air after the game’s more sombre main campaign and I wonder how I would feel about an entire Call of Duty game in this vein.


The Summary:
Of all the Call of Duty games I’ve played so far, World at War is probably the best but that’s still not really saying much. The game makes use of all the improvements brought to the series in Call of Duty 4 and applies them to a truly horrific time in the Second World War, offering a greater visual variety to the locations and enemies you’ll encounter. The inclusion of a couch co-op mode and the zombie survival game is a nice touch and I felt this did a much better job at presenting an appealing, intuitive, and coherent military shooter than Call of Duty 3 but, at the same time, it’s still not very innovative. There’s an “x factor” that is just missing for me, mainly because of how bland even this game’s more exotic locations appear. The zombie mode had more promise as it was skewing towards the ridiculous; I get that Call of Duty is a far more serious FPS title, though, but, for me, it’s just not as much fun as other FPS games.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think of Call of Duty: World at War? Where does it rank for you compared to the other 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, please do leave a comment below and come back next Wednesday for the last Call of Duty review of “CoD Month”.

Game Corner: Call of Duty 3: Gold Edition (Xbox 360)


Released: 2006
Developer: Treyarch
Also Available For: Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox

The Background:
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.

The Plot:
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.

The lack of a run option really hurts the pacing of the game.

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.

Be sure to find some cover to avoid Nazi gunfire.

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.

The tank missions are quite fun…the jeep missions are not.

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.

Unskippable cutscenes are the order to the day here.

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 hear 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.

Nazis just keep coming in nigh-unstoppable waves until you hit certain points.

Ordinarily, I like to clear areas of all 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.

Additional Features:
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.


The Summary:
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.

My Rating:

Rating: 1 out of 5.


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.

Game Corner: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Trilogy (Xbox 360)


Released: 2016
Originally Released: 2007; 2009; 2011
Developer: Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Games
Also Available For: Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

The Background:
This may shock and surprise and annoy a lot of people but…I do not care for the Call of Duty franchise (Various, 2003 to present). Activision’s long-running first-person shooter (FPS) series has seen many releases, spin-offs, and other related media over the years and has, collectively, sold over 250 million copies. Yet…it’s not really for me. As a general rule, I’m not much of a fan of FPS games and my love for them died out around about the same time as the release of Perfect Dark (Rare, 2000). This is simply a personal bias for me; I sometimes struggle with the maze-like nature of FPS games, the restrictive view (I can never seem to see anything and don’t like being attacked from behind), and how many FPS games make the controls needlessly complicated and convoluted. However, when I bought my Xbox 360, it came with a few Call of Duty titles, most prominently the Modern Warfare Trilogy. Therefore, January is going to be “CoD Month” and I’ll be spending the next few Wednesdays going through the Call of Duty games I played to see if my bias against the series was justified and to obtain a bunch of sweet, sweet, Achievements.

The Plot:
In a change for Call of Duty’s traditional World War Two settings, the Modern Warfare trilogy takes place between 2011 and 2016 and is initially centred around a civil war in Russia which eventually (through a series of complex betrayals and double-turns) escalates into a full-on world war between the United States and Russia.

The Modern Warfare titles are first-person shooters that primarily place players in the role of either British Special Air Service (S.A.S.) Captain (originally Segerent) John “Soap” MacTavish and Captain John Price. While these two are the primary characters of the trilogy, you’ll also take on other roles (such as Sergeant Gary “Roach” Sanderson and Private First Class Joseph Allen in Modern Warfare 2 and Staff Sergeant Derek “Frost” Westbrook and ex-Spetsnaz operative Yuri in Modern Warfare 3). No matter who you’re playing as, the controls and heads-up display (HUD) are exactly the same and very little changes between each title in terms of your abilities and controls.

The stance you adopt affects your visibility and aiming.

By pressing B, players can assume one of three stances: standing, crouching, and “prone” (where they lie down on the floor), each of which affects your speed, aim, and level of stealth. Standing up makes you an open target, for example, but going prone can render you almost completely undetectable. You can jump with the A button but there’s very little call for this; you don’t have to do that much jumping and this is mainly used in specific areas to vault over low walls and other areas of cover. Holding in the left analogue stick will see you break into a run (you can’t do this indefinitely, though, and there’s no stamina meter to let you know how long you have between sprints so you’ll just have to guess) while pressing in the right analogue stick allows you to melee attack enemies. You can also reload with X, toss grenades or flashbangs with either the Left and Right Buttons, respectively, switch between your weapons with the Y button (you can only hold two at a time but you can hold X to pick up new weapons as-and-when you come across them), and aim and shoot your primary weapon with the Left and Right Triggers. Shooting comes in two forms: down the sights and from the hip and, by tapping the Left Trigger, you’ll automatically snap on to the nearest enemy in a form of auto-aiming.

Be sure to watch out for incoming grenades when reloading.

Generally speaking, the game encourages you to switch weapons rather than reloading as this is faster but, in my experience, this results in you having two weapons that are low on ammo and need reloading rather than just one and considering how long and complex the reloading animations can be (I swear there’s one rifle that takes a good twenty seconds to reload) so either tactic has its pros and cons. One thing that is helpful is the ability to grab and throw enemy grenades back at them; you’ll need to be quick, though, as grenades have a horrible and annoying tendency to simply explode and kill you in one hit if you’re not fast enough. As in a lot of FPS games, you can recover your health by avoiding damage for a few seconds; while you can do this by taking cover, you need to be careful as the Modern Warfare games utilise a bullet penetration system where certain bullets and munitions are capable of penetrating certain surfaces (dry wall, concrete, etc) plus vehicles have a habit of catching fire and exploding when you’re too close to them. Luckily, each game is peppered with checkpoints so you can return to the fight quite quickly after being randomly shot in the middle of whatever you were doing.

It’s not all ground-based shooting; you’ll also get into some nifty military vehicles.

A mini map sits in the HUD to help show enemy placements and works in conjunction with a small compass that directs you towards your next objective; this system is refined and far more intuitive and user-friendly in the second and third games but you’ll never really have to worry about getting lost despite how grey and brown and uniform a lot of the game’s locations are as each title is very linear in its layout and objectives. Gameplay is further broken up throughout the trilogy by allowing you to pilot and drive a variety of military vehicles; you’ll be driving trucks, tanks, boats, snow-skis, and helicopters. When high in the sky, you’ll switch between different thermal visions and have access to machine guns, bombs, and other explosive rounds to provide air support but, in a lot of cases, these are mainly prolonged gameplay sections that abruptly end in a disorientating in-game cutscene for your character. And make no mistake, the Modern Warfare games love to pull this trick on you. If you’re running through a warzone, you can guarantee that you’ll be falling through a crumbling floor or floored by a sense-jarring explosion, and if you’re driving or flying you’re most likely going to get derailed by a sudden explosion.

You’ll also be asked to take part in some questionable missions.

Gameplay is further broken up by tasking you with some specific missions: in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, for example, you’ll have to man a Barrett M82 sniper rifle and take into account wind resistance (indicated by a fluttering flag) and the “Coriolis effect” in order to get a good shot on your target. In Modern Warfare 2, you can choose to take part in a highly controversial mission that sees you going undercover and taking part in a mass shooting at a Russian airport and Modern Warfare 3 sees you manning both a mortar cannon and a small remote control tank to clear out opposing forces. Each game also features stealth missions, generally when working with Captain Price, that see you having to sneak past guards to take them out silently with your melee attacks or sniper rifles. Sometimes, you’ll also be planting explosives or sabotaging controls panels and such and, though tense and annoying at times, these can be some of the best sections in the game as you’re not inundated with enemies you can hardly see. You’ll also have to take part in a handful of quick-time events (QTEs), generally at the conclusion of each game that sees you grievously hurt or otherwise incapacitated and forced to struggle through the sluggish controls and skewed vision to take a shot at an enemy or rapidly tap a button at the right time to win.

Graphics and Sound:
Generally speaking, the three Modern Warfare titles still all hold up pretty well despite the fact that a lot of their loading times are hidden behind doors and gates you cannot open or pass without someone else breaking them open for you. Locations are varied and take place across the globe, placing you in desolate, uninspiring environments such as the desert but also crumbling cities under a massive assault, on the steps of the White House while it’s under siege, and in the frozen Siberian wastes. You’ll also navigate through claustrophobic submarines, the streets and underground of London, and even a diamond mine. The trilogy does a great job of recreating iconic landmarks, making seeing the White House in flames or the Eiffel Tower collapsing quite a powerful spectacle, but a lot of their environments are still very bland and generic. Luckily for me, the trilogy is very linear but it can still be difficult to spot enemies when they seem to blend into their surroundings and I found myself firing on my own team mates more often than I’d like to admit as a result.

Weapons and locations are all rendered with a high attention to detail.

The game’s various weapons and vehicles are all extremely realistic and detailed as well, almost to a fault because, as mentioned, reloading some weapons can take a significant amount of time which, while realistic, can be annoying when you’re under heavy fire. Unlike some FPS games, the character models don’t suffer either and actually look quite decent rather than appearing as little more than action figures; it helps that the majority of the game’s story is told using the in-game engine and voiceovers rather than using full-on CGI cutscenes so there’s a lot less of the weird juxtaposition between in-game graphics and pre-rendered graphics. Each game is punctuated by fittingly rousing military music but, for the most part, I found the trilogy’s soundtracks quite underwhelming and mostly supplanted by the in-game sounds of the dead, dying, and maimed. The trilogy features some strong vocal performances (helped by actors such as Troy Baker, Keith David, Lance Henriksen, William Fichtner, Idris Elba, and Timothy Olyphant) but it’s difficult for me to really praise it all that much as it’s absolutely swamped with military slang and expressions that, again, I’m sure are extremely realistic and accurate but end up grating after a while.

Enemies and Bosses:
Primarily, you’ll be blowing holes through innumerable Russian soldiers and various terrorist forces who, while amounting to little more than cannon fodder to your superior weaponry and skills, can still kill you in an instant thanks to their commendable artificial intelligence. Enemies will dash behind cover, shoot over walls, move to flank you, and won’t hesitate to one-shot you with a melee attack of their own or a well-thrown grenade. When entering new areas, it’s best to take cover and scope out the area, picking enemies off from a distance as you’ll also come up against snipers and enemies who are packing rocket launchers. These, like a lot of the enemies you’ll encounter, like to take positions high above you and, while they mostly go down after one or two shots, have a nasty tendency to take pot shots at you while downed, recover and riddle you with bullets from behind, or even explode in your face if you’re not careful.

Tanks and helicopters will test your abilities.

You won’t really come up against boss battles in the traditional sense but you will have to contend with more formidable enemy weaponry, such as tanks and Mi-24 Hind helicopters. Usually, you’re equipped with a rocket launcher or similar weapon to take these down but, other times, you’ll engage them in a similar vehicle of your own and be tasked with clearing the area for your ground-based team mates.

Each game ends in a glorified quick-time event.

At the end of each game, you’ll end up in a confrontation with the game’s principal antagonist; in Call of Duty 4, it’s Victor Zakhaev, in Modern Warfare 2, it’s renegade turncoat Lieutenant General Shepherd, and in Modern Warfare 3 it’s Vladimir Makarov. No matter how good your skills are at moving, evading, and shooting, these final battles amount to little more than an interactive cutscene as your character is incapacitated and you simply limp towards a gun to make the kill shot or hit the right buttons at the right time to put them down once and for all.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Given that the Modern Warfare trilogy is going more for realism over anything else, there’s not really much on offer here besides a bevy of weaponry and military-grade hardware to aid in your mission (such as night vision goggles). You’ll get access to a variety of handguns, shotguns, rifles, heavy weapons like rocket launchers and the like and even riot shields but you can only ever carry two weapons at any one time.

You have plenty of modern toys and weapons at your disposal.

While ammo is quite plentiful, it might be wise to switch to another weapon when one becomes available (personally, I quite like a good sniper rifle as it helps to thin out enemies from a safe distance) and some of them are more useful than others; the M200 Intervention rifle comes equipped with a heartbeat sensor, for example, which looks and functions exactly like the motion sensor from Aliens (Cameron, 1987) and is very helpful for detecting nearby enemies, while the FGM-148 Javelin is perfect for taking out tanks and choppers (if a little unwieldy due to its size) and you can even duel wield some weapons.

Additional Features:
Each game comes with a bunch of Achievements for you to earn; many of these are story based, which is helpful, but others will require you to beat the game on higher difficulty settings or perform certain tasks in certain missions. Some even carry over from game to game, such as the “Purple Heart” Achievement, stealthily offing enemies, finding all the Intel hidden through the missions, or killing multiple enemies with one bullet or explosion, while others are slightly more specific to each game. Either way, they’re a great excuse to replay prior missions and increase your Gamer Score but a lot of them are also tied to the trilogy’s multiplayer element. As with any FPS title worth its salt, the Call of Duty series is well-renowned for its multiplayer component. Unfortunately, my Xbox Gold isn’t active right now so I couldn’t really get the most out of this initially but, luckily, Modern Warfare 2 and 3 feature a “Spec Ops” multiplier mode that allows for split-screen, couch co-op and a variety of solo options that see you surviving against waves of increasingly-difficult enemies or performing certain missions across a variety of the game’s maps. As you play these modes, you earn in-game currency to buy better weapons and upgrades, earn points to upgrade your ranking, and also unlock new maps, modes, and missions.


The Summary:
I went into the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Trilogy with low expectations; I simply wanted to blast through and earn as many Achievements as I could and then put the game away forever and, largely, I succeeded in that goal. While I found some elements of each game enjoyable (the stealth and vehicle-based missions, for examples), I mostly found myself complete underwhelmed with each game’s mechanics, plot, and presentation. Don’t get me wrong; I see the appeal, especially for those who enjoy FPS games (and, specifically, military FPS titles) but, for me, none of the titles are really that innovative or do much to stand out from the many similar FPS titles out there. The games get bigger and more involved as they progress, adding more vehicles and more open locations, but add very little beyond a few bells and whistles. In the end, I find myself wondering why the series is held in such regard when it looks and plays almost exactly like any other FPS title but at least the Achievements were easy enough to get.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare trilogy? Which of the three is your favourite and where do they 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, feel free to leave a comment below and check back in next Wednesday for another Call of Duty review.