Platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2, PS3, Wii - Xbox 360 version reviewed.
Call of Duty 2 must have been a tough act to follow. For most people, it was the unlikely star of the 360 launch line-up, filling the gap left by the disappointing Perfect Dark Zero and introducing a new wave of console gamers to the sort of next-generation visual effects and rich, immersive FPS gameplay that previously only PC owners had experienced. What’s more, it was a game that even those who professed themselves bored silly of World War II games had to admire, pulling out all the stops as it did to deliver an experience of practically operatic intensity. Nor has it lost its appeal since, thanks to an engaging multiplayer offering. CoD2 became a Live staple at launch, and hasn’t left the top ranks ever since.
And the sad thing is that Call of Duty 3 hasn’t quite been able to follow it. It’s hard to say whether the reasons are down to a change of developer (Infinity Ward handing over to Treyarch) or a rushed release schedule (it’s been less than a year since CoD2 appeared), but CoD3 certainly feels the lesser game. It’s as if it has been put together by a team having only a partial idea of what made Call of Duty tick; they have mistaken bombast for drama, excess for pace, and quantity for satisfaction. The result is a game that has real moments of brilliance, but that overall is a bit of a disappointment.
True, the game certainly makes a great first impression, hitting you hard with a showcase assault that shows the enhanced CoD2 engine is no slouch. The textures are as rich, the animation as believable and the smoke, explosion and particle effects as dynamic as they were last time around and – until Gears of War comes along – the weather effects are about the best around. And on top, the game throws in a nice new swaying grass effect, put to great use in a handful of levels. However, as the game moves on the lustre starts to tarnish a little. Is there as much vivid detail in that French farmhouse as there was in the alleys and interiors of the North African towns of CoD2? Is the atmosphere as chilling as it was in Stalingrad? Is there really anything here – swaying grass aside – that we haven’t seen somewhere else before?