I’m told the AI has improved, and there are periods – particularly on the veteran difficulty level – when the Nazis do seem to be thinking on their feet and doing more than the old shooting gallery routine. However, there are still plenty of occasions when they seem rooted to the spot, popping up every few seconds to take another shot, and there are some bizarre sections in which if you shoot one goosestepper, you can simply hold the sights in place, safe in the knowledge that his comrades will generously step into the same position, ready for the same treatment. Clever? Not exactly.
Meanwhile, the much-hyped ‘quicktime’ events don’t really add much to the experience. The sudden hand-to-hand scraps with enemy troops are simplistic and not particularly enjoyable, while the decision to implement a three-step press this, wiggle that routine for every time you set a charge or place a bomb is utterly baffling. It soon gets extremely tired.
All in all, if we were awarding marks for single player only, we’d be desperately scraping for a seven, and lurching horribly towards a six. Luckily, therefore, CoD3 has one huge saving grace: multiplayer.
On the one hand, it’s a much more complex, grown-up game than last year’s effort. There’s more of a team focus this time around, support for 24 players, plus a handful of new modes, with old favourites like team deathmatch (now team battle) and Headquarters joined by a Battlefront-style War mode and single-flag Capture the Flag. Better still, we get a working class system, with medics, heavy machine-gun packing support troops and sneaky, sniping scouts on top of the more traditional riflemen and assault troops. Add to this a range of vehicles, covering jeeps and motorcycles to drive around, and we’re really starting to get hot. What’s more, the map design is absolutely superb.
There are scary villages, where the open land between houses and farm buildings becomes hunting ground for would-be snipers and the game becomes a series of tense, who moves first stand-offs. There are some intricate town maps full of back alley shortcuts and menacing windows to keep you on your toes, and an expansive dam level that’s perfect for racing around on a motorcycle, ready to leap into the enemy HQ. It’s not as sophisticated as Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, but it feels lighter, tighter and more immediately enjoyable. In fact, I’m hard pushed to think of a console-based multiplayer offering I’ve enjoyed more. If Activision remembers to support it and keeps adding on new maps and tweaks, I can’t see why it shouldn’t take over from the original as the 360 Live favourite – providing Gears of War doesn’t take the position first.
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In fact, multiplayer is easily good enough to push the score up by two points to an eight. Bear this in mind if you’re adverse to online shooters or too stingy to pay for Xbox Live – this still isn’t the best game you could buy this month by a long shot. Otherwise, however, it’s a lucky escape from the grip of mediocrity for Call of Duty 3. Next time, Activision, either give us a single-player experience worth of the Call of Duty name, or wait until you have found someone who can.
Single player is a curate’s egg, and while some of the parts are great, some are pretty rotten. Multiplayer saves the day, dishing out a thrilling experience that will keep WWII raging online for some time.