And this brings us neatly to another major issue. Remember: CoD2 gave us three campaigns – Stalingrad, North Africa and the assault on Normandy – and, after the first few levels, allowed us to flit between them. CoD3, however, concentrates on a single campaign: the Normandy breakout that saw the allied forces move from the beachheads to conquer Paris. Now, I can see what Treyarch were trying to do – to tie three stories representing different aspects of the campaign into one coherent whole, so letting you feel the shift from one stage of the invasion to the next – but the downside is a loss of much-needed variety. Simply put, CoD3 feels a little restricted in its palette, and the sad fact is that – for portions of the single-player game – it all gets a bit monotonous.
No, wait. There are fantastic moments. Some of the big set piece battles are almost terrifying; it’s hard to know where to go amidst the sheer amount of noise and violence being thrown at you. You find yourself creeping from cover to cover just in order to find time to get your bearings and work out what the hell you are meant to do next. Every now and then Treyarch repeats this trick, and it always works like gangbusters. Then, after an early trough, the game picks up with a thoroughly enjoyable raid on a fuel depot (Nazis and exploding barrels are always an entertaining mix) and a short but thrilling tank-driving section that’s heavy on the big booms and shattered masonry. That’s then followed by a fine level that sees you sneaking through a shady forest, picking off the hun with a sniper rifle while you enjoy the lush vegetation. All good stuff.
However, in-between the good bits come several levels that fall into the ‘same old, same old’ category. Do you really want to keep clearing barns and townhouses of Nazis, working your way up from floor to floor? How do you feel about the prospect of more bunkers to be infiltrated and more AA guns to be destroyed? CoD3’s biggest problem is that there’s a real sense of déjà vu and – worse – the feeling that it was all more fun last time around.
That’s because this year the pacing is off. Call of Duty 2 had more missions (27) and only a few outlasted their welcome. Each one built from a frantic intro, through a few crisis points, swelling towards a big, juicy climax. The action was beautifully orchestrated, and the always tense fire-fights punctuated by some great cinematic moments. There was fear, there was panic, there was adrenaline, there was tension and release. Here there are fewer missions (14) and while they’re longer, they’re not always longer in a good way. The best keep going at a decent lick, but the worst dawdle from objective to objective as if each has a quota of minutes to occupy, but no great need to keep you entertained. A handful drag on interminably, and when stuck for things to do, simply throw wave after wave of relentless Nazis at you. A level near the halfway mark descends into a series of tiresome assaults on a battered factory, with tanks to be destroyed while under constant harassment from regenerating snipers. If I hadn’t been reviewing the game, it would have taken all my willpower not to stop playing there and then.
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