Preview By: Andrew Joy
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There aren’t many in the world of video games, be they the makers or the players, that don’t know the name Call of Duty. In as much as the series is just another first-person shooter, it is also completely different. In many ways, Call of Duty isn’t a FPS at all. Instead, the series has forged its own pseudo genre: WWII shooter. Now, whether or not Call of Duty is just another WWII shooter - what with games like Medal of Honor, Brothers in Arms, and so many more counted among its numbers - is another question. Still, even though Call of Duty wasn’t the first game to explore the landscape, it has certainly charted new territory over the years. And this November, with the simultaneous release of Call of Duty 3 on all three next-gen systems (not to mention the PS2 and Xbox – sorry PC), Activision is looking to do it all over again.
With these new systems comes a new developer, and with a new developer a new direction. Though Infinity Ward, which handled Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2, is out, Treyarch is no newcomer to the series, having handled Call of Duty 2: Big Red One. While the first two games covered events such as D-Day, the Battle of Stalingrad and that sort of thing, Call of Duty 3 will revolve around the Normandy Breakout, which led to the instrumental liberation of Paris. So, what does that mean for those of you that aren’t history buffs? I have no idea – my history teacher was too busy talking about some senator beating people with his cane to get in to such trivial things as World Wars...but I digress. However, I do know that, as usual, there will be both American and British campaigns, with Canadian and Polish missions replacing Russian ones. But those are only small details; the real changes come in terms of the gameplay. The linear nature of the past games is said to be a thing of the past in Call of Duty 3, with the ability to engage yourself in any number of multiple objectives and tackle them any way you like. While it may be possible that Activision is just blowing smoke up our...um, foxhole, if they deliver on what they’ve promised then the art of video game war could be nearing its masterpiece.
For Xbox 360 owners, playing Call of Duty 3 will likely be par for the course with very little, if any, changes to the controls from the last game in the series. That game featured pretty standard FPS controls, with the A button used for jumping or standing, B for crouching or going prone, the left analog stick controlling movement, the right analog stick handling the looking around, and the trigger buttons controlling guns, grenades, etc.
Nothing could be farther from the truth for the Wii version of Activision's (other) cash cow. Just as a quick refresher, the controller for Nintendo's new system is a motion-sensitive remote that can act as a sort of light gun, and also take advantage of built in accelerometers to affect gameplay depending on how you shake, twist or even hold it. In addition to a rumble pack, the remote also has a built-in speaker (which will unfortunately not be used this time around) and can support a variety of peripheral attachments. The analog stick-sporting nunchuk will be used most often, as it is in Call of Duty 3 (for more information on that, check out our Wii-mote guide).
In the Wii version, attacking is handled almost exclusively with the Wii-mote, including aiming with it like a laser pointer, zooming to sights by pressing and holding A, firing with the B trigger, thrusting forward for a melee attack with the butt of your gun, and pressing left or right on the D-pad to select a smoke or frag grenade. A large part of player movement is handled with the nunchuk, as it has the analog stick as well as the C and Z buttons, which allow you to jump, duck, and that sort of thing.
There are exceptions to this of course, such as having to make a throwing motion with the nunchuk in order to actually throw a grenade (though like the past games, where it lands is tied to where you are aiming and not how fast or hard you throw) and the new Battle Actions that have been implemented into the gameplay. But we'll get into those more in a moment. However, the Wii-mote also has several other uses in the game, like twisting it on its side to lean and look around cover for a peek, reloading your weapon by flicking the nunchuk upwards and changing weapons by flicking it to either side.
There are a variety of other uses, too, which are designed to add a sense of realism and immersion to the gameplay. For example, if you need to paddle your boat down a river, you just use the Wii-mote to physically paddle. Need to set a bomb? Well, it won't be as simple as pressing a button anymore. And, if you're driving a vehicle (with the exception of a tank, which controls much like your soldier), you will need to hold the Wii-mote and nunchuk out in front of you, like the two sides of a steering wheel, and actually turn them. Now, as for the Battle Actions, they are in all versions of the game, but on typical gamepad systems like the Xbox 360, they will be reduced to a sort of button-mashing mini-game. On the Wii, when these events pop up you'll need to thrust the controllers back in forth, just as if you were fighting for dear life. Such events include, for example, wrestling a weapon away from a German. The immersion of it all is likely to far outweigh the comical appearance.
This is not to say that the Wii version will have hands down the best controls, as there are some issues that come up with this brand new controller. In past Call of Duty games, the gun was centered on the screen as you looked around and aimed with the analog stick. Now, your gun will float on the screen, with the barrel following the direction of your Wii-mote pointer. While this may add an incredible level of realism to the game (almost everyone who has tried it agrees to that), it does bring up the issue of turning. As it is, there is a portion of the screen in which you can aim freely, but when you aim outside of it, the screen begins to turn. Unfortunately, in early builds doing so too rapidly would send your character spinning around like a whirling dervish and you'd end up facing somewhere else entirely. Needless to say, in a game like this that's never a good thing. The issue is being worked on of course, and no doubt as more developers get experience with the system it won't even be a concern, but it's something you may want to keep an eye on as reviews start hitting the 'net.
With a controller that seems, at least in part, inspired by Nintendo’s, no doubt a lot of people are wondering how Call of Duty 3 makes use of the PS3’s tilt-sensitivity. Right now, it is too hard to say for certain, but it seems like Activision is trying their best to prevent it from being gimmicky. So far, all we know for sure is that the controller will be used in Battle Actions, similar to how the Wii-mote will. More functions than that are expected of course, and one of the ideas being bandied about includes tilting the controller to peak around corners. I'm sure steering the game’s many vehicles with the tilt-sensors is also being looked at. Lacking the exact freedom of the Wii-mote, the PS3 version must avoid feeling like it has tacked on functionality, and that can be best accomplished if the uses are kept to a minimum. Apart from that, my only area of concern is with the lack of rumble for the PS3 controller. It may not seem like that important of a feature, but mark my words: the feel of shooting that 50 cal. (and so much more) is going to be sorely missed.
Posted: 2006-10-10 18:57:17 PST