Call of Duty 3

Call of Duty 3

WWII on the PS3. We go hands-on with Treyarch's take on Normandy.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: October 6, 2006
It's funny. For all the bitching about how many World War II games have hit consoles and PCs since EA's first Medal of Honor game on the PS one, it sure doesn't seem like the flow of digital recounts of D-Day are going to subside anytime soon. Granted, game editors tend to play more WWII shooters than most, but you would think that consumers as a whole would be getting sick of these kinds of games -- particularly because they reuse the same battles so readily.

But, if the sales of Call of Duty 2 on the Xbox 360 are any indication (it was the best selling game of the console's launch), the stories of the men who fought back the Axis powers are far from completely told. Given that Activision is fond of this whole "money" thing, it makes sense that they would want to see the series continue, though we have to admit that we're a little perplexed as to why they handed the reins of next-gen development from developer Infinity Ward to Treyarch, who worked on the more spotty current-gen versions of the game last year.

Still Call of Duty 3 is a certainty, and as we saw when we took a trip to Activision earlier this week, the PlayStation 3 version seeks to combine some of the best parts of the Wii version with its motion sensing actions and the 360 version with its jump in visuals. Across all three versions, the game is essentially the same; COD3 recounts the story beyond the infamous Normandy landings as the Allies pushed into France to secure a foothold against the Axis powers.

Our hands-on time with the game was painfully brief, unfortunately. We only got to play through a single level on the PlayStation 3, but it was already obvious that Treyarch was using what little time they had between the release of Big Red One and the November launch of the game alongside the PS3 to implement a series of improvements that come with the jump to more powerful hardware.

The core parts of the series are still here, meaning tons of friendlies and enemies alike swarm the battlefields. We explored a heavily wooded area littered with Nazis already dug-in; trenches, gun emplacements and an ammo cache vital to the area's operations were already there to greet us. Luckily, we were packing our own week killer in the form of a sniper rifle that we used to help push back the steady stream of troops that swarmed our position as we ducked from one bit of cover to the next.

The game does still seem to have the same sort of "spawning stream of bad guys until you push forward" mechanic, but thanks to what felt like improved comrade AI (completely with a marked improvement in chatter between them), they helped push ahead as much as we did. We charged through the forest, hopped down into the trenches and then set about setting a timer on a bomb that would blow the ammo stockade sky high. Rather than just pushing a button, however, it played out like a simple mini-game with button presses and some analog stick rotation.

While we didn't run into one of the new scripted sequences where an enemy attacked us and we had to fight for our weapon (at least not on the PS3, the Wii level featured this sequence with some motion-sensing bits thrown in), and thus couldn't get a feel for how the SIXAXIS controller would be used here, we did like that the melee attack, a quick thrust with the butt of our weapon, was carried out with an intuitive thrust of the right end of our controller toward the enemy.

The rest of the controls, however, were pretty standard stuff; L1 and R1 kicked out smoke and frag grenades, respectively, dropping to a kneel or going prone was now done by tapping or holding Circle, swapping weapons was as simple as a push of the Triangle button, and things like zooming or pulling up iron sights was done with the L2 button (R2 still fires). In all, it felt like, well, Call of Duty, just augmented slightly with some basic motion-sensing controls. The producers on hand were keen to point out that they didn't want to ham-fist in the SIXAXIS' gyroscopic features where it would just seem like a gimmick, (whereas it seems like much more of a focus for the Wii version), but we do hope more than just rifle butt smashes are thrown in.

On the whole, the game does look fairly good. There's still the obvious color palette of browns and greens in place, and the framerate was noticeably lower than the 360 version (which was incredibly smooth, but then it's more established technology), and the lighting felt a little more flat. We're not saying the game looked bad at all (there was in fact some nice shafts of light pouring through the trees that looked volumetric), but the lighting and textures weren't as huge a leap as some of the PS3 games we've seen.

We'll have a little more time to go hands-on with the multiplayer features and more of the single-player levels in a few weeks, but for now, take a peek at the media we took away from the event and check back near the end of the month for more updated pre-launch impressions.