Just when you thought you'd fought the Second World War the umpteenth time - oh wait, you have – Nintendo's Wii shows up and lets the latest iteration of Activision's vaunted Call of Duty franchise throw the almost-driven-into-the-ground genre a curveball. So you've won the Call of Duty 3 war on the 360 or PS3 already? Well done – that wasn't easy. Even so, the combination of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers will certainly give you a markedly new experience the second time around. If you're a green private on his first tour on the battlefields of the Falaise Gap, though, chances are that the gritty firefights will capture your imagination while simultaneously giving you a little bit of a cardio workout.
We all know that the CoD franchise has covered a lot of territory in its lifetime, as pretty much every major European battle and Allied army has received the star treatment. From Stalingrad to North Africa, D-Day to Berlin, all of the clashes you've read about in books or seen on The History Channel are old hat by now. The Falaise Gap? Now that's some seriously unexamined stuff. In reality, armchair generals recognize the ferocity and importance of this series of post-Normandy breakout fights to the ultimate Allied triumph. While the videogame correlate may not make for an epic warscape on the scale of the Battle of the Bulge or the Blitzkrieg of France, Call of Duty 3 injects some nationalistic vitriol and good old fashioned revenge into the otherwise workmanlike story that surrounds a series of frantic and chaotic struggles for survival.
Call of Duty 3 is an interesting take on a solid game that indeed offers up an experience its other console brethren don't quite offer.
The final package – represented by your assumption of American, British, Canadian, and Polish forces waging war across the battle-strewn fields of France – works in part because the combination of personalities intersects violently with a variety of tasks. At different times you'll be a regular American General Issue foot soldier, taking gruff orders from angry sergeants and shooting at other grunts, a British Jeep driver frantically navigating French backroads and desperately avoiding Nazi incursions, or a Polish tank commander whose sole mission in life seems to be the wanton destruction of all things German in the name of revenge. There are plenty of other variants awaiting as well, most of which take place in a maelstrom of flying lead and confusing shrieks. How real men ever did this, I'll never know.
All of this would be impressive enough on a regular old console (and it is, albeit with noticeably better visuals on the Xbox 360 and PS3). However, the significant differentiator is the unique implementation of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to transform a solid shooter into some sort of combination of old-school Duck Hunter NES with new-generation gameplay depth. In ways not seen since old light gun games, you'll use the Wii Remote to point at and shoot all of your enemies, while moving around the rubble- and body-strewn fields with the Nunchuk.
For the most part, these controls work very well. Sure, it takes some getting used to, and you'll get cut to pieces more than a few times as you learn to utilize the pointer and stick to wreak havoc on Nazis from all angles. At various times, you'll also use the tandem to execute Germans with melees and driving rickety old Jeeps through the French countryside. If someone happens to walk in the room while you're trying to smash a Hun in the face by jabbing your hands forward in a stabbing motion or manning a vehicle by holding them as if they were a steering wheel, well, they'd probably say you looked like an idiot. This, I suppose, is not different from any other Wii game. Anyhow, once the learning curve is complete, you'll feel right at home, if never completely comfortable.
The missions are long and varied, relatively speaking. Few, if any, of the chapters will take less than a half an hour, and some will likely engage you for almost 60 minutes. This will add up to about ten to twelve solid hours of gameplay across the fourteen different episodes. The checkpoint system is extremely well implemented, allowing for quick autosaves at conveniently placed locations. You'll need ‘em, as the standard difficulty level combined with the new and funky control mechanism will translate into a lot of grisly deaths, especially in the early going. For one thing, the game gives you all of about 45 seconds of training before throwing you right into a fierce firefight. Sink or swim? For sure. Once you make it through on the default level, crank it up to veteran for an even more visceral and violent experience you won't soon forget.
On the other hand, the visuals are average at best. While they're by no means poor, there are pop-ups all over the place, some particularly colorless landscapes (in stark contrast to the 360 and PS3 titles), and an overall last-generation look and feel. The sound, on the other hand, is mighty impressive and lends a significant sense of scope and importance to the proceedings (as if desperately clinging to life while being assaulted from every direction isn't enough to instill that feeling in you).
So the controls are solid, the missions are challenging, fun, and in depth – what's missing? If anything, though, the only real problem I have with Call of Duty 3 is a lack of any other modes than a single-player campaign. Once you've conquered the Germans once and for all, there's no place else to go. Sadly, no multiplayer component exists in any format whatsoever, online or offline. Everyone knows that COD is renown for its awesome multiplayer modes in the original PC games, while the next generation consoles also offer up some fairly robust person-to-person killing action. None of that is to be found on the Wii, much to my discontent.
Ultimately, Call of Duty 3 is an interesting take on a solid game that indeed offers up an experience its other console brethren don't quite offer. If you've got a 360 or PS3, it's tough not to recommend those over this one, as those versions' superb graphics and kick-ass multiplayer offer more value. However, if the Wii is the only next-generation console in your home, you likely won't regret checking out CoD3. After all, you probably could use the workout.
PS3 screens shown