WWII is a tired genre for FPS gamers. Any avid FPS gamer can likely spout off the differences between the MP40 and Thompson like basic math. You probably also have relived WWII enough in Wolfenstein, Call of Duty, and Medal of Honor to last awhile. Still, the Call of Duty team is unwilling to give up on their AAA franchise that easily, and each new serving they try to up the ante a bit more. And so far, it’s worked out great for them. Call of Duty 2 was a major success, but it also gave some next generation love for the Xbox 360. Call of Duty 3 was specifically designed for the 360, while the PS2 development was handled by an offshoot developer. Don’t let that deceive you, though, Call of Duty 3 offers the genuine WWII experience throughout.
Call of Duty 3 caught me off guard. I had pretty low expectations. I thought I was going to get slow loading times, low resolution graphics, and lacking battle effects. Instead I got the exact opposite. Graphics look amazing, the battlefield has some great ambiance, and there’s next to zero loading times. I’m still blown away by how good it looks and performs. The details in both the character and environment textures are incredible. Then add destructible environments and great particle effects to the mix. This is really the top end of the PS2, as it looks better than just about any other FPS on a PS2.
There is a minor framerate issue here and there, but it wasn’t a frequent problem. During some of the more frantic scenes, especially ones that involved vehicles, is when the framerate started to drop noticeably. This FPS problem popped up more than I would have liked, but it doesn’t effect gameplay much. There could be more units on-screen at the same time as well. But for a PS2, the graphics are as good as they get.
Call of Duty uses the music, sound effects, and ambient battleground noises perfectly. Call of Duty 3 uses all the sounds in the game to create an gritty, realistic battlefield. Distant gunfire, fellow soldiers shouts, nearby explosions, and the rippling power of an MG42 are frequent in most scenes. It really immerses you and makes you a part of the battlefield. The sound effects are also top notch, especially explosions. Any explosions that are imploded nearby give you shell shock, and your hearing becomes faint and distant. The “wooshhh” as your hearing comes rushing back is almost as relieving as it is chilling.
Voice acting is also top notch. You’ve got a myriad of different forces in the battle, from many nations around the world. All of them have a tone of comradeship, or of leadership, and some just have a unique attitude. All the players are brought just a bit closer to life by the superb voice acting. The music is also top notch, as it feels really appropriate to the game and fits it perfectly. The music is almost haunting, and yet that is part of what makes it so appropriate.
The biggest limitation is the PS2 controller. It really was not built for FPS games, or shooters in general. The precision and reflexes that are needed just aren’t that easy to handle with the PS2′s setup. It requires a pretty solid control scheme to make the best out of what the PS2 controller offers. Well, Call of Duty 3 has a solid control scheme. Compared to most FPS games on the PS2, the controls are actually pretty tight. Though not quite as precise as the Xbox, 360, or mouse, it definitely controls well for the PS2 controller. If you like the PS2 controller for shooter titles, then it’s not going to bother you at all. It’s not the greatest to control, but the aiming and motion are solid, while still requiring some good aiming.
Some of the button placement isn’t the best. For example, I don’t like having to use my melee attack with the R3 button (pressing down the right analog stick). It also has a few differences that take some getting used to. But after awhile, you get the hang of things and it isn’t a big deal. Overall, controls are solid and there aren’t any big problems. They don’t add any depth, but they don’t distract you from the gameplay either.
You play as a foot soldier for various armies with separate, concurrent storylines. Each chapter switches focuses to another one of your “characters” that you battle as throughout WWII. The story is fairly typical for WWII, but Call of Duty 3 creates some great personalities for other NPCs. This increased sense of comradeship really makes the game a bit more enjoyable and unique. Some of the storyline plots seem a bit too well trodden for gamers who’ve played previous WWII games. From paradrops gone astray to frantic escape scenes with your jeep, you may get a bit of a feeling of deja vu. Still, you’ll likely will gloss over those moments, due to the fact you don’t have time to notice most of this during the heat of battle.
The run and gun gameplay that has been traditional to all previous Call of Duty games remain intact. You slowly progress forward, trying to use as much cover as possible, while dealing damage from medium to long ranges. You’ve got to keep an eye out for an opening, and then you end most engagements by rushing and flanking an enemy position. Grenades also play a role in removing a large amount of enemies, or just a small group that is well defended. You’re able to cook grenades, for mid-air bursts or just so enemies don’t have time to move. You’re also able to toss back enemy grenades before they explode, but this is a fairly risky maneuver that results too often in your head being blown off.
There is some interesting mini-games that have been created for the console. One such mini-game is an occasionally melee “battle” with an enemy. You have to press buttons in the right order as quickly as possible in a grueling hand to hand duel. It is pretty frantic because these battles really pop out of no where and give you a little jolt. Other mini-games include planting explosives andmanipulating the environment, again by pressing buttons in the correct order.
The battles are really what the game is all about, and the technical aspects really make them come together. The sound and graphical effects add a lot to an already solid gameplay, and they boost it to another level. The battlefields really do feel like a battle has happened, and is continuing to happen with your involvement. Though you may feel like you’re trodden down similar paths every now and again, there is still a good amount of variety. Don’t be expecting an entirely new Call of Duty experience, instead expect an improved and refined version of what you’ve come to love.
The game runs about the average length of an FPS, around 10 to 15 hours. For a serious FPS gamer, this won’t last more than a week of gameplay. For the less dedicated, it may take a little longer. You can load up the game again and play it through on higher difficulty levels, but it is still the same campaign and story. AI is not too dynamic, either, so you won’t be really seeing anything new a second play through. No co-op mode, either, but realize the game is all about a great and compelling story.
Multiplayer is included, but I don’t have my PS2 online. I can’t really comment on how the multiplayer performed, or how solid it’s gameplay was. If you’re an avid multiplayer gamer, however, you’ll want mark up the Replay score in your head to adjust for my average score.
Call of Duty 3 is a near masterpiece for the Playstation 2. If you’re still behind the generation leap, this game needs to be on your radar. It provides fantastic visuals that has few rivals on the PS2. The sound and music of the game are top notch. The realism and grittiness of the game pull you right in and completely immerse you in the battle. I can’t sing enough praise for how this title snuck up me, but sadly it did have to end. Also, if you have Call of Duty 3 for another console there is no reason to get this one. Nor is there any reason to get it if you want something different from the traditional Call of Duty formula. But if you are looking for an excellent WWII FPS game on the Playstation 2, put this is at the top of your list.