Call of Duty 3 Hands-On Preview

This year at QuakeCon, we got an elusive chance to preview two levels from Activision’s upcoming Call of Duty 3. While the first level was a leftover from E3, the second level was shown for the first time in one-on-one interviews with media outlets covering gaming’s Woodstock, QuakeCon.

The first level, like I mentioned, was shown to the media at E3. It’s titled Battle for St. Lo, and is set in 1944, where the player takes the role of an American soldier in a convoy traveling through France. The invasion at D-Day has been successful, and now the Allies are making their push into Normandy.

As you travel in the rear of a truck in a scripted cutscene, you watch a comrade behind you get creamed by artillery fire. Subsequent hits flip the truck, and you awake, dazed, and are helped to your feet to engage the enemy.

Surprise! Nazis are everywhere.

You get to see a surprising twist to the friendly AI here, when an ally helps you over a brick wall and into the fray. Turns out he’s not doing you too many favors, and you’re immediately fired upon by the dozen (or so) enemies waiting in the St. Lo graveyard. Worth noting is the grass, which flattens once you’ve stepped on it. Besides being graphically impressive, it can play a tactical advantage. Because the grass flattens for enemies, too, you can track and locate NPCs by following the disturbed terrain..

The graveyard is a mess of bodies, and artillery fire turns the air thick with dirt and smoke. Here the drift effects are shown in full glory, wind pushes the smoke and dirt particles as realistically as anything in recent memory. Treyarch has done a fantastic job of making this feel like a real battle — the action is wonderfully chaotic, and you can be flanked and outmaneuvered if you’re not careful. It’s hard not to notice all the fires, because the radiant heat distorts your view at times. The fighting proceeds through the small town, until eventually you’re cornered by a German soldier in the carapace of a shelled house.

This filthy Nazi gives you your first taste of an integral part of Call of Duty 3: "Battle Actions." The scripted elements start out as simple button mashing (in this level, pressing alternate shoulder buttons), but become both more complex and varied over time. Instead of using a Battle Action to fight a Nazi, later in the game you may use one to row a boat, defuse a bomb, or "execute a host of other battlefield situations," according hype from Activision.

Should you complete this particular Battle Action successfully, your combatant will end up dead (quite predictably, if you fail, you’re the one whose virtual family will get a letter from the War Department about your untimely death).

As another playable cutscene rolled, the Activision reps pointed out that the next level was being loaded seamlessly past the hole in the next wall. Treyarch is hoping for a very cinematic war experience, and they’ve made a true effort at eliminating loading screens and anything else that would remove you from the bloody, adrenaline-fueled moments.

The chapter, called "The Island" takes place on the island of St Germain-sur-seves, France. You play the same soldier, this time escorting (on foot) a small tank convoy through a plot of marshy farmland, in hopes of punching through the German defenses to allow the rest of your division to pass.

Of course, more Nazi’s. This time, they’re packing heavy machine guns.

Using the tanks as moving, dynamic cover, you have to make your way through an open field. Besides your comrades, the field is populated by craters and dessicated cow carcasses. The dynamic lighting is fully visible here, where tracer rounds and the sparks of ricocheting bullets spatter light across the surrounding grass.

Eventually, you’ll make it into a homestead occupied by enemy soldiers. Since your division’s tank is destroyed in a scripted (but playable) sequence, it’s up to you and any surviving members of your squad to clear the farmhouse of any occupiers.

While the game’s AI has been beefed up, as this level will show (we noticed that friendly soldiers took a different route both times we saw the level played), there are still a few stumbling points. Twice in each level, a friendly walked into the line of fire, and there are times when the enemy AI doesn’t seem to have much instinct for self-preservation. Like most AI baddies, they’d rather shoot at you from out in the open than take cover somewhere.

Water effects were not yet available in the preview — there were raindrop splashes, but wading through water produced no effect or sound. Water mechanics are tricky, and it’s likely that at this stage the physics haven’t been perfected yet.

An Activision rep answered a pressing question from many gamers: why French soldiers are not included in the playable lineup (which includes a British SAS commando, a Polish tank Commander, a member of a Canadian mechanized division, and an American Infantryman). The rep told us that, historically, the French did not play a vital enough role in the push through Normandy to be included. We did learn, however, that members of the French Liberation Army will be included as an NPC sometime in the gameplay.

Overall, the changes and improvements made by Treyarch are promising, but the game may still need to prove itself to the franchise fans upset over the loss of a PC version of the game.

Keep your eye trained on GamerNode’s media section for first-look video of both Call of Duty 3 levels discussed in this preview.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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