it doesn't talk about the wii version as much as others but it really describes how the game will play and how fun it will be.

The Long Road Home
On the front line with Call of Duty 3



Normandy, against all odds, has been breached and the beachhead held. The chances of success were thinner than the official Allied press would have had us believe. The Free French fighters' demand that the attack go directly to liberate Paris, the Americans' absolute insistence that only an overwhelming force move to retake the continent, and the presence of an incredible number of Germany's elite units within striking distance of the landing points conspired to make the plan a shambling Frankenstein of political demands and military realities.

But Normandy has been taken, and the monster that General Eisenhower has built awakened. This was, after all, only a beachhead, a stepping-stone. Electricity crackles through the air as the Allied armies begin their two-month march to Paris, and the 600,000 deaths on the beaches and hills of Normandy are only a prequel to the fighting and horror to come. Call of Duty 2 might have been the first of the next-gen WWII shooters, but Call of Duty 3 is ready to prove that it's going to be the best. It will be the story of a generation past, told on the next generation of consoles. And Treyarch is just the team to do it.




"Developing a sequel to Call of Duty 2 this year for both Next-Gen and current gen is an extra-ordinary undertaking that requires a big time commitment. With a number of team members having been involved with Call of Duty: United Offensive - and with Treyarch's vast console experience - I can't think of a better development team for the job. I'm definitely excited to see how things come together down the stretch."
-Grant Collier, Infinity Ward's Studio Head

Trey-who?
It was with some fear that we realized Treyarch, not Infinity Ward, is creating CoD3. Treyarch has been making games for quite a while, but while usually technically solid, they've been fairly uncompelling games (see our Retro/Active later this week). Its last foray into the CoD universe was the successful, but overly ambitious, Big Red One. It's impossible to get even a quiver of nervousness from Treyarch, though. It knows it has a great thing going here, and it knows where it wants it to lead. Executive producer Marcus Iremonger, without a hint of hyperbole, says, "It's all about next gen. It's all about taking the next-gen experience we've already had with Call of Duty 2 and really just taking that beyond anything you've seen.... Next gen gives us the potential to do things we've never been able to do before."
In a town so small, there is no escaping you
Longtime series military consultant and decorated combat veteran Lt. Colonel Hank Keirsey (retired) told us, "I think that [the Call of Duty series] honors [the WWII] generation...it shows the panorama, and the hugeness, and the devastation of WWII...and one of the young men playing the game may just have a greater appreciation for what his grandfather, great-grandfather did." That respect, almost reverence, for the people who fought in WWII was a huge influence on the developers. CoD3 has four playable sides, one more than any previous Call of Duty, but it covers a much smaller part of the war. By bringing the game into tight focus on just a few months of heavy fighting, Treyarch has made the game's world less expansive but much richer. As you fight from the day after the taking of Normandy until the final liberation of Paris, you'll experience four perspectives that are so closely aligned that one character's success will directly create the opportunity for another's mission to proceed. You won't miss the globetrotting trips to Russia or Africa.

It becomes thrilling as you realize that, compared to the months to come, the Normandy landing was the easy part. Marcus explains it as, "You're going to go from [a] level, through to the end of your mission, get an outro that explains what happened during that battle, and then it's going to lead into the overall story, the higher-level story, which explains how what you've just done enables the rest of the battles to take place....and then you'll be seamlessly brought into the next mission."




The importance of all this to the gameplay is that an immense number of men and types of units were present during the Normandy Breakout, and yet that part of the war was so physically small that one unit's actions would materially impact another's options. For instance, playing as the Polish armored division fighting against elite panzers in the epic battle for Chambois, you can clear a path for the American infantry to use. As the SAS commando, you'll take advantage of the chaos other characters create to help free France in a more hands-on way. Presumably, the Canadian armored forces role will include the attack on Carpiquet, remembered as, "the most enormous concentration of fire ever put on a small objective.")
It was a grim campaign even by the standards of WWII, but ended with the liberation of Paris. But as Allied troops marched deeper into France, the German commander refused his orders to burn the City of Lights and instead surrendered to Charles de Gaulle's forces. It's important to Treyarch to capture the sense that the real sacrifices you see represented in the game weren't just for land or money, but were to save whole nations from evil. On the day that Paris stood free, General de Gaulle said, "It is for revenge; for revenge and justice that we shall continue to fight to the last day; until the day when victory is total and complete. All the men who are here today and all who hear me elsewhere in France know that this warlike duty demands national unity." That sentiment drove the Allies through the months of fighting to free Paris, and that sentiment is what Treyarch wants you to feel when you play CoD3.


Where does the current-gen fit in all this -- and the Wii? That's a good question, and one that we're not certain we're happy with the answer to. So much of what we've seen Treyarch shine with pride about revolved around the technological capacity of the next-generation consoles, and there still hasn't been a totally satisfactory way to bring something to the next-gen and current-gen. We know that only the PSP will feature a different storyline, so perhaps the next-gen versions will be nice additions for the PS2 or Xbox owner in a slump. The Wii version, in development outside Treyarch, shows some potential to bring the player into the game during the Battle Actions in a way the PS3 and 360 won't be able to. Actually wrestling with a German for his gun or actually disarming that explosive are things only the Wii will let you do this gen.
The future's so bright...
Better storytelling is one way that CoD3 hopes to step beyond the gripping gameplay but hollow characters of CoD2. The next piece of what makes us so excited to see Treyarch at work is seeing its team unleashed on next-generation hardware. What it couldn't do in the current gen becomes the groundwork for the next gen, integrating graphics and A.I. to create an experience worth going back to WWII for.
In this iteration, scripted events combine with smarter A.I. to create more authentic scenarios. The team has full access to the CoD2 assets, but its ambition to exceed that standard has already started to show. Improved smoke effects are even more interesting when the wind can catch them, and that rippling grass is even prettier when you can track an enemy because he disturbed it. Above all of these touches is the sheer number of combatants that can arrive on a scene, fighting and struggling around you.




At the beginning of a mission, German barrages scatter your unit out from your transport truck. You spend a few moments stunned as two comrades try to get you on your feet, but the roar of the blast is all you can really hear. One of them catches a bullet in his brain and goes down, bloodily, snapping your attention (and the camera) back into focus. This short scene shows how far Treyarch has come with making drama out of the little moments of the game, but our focus is on their technology for now.
As you approach the short wall of the Saint-LÔ cemetery, other soldiers argue about whether they should have to go over the stone barrier or not. You're directed forward, taking a helpful boost from another soldier, and there is only one possible reaction as you see the Allied and Axis forces moving toward each other across the ruins of the French town: the cold realization you aren't going to survive this war. There's no cut-scene, no inflated drama; there's simply a gorgeous French town that literally seethes with the soldiers of the Reich, even as what seems like countless Allied soldiers pour into the graveyard with you and push toward the line of contact. The pall of certain death can be shaken off, but it's a scene that justifies your next-gen console for the gaming it can make, not just the fact that it uses your HDTV or your 5.1 surround to its full potential.

Planes strafe the battlefield, but one pilot doesn't pay enough attention and ends up sending his fighter hurtling into a church's bell tower. The last peal of a bell rings throughout the battle even as a billowing black cloud smoke rushes to fill the horizon and is blown away. The plane crash is scripted, putting the graphical horsepower to use creating that atmosphere and drama -- even though you hardly have a chance for it to register. Instead, you're trying to pick out a route amidst the graves and tombs as you follow your fellow Americans. In this scene, selecting alternate routes of attack presents you with different cover and changes the computer characters you face and fight. In other levels, although the paths will all end at the same place, you'll have more varied options as to how to reach that destination. Instead of being forced to fend off an enemy rush, you might be able to guard an advancing tank or hold a barricade and send an A.I. ally to do the sniping.

Route chosen, you and your fellow soldiers break the German line. Walking across the rubble and ruin of Saint-LÔ, you see a group of your allies throw grenades into a building to clear the Germans inside -- they fall from the second story, burning. Smoke flows from them and the now-burning building even as the Germans die. Again, scripted, but to help maintain the illusion of WWII, not to force you down a path. Events like these are part of why creative director Rich Farrelly is so positive about the Blu-ray format -- "More room equals more stuff. It's a simple equation. Any time we're given less limitations, we're going to exploit that to its fullest."

The squads carefully choosing paths, the sheer number of people moving though the field, the billowing smoke, and even the crushed grass a tank leaves behind its monstrous treads all create a craftsman's sense of quality to the game. Add on two more layers, and we get to see the whole picture of what Treyarch is making.

Who says shooters have to follow a formula?
That next layer is the gameplay changes. And more than any other part of the game, it's where we see the introduction of other genres' and games' ideas into the WWII shooter. We'll see shooting, of course, but also turret and rail sections, explosives, and melee.


After the Germans fall from the burning building, you step into the burned out husk of a building and creep forward, seeing the barrel of a German gun around the corner moments too late. Your gun flies from your hands and suddenly you're wrestling for his rifle, smashing him to the ground, and given just a moment to ponder the man's life before another soldier shoots him where he lies. All of the sequence is controlled by your responding to cues that appear during the sequence as quickly as possible The sequence is one of the Battle Actions that will be scattered throughout the game, giving dramatic impact to moments that you might otherwise just have watched. Directing artillery fire, setting up explosives, or fighting in melee combat takes you out of the normal flow of the game to give specific moments dramatic punch. More than anything else, it's like Indigo Prophecy's quick-time events.
It's things done differently, without an attempt to change the entirety of the genre's gameplay. After the dramatic death of your melee attacker, you're sent to perch on a tank, spotting targets. You call them out to a radio operator, and he relays them to the tank's crew. It keeps to the conventions of the setting, and it also brings a lot more frantic tension to what could just be a turret -- and when the tank begins to move underneath you -- it transforms into an on-rails shooting section.




Many chapters remain to be told
Multiplayer is going to try to step past the long shadow of GRAW and the disappointing multiplayer of CoD2. With persistent character levels and multiple classes with unique abilities, there's a feeling of trying to out-Battlefield Battlefield 2. But, in unlike Battlefield, your unlocked ranks will be applicable to any of the classes. Earn your stripes as a scout, and you'll be able to log in as a commander and keep the level you've earned. Beyond that, though, multiplayer remains shrouded in the fog of war. While Treyarch assures us that it will end up balanced and fun, and we're hopeful, this is one of the few spots where we haven't seen the proof. But at least we know there will be vehicles.

I fought in a war, and I didn't know where it would end
Treyarch and Activision want to push the boundaries of cautionary storytelling and gameplay with CoD3, moving beyond the category of WWII shooter and into something more like a playable fable for modern times.
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