It seems fashionable to be down on WWII shooters, but I don't think I'll ever grow bored of them - well at least not the good ones. It's a little unfair to group the Call of Duty series in with all the rest as it has rarely put a foot wrong, on consoles and PC. Call of Duty 3 marks a number of firsts for the series: it's the first numbered title to be developed by someone other than Infinity Ward and it's the first numbered title to be developed for just consoles. And PC owners have a real reason to be upset as Treyarch's Call of Duty 3 is the most intense FPS I've ever played.
Set during the summer of 1944, Call of Duty 3 sees the player switch from one nation to another (the British, Americans, Polish and Canadians) with the overall goal being to liberate Paris. The problem with switching from nation to nation is that you'll feel a little disconnected from the story, but the on-going narrative does its best to keep things together, even if it doesn't wholly succeed. It's not a game that relies on its story to keep you hooked though; the downright gritty feel to the game does that all by itself.
At first glance everything is very Call of Duty, with the game mechanics, minimal HUD, regenerating health and those familiar, if rather panic inducing grenade symbols all present and correct. It's a good job too, as you'll need something familiar to cling onto. Within seconds you'll be running for the nearest cover, and some missions don't even let you move before assaulting you with gunfire. To say Call of Duty 3 is explosive would be putting it lightly - it's absolute chaos and you rarely get a moment to breathe, let alone think.
After lengthy sessions of Call of Duty 2 I was left feeling a little worn out, but once you put down the controller after a few hours with 3, you'll feel absolutely exhausted - although the lack of rumble in the Sixaxis lessens the effect somewhat. It's a total assault on the senses, with all hell breaking loose on-screen and your ear drums being blown out at the same time. Sure, some poor checkpoint placement will cause a few expletives, as you fail at the same point numerous times in a row, but it matters very little when you're so caught up in what's happening - to the point that you'd keep playing until your fingers bled.
Saying Call of Duty 3 is Call of Duty 2 on steroids would be a fair analogy to make. If the previous game was a Spielberg action movie, Treyarch's game is unashamedly a Michael Bay popcorn flick, but perhaps the best he's ever made. The fourteen chapters in the game fly by (perhaps a little too quickly for some), but that's partly due to the fact that you'll play it continuously through to the conclusion. Call of Duty veterans might want to be just that and play on Veteran difficulty, as this will add a considerable number of hours to your first play through the campaign.
Treyarch has added a few new ideas to the tried and test formula, but they're a mixed bag in terms of success. Grenades can now be hurled back at enemies if you can pick up and return in time (something that scares me each time I do it), vehicle sections play a much bigger role (complete with tilt steering), and you occasionally fight mano-a-mano with an enemy soldier. The addition to the grenade system is excellent, but the driving sections feel rather unpolished and the one-on-one fights just feel out of place.
You also get little mini-game-like moments for events like laying an explosive charge, but you're invincible during these moments and rather than adding to immersion they take you out of the action. You'll get a few other pretty pointless events, such as crowbaring a door and operating a crane, but they could just have easily been cut from the game. Why Treyarch decided to dilute the action packed experience with these trivial interludes I'll never know, but at least they make use of the Sixaxis' motion sensing. The inclusion of fixed weapons, such as firing a mortar on a blocked road, is a nice touch though, as you feel like you're in control and doing something meaningful.