Let's cut to the chase here. Call Of Duty 3 is going to be excellent - everything that Call Of Duty 2 was with added bells and whistles. And by bells and whistles we of course mean bloody great explosions, enough shrapnel to build a dozen Eiffel Towers and setpiece battles so intense that you'll be calling in sick to work or college with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Intensity is the keyword with these games; no other console title has managed to give gamers a sense of what it must have been like to fight in one of the great campaigns of World War II in quite the same way as Call of Duty, be it in Africa with the Brits, Stalingrad with the Russians or with the Yanks in France. Only the opening level of Medal Of Honor: Frontline comes close to squaring up to it - and that was swiped wholesale from Saving Private Ryan.
This month Activision ferried us over to Paris and treated us to a hands-on session with a level named The Island. But before we actually got to scratch the itch in our trigger finger Activision threw a party for the assembled masses at Café Carmen, a popular Nazi hangout during the war - it served as a brothel. The liberation of Paris was the theme for the party, as that's the focus for the game, and a bunch of Parisian theatre students (we guess that's who they were anyhow) had been hired to dress up in some tasty period costumes. Hookers sat on Gestapo officer's knees, American soldiers turned up half-way through the bash, Can-Can girls provided high-kicking, knickerrevealing entertainment and other girls handed out Churchillian victory cigars.
So, great times, but perhaps it would have been a better move on Activision's part to hold the party after playing the game? Especially as we broke one of COD3's producers in half by making him sit up until 6am discussing whether World War 2 games are an excellent historical and educational reminder of the deeds of our forefathers, or if the fact that they lack wider context means this historical aspect is illusory PR spin and these games are, in fact, simply all about making pretty explosions. But we won't get into that argument here or the boss will flip his lid.
So back to The Island. Bloody. Hell. The mission involves clearing some farm buildings of German soldiers before pressing on through the countryside to take over more entrenched positions. Things kick off with a whistle being blown to signal the start of the attack and from the word go it's... horrific! You've got a tank to hide behind as you and your squad edge forward across the open boggy ground, which is of some comfort but the 'fog of war' makes everything a freakin' nightmare. The Germans' camouflage is excellent, making it even harder to both pick them out from their hiding spots and distinguish them from your comrades. Then there's the constant hail of bullets and threat of grenade and artillery explosions that makes standing still for longer than half a nanosecond more dangerous than swimming with a shoal of barrier reef stingrays. And it's raining, which further impairs visibility, and the screams of injured men don't help the nerves either. Intense? Jawohl!
And that's the first minute or so of this particular level. As you approach the buildings, another of the new features comes into play - choice. Say what? Well, for all its brilliance, the last Call Of Duty was still, in essence, an onrails shooter with checkpoint-tocheckpoint linearity. Not so much for this campaign, though. The maps are more open and there are now multiple routes through levels. Judging by The Island, choices are concerned with lowlevel tactical planning and on-your-feet thinking, such as how you're going to attack these farm buildings. Go in the front door all-guns-blazing? Attack on the flank? Take a circuitous route and avoid it altogether, pressing on to the next objective? Entirely up to you.