No other shooter can play with your emotions like this. Within minutes you'll have tasted exhilaration, bloodlust, panic, remorse and fear. As the chaos hits its peak - when it seems like the bombs, gunfire, shouts and screams can't possibly get more intense - Call Of Duty 3 nudges that strange boundary where the real world fades away. All that's left is the drama on the screen in front of you. You enter 'the zone'. You're no longer pushing buttons or wiggling analogue sticks - you're there. It's Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line and Band Of Brothers all rolled into one. And, when the battle's won, you'll emerge from the smoke in triumphant slow motion, tilting back your helmet to wipe the sweat from your eyes. As you do, you'll be contemplating the senseless slaughter, the meaningless loss of life, and just how damn cool you looked when you threw that German grenade back before it exploded.
You'll get a clear taste of what's in store during the game's opening moments. After a brief base camp tutorial you're loaded onto the back of a truck, to be shipped to the front line. While you're watching the road roll away into the distance, the men around you chat and shout encouragement to a latecomer running to catch up. As you settle and contemplate the battles ahead... BANG! There's an explosion, an artillery strike. The screen is thrown into disarray, everything slows down and the sound drops to a drunken slur, filled with fearful breathing and a pounding heart beat.
The next thing you see are faces, filling your view of the sky, as you're dragged clear of the truck's wreckage. When the sound whooshes back to reality, all hell has broken loose. There are shouts, gunfire and explosions. One of your rescuers spasms and drops away as a stray bullet hits his helmet with a metallic 'dong!' Forget him, he's dead. As you get to your feet, orders are yelled - you need to clear a wall and attack the Germans on the other side. You approach its base and get a boost over the top. And that's when things get bad.
HELL ON EARTH
What happens next establishes COD3's intent to mount an epic assault on both your senses and your nerves. As you clear the wall and hit the ground, a collective roar rises from the men around you as they charge. There are soldiers everywhere. Explosions throw fountains of dirt into the air. For a second, it roots you to the spot as you try to take in the size of it all. This is the first level. From that moment onwards, the carnage and thumping, relentless pressure sweeps you up like a dry leaf and pitches you helplessly, headlong, into the breech.
If this was just a shooter then it would already be an incredible experience. But this offers so much more than that. Black is a shooter - you move through linear environments, you shoot stuff, end of story. Here, however, it's impressive just how much variety is on offer. Rather than simply changing environments every now and then, or rewarding you with a new gun as you progress, there's a constant parade of wide-ranging gameplay elements. Hand-to-hand fighting, driving, rowing or using a crowbar to open sealed doors... at one point you even pump the controls of a crane to drop train carriages on the enemies' heads. Take that, Fritz!
PUSH THE BUTTON
Responsible for this diversity are the new Battle Actions - minigames and activities that appear from time to time to complete certain events. The urgency differs depending on the challenge. Planting bombs, for example, can't actually be failed. Each prompt simply hangs on screen until it's pressed. Fighting, however, is far more unforgiving. It occurs at several points, always catching you off guard as a soldier lunges from nowhere. Fail to pump the joypad triggers hard enough as you grapple the enemy and it's all over. One scuffle copies a famous moment from Saving Private Ryan. Failure here will see you pinned to the floor and... very... slowly... stabbed through the heart. Succeed, though, and you'll yank the pins from grenades on the Kraut's uniform, before kicking him backwards through a window to explode messily.