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Duty calls, and it’s time to chase the Germans across France. And thanks to next-generation consoles, the action looks and feels more realistic.

Activision’s first-person shooter “Call of Duty 3” re-creates the Allies’ breakout from the Normandy beachhead in the summer of 1944. It’s available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii, as well as the older Xbox and PlayStation 2.

Players experience the action as a series of four soldiers — an American rifleman, a Canadian infantryman, a British commando and a Polish tanker. Each character uses different weapons and abilities to tackle missions in different settings. For example, the American fights with rifle and submachine gun in confined urban settings, while the Pole engages Nazi armor in the open fields with his Sherman tank — at least for awhile.

Although the basic concept is similar to previous games in the series, next-generation technology takes “Call of Duty 3” to new levels.

First of all, it looks better. More computing power equals more pixels, and developers took advantage of that to create more realistic characters, environments and animations.

Added power also allows more territory to be rendered, giving gamers more options for reaching an objective. Think it’s suicidal to rush a machine gun? Flank it.

And more power means better physics and environmental interaction. That means you can blast away some of an enemy’s cover.

The best change in the game — especially for those playing on Nintendo’s new Wii — is the increased interactivity. For example, there are more options for hand-to-hand combat and for setting demolitions charges.

It gets even better on the Wii, where the player “shoots” by actually pointing the motion-sensitive controller at a target and pulling the trigger. Wiggling a pair of tiny joysticks just can’t compare to this.

The Wii controller also excels in two other activities. Driving involves simulating a steering wheel by using the main controller and attached Nunchuck. Armor combat involves steering the tank with the Nunchuck’s joystick while aiming and firing with the main controller. Both techniques are much more effective and fun than previous control methods. It’s a major step forward for those who want to get more immersed in the game.

Despite this, it seems that some of the interactive gestures were added simply to give Wii players more to do. For example, operating a crane involved a few simplistic waves of the controller. In addition, other gestures gave inconsistent or balky results.

While we’re quibbling: A few graphics glitches popped up — soldiers walking on air just before jumping from a second story, or moving through a tank’s track assembly just before setting an explosive charge. It was also annoying that an overstuffed chair seemed to be bulletproof. However, these are very minor problems when compared to the game’s other improvements.

Overall, “Call of Duty 3” offers solid action and more than a glimpse of what the next-generation consoles have to offer.


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