It’s not often you see a big release that gets major attention on one platform, yet very minimal push on another, but that’s exactly what happened with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 last week. While the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions were given a promotional push into the stratosphere, the Wii and Nintendo DS versions…not so much. Now, the Wii version holds up acceptably well, provided its age, but this review is specifically about the DS version, relabeled Call of Duty: Defiance. It’s not bad, but its production has left us with an unanswered question.
The plot loosely follows that of the console version, with a Russian invasion sweeping the nation, and your team, either through U.S. or British forces, in charge of clean-up. You won’t have to think tactically here, just run forth and use your weapon in hand – an AK-47, a knife, a handgun among others – to mow down the enemies and take back your country.
For a Nintendo DS game, N-Space has done a surprisingly capable job with the game’s audio. There’s a huge assortment of in-game speech, from soldiers yelling to some dialogue that actually makes the storyline believable. What’s more, the music is surprisingly well done, crammed into a Nintendo DS cartridge without so much as a hint of compression. This is the game to pull out for your system when you want to show someone how capable its sound is.
However, with the good, we get the bad, and that lies in the visuals. While the game doesn’t get muddy to the point that it looks like a bad port of Doom, it does have some very noticeable pixilation, particularly when you get really close to an enemy for a melee attack. This is especially problematic when you’re trying to hit someone from a distance, as you can barely make them out in your scope. Stick with the closer kills instead.
The rest of the game, particularly the frame rate and various weapons, don’t look half bad, and the menus are well-organized, letting you choose loadouts however you please. It hardly compares to the customizable features of, say, Call of Duty: Elite, but considering it’s a handheld action game, it’s noteworthy.
As for the gameplay, it’s nothing to write home about. It’s functional, to say the least, but it feels too much like previous Call of Duty games on the DS. Movement is pretty limited compared to what you can do in other versions, though the aiming works moderately well, particularly when you’re looking down a scope. Vehicles can be fun as well, particularly the tank. Nothing says “BOOM” like unloading a shell on incoming soldiers.
The only problem with that is the game doesn’t pose much of a challenge. Even on the highest difficulty, enemies are unbelievably easy to kill, since the AI acts with the thought process of a dead fish. “Hey, let’s run forward into this guy’s gun sights!” “Okay!” Blam, blam. You get the idea.
There is a formidable challenge with the online play, though. Up to six players can take part in a session, and with the mix of weapons involved and the various loadouts, it’s longer-lasting than we expected. Still, it’s old compared to what the higher-end console versions offer.
Now to that unanswered question. It’s obvious that both Activision and n-Space have 3DS projects in the works…so why wasn’t Call of Duty: Defiance given the bump-up to Nintendo’s newer platform? This would have been absolutely ideal for the 3D-displaying handheld, particularly at this time, as the system doesn’t have a first-person shooter to call its own. It feels like a missed opportunity – and, at the very least, a lesson for what to bring to the table with the next wave of Call of Duty games.
Call of Duty: Defiance is a tolerable game if all you have is the old-school handheld, as its multiplayer entertains and its gameplay isn’t half bad. However, there’s no doubt the game engine being used here, outside of audio components, reeks of old age, and n-Space – or Activision – really needs to step up the effort the next time around.