Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past week or so, ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’, the year’s most talked about (and challenged) videogame, is now upon us. This third game in the ‘Modern Warfare’ series, which started with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2007 (see the trend?), is a refined arcade masterpiece. This addictive and aggressively competitive first-person shooter is as deep an online experience as there is on consoles, frustratingly so amidst a fascinatingly skilled hardcore community. ‘MW3’ certainly has its issues, unsurprisingly mostly carried over from previous Call of Duty games, but its explosive, heart-stopping action more than makes up for its hereditary problems.
What Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Got Right
Familiar and true multiplayer formula - I hate to have to do it but I have to bring up Battlefield 3. Best to get it out of the way. My intentions are actually in praise of the game, as Battlefield 3 has allowed me to value the satisfaction of team-based success in online shooters. I’ve been playing Modern Warfare 2 for 24 months and I still do the same things over and over again: aim to get the best killstreak and the best ratio. Getting some nice accolades was always a nice bonus. As I play Modern Warfare 3’s team modes -- having earlier spent a bit of time with Battlefield 3 -- I find myself more engaged in Call of Duty matches than I ever have been before. I’ve been a sucker for the ratio. Battlefield 3 showed me the light, but Modern Warfare 3 certainly brought me home.
The problem is that Modern Warfare 3, like its predecessors, still aggressively rewards the individual as opposed to the team effort. It still feels like an individualistic experience, one molded around your own ability to ultimately unlock and achieve everything there is on offer. That’s where any direct comparisons with Battlefield 3 should probably end, because any attempt by Modern Warfare 3 to become more team-focused is trumpeted by its close-combat-dictating map design and modes. As much as any new additions are added to make this game seem more team-focused, it’s just meant to be fast, fun gunplay, and you’re meant to have the best score and the best kill-to-death ratio.
Thankfully for those that are looking for change, the multiplayer additions help refine the experience in a subtle but improving way. The core Modern Warfare online experience is there – it’s the same setup, modes and interface – with some new additions that give it a little bit of extra life at a time when so many seemed to be demanding change.
Its new ‘Packages’ system, designed to offer alternative ways to unlock and access killstreak rewards, offers team-centric Packages that reward contribution directly beneficial for your team, as opposed to an emphasis on your own achievements. Your rewards will be indicative of that, with tools that will help your team source the opponent on the battlefield. Alternatively you’ll be offered devastating rewards that may not help your team but will award you with the allusive, and often overrated, kills. There are now more options and incentives to work for your team as opposed to your ratio, which is a direct rectification of common criticism of previous Call of Duty games. It’s not a compulsory and forced implementation, and the freedom for those that do love the old ‘COD’ experience is there to play it the increasingly ‘old-school’ way.
As for the actual gameplay: its faster, intense and constant. Its quick nature makes complex tactics difficult and simply unnecessary, as the modes themselves are molded around fast action in condensed areas. You don’t have the space to organise elaborate plans, but you simply don’t need to: go into Modern Warfare 3 aggressive and ready for in-your-face action, or just don’t even bother with the game at all.
Alongside the multiplayer component are Spec Ops and Survival, two cooperative experiences focused on survival against waves of enemies. Survival is a surprisingly engaging and challenging addition, making for some addictive, but at-time frustratingly difficult, co-op action.
Maps are familiar but accessible and fun, with plenty of memorable designs and great bottlenecks, making for some explosive battles between teams. Developers Sledgehammer Games and Infinity Ward certainly haven’t taken any risks, but they have designed a well-rounded collection of environments perfectly suited to the gameplay.
Exciting campaign - I blasted through the campaign -- all six hours of it -- on my way to completing an entertaining, albeit quick, single-player campaign. I just can't think of a COD game with as many memorable moments. The big standout being a gravity defying slow-motion mid-air shootout on the Russian president's plane. It's silly, but oh so ridiculously awesome. It's mindless on purpose. You're supposed to be blown away by how utterly ridiculous it is. And that's why I love it. It has some great moments and is definitely worth a play through.
Looks great - Modern Warfare 3 sports an old engine but it certainly doesn’t seem dated. It runs at a stunning 60 frames per-second, making for crisp, clean and bright visuals that look fantastic in motion. Explosions are loud and fire effects imposing, while the occasional exploding wall or building make for a fantastic set piece in the midst of battle. The game also sports a familiar and deeply accessible interface, breaking up modes, classes, weapons and statistics up in a clean and detailed fashion. The game functions smoothly and looks crystal clean.
What Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Got Wrong
Being a little too familiar - It’s hard not to acknowledge Modern Warfare 3’s obvious inherited traits, carried down year after year from earlier games in the series. This game might be a slight refinement of 2009’s Modern Warfare 2, but it’s still essentially the same experience. The game certainly doesn’t return to the glory of Call of Duty 4, arguably the best in the ‘Modern Warfare’ series, mainly because it fails to brand itself as something truly unique for the Call of Duty name. That said, it doesn’t degrade the game’s worth for frequent players, it just makes it less appealing for those that haven’t liked COD games in the past.
Campaign enemy issues - The campaign certainly has its moments, but the experience is ultimately plagued by ‘monster closet syndrome’, with enemies often seemingly spawning relentlessly out of pockets, making for repetitive and boring gameplay. There is a decent balance between these generic ‘FPS’ issues and great missions, although it seems like an issue that could have been rectified by now, some six years since Call of Duty 2.
The Final Verdict
Modern Warfare 3 seems like the game everyone loves to hate, and yet everyone seems to be playing it. Funnily enough, this game will have one of the largest online communities across all platforms for the next 24 months, making it a must-have for anyone looking for competitive and fast online action. This game never attempts to offer realistic military combat, instead relying on a tried and true formula that still maintains its addictiveness and depth from over the years.
By Gaetano Prestia
The gunplay is accessible and fun across a tonne of weapons. There are plenty of different class options to help mold your online character, making for a very addictive and competitive online component. Campaign has its moments but is ultimately hampered by common issues.
An old engine that still works wonders for one of the most popular videogames franchises of all time. Sleek and smooth at 60 frames per-second.
Sound effects are crisp and loud, alongside decent voice acting throughout the game’s campaign.
Campaign is short at six-hours on Normal, but multiplayer has days worth of content.
Modern Warfare 3 may rely on an old formula, but the Call of Duty experience is still raring for action.