Summary: The self-appointed "most anticipated game in history" launched worldwide this past Tuesday. Why, it's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, of course (of course), what else? Unsurprisingly, the military FPS debate between this and Battlefield 3 rages on, but now that both have been released, surely we can take a look and objectively evaluate them both? Luke's taken the Xbox version of MW3 for a spin this week, so to find out what he thinks of it in today's review!
"Everybody hates me because I'm so universally liked." – Peter de Vries
Our world is a fascinating place; we love a good snipe from time to time. Whenever someone or something rises up through obscurity and begins to gain vast popularity, its original following seems to all but abandon any signs they were ever fans in the first place.
Watching the Call of Duty franchise’s ascent to trigger-finger domination is a bit like that time you found out about that underground band that uses a mellotron. At first, you’re eager to rush out to tell your families and friends that they simply must listen to this album, even if it means selling a limb. But as the band becomes discovered and its anthems engulf the globe, opinions change drastically.
Now if you ask an original COD enthusiast about Modern Warfare 3 you’ll most likely get two replies: 1) “You’re an idiot! Get Battlefield 3,” or 2) “You’re an idiot! Don’t buy it, MW3 is like MW 2.5.” How times have changed. Naturally, anything that is put on a pedestal is going to get shot from all angles, but is any of it justified or just ill-judged mumblings?
With such an overwhelming publicity campaign, which has seen a release date event eclipsing that of a film premiere and a live-action trailer featuring Sam Worthington and Jonah Hill, it’s easy to forget that there is a first-person shooter underneath all of this. A game that’s had a problematic development, with nearly half the staff of Infinity Ward leaving after the departure of studio founders Jason West and Vince Zampella.
In the midst of everything, Modern Warfare 3 had become a joint effort, with what remained of Infinity Ward handing over to Sledgehammer Games to finish the package. Together, they have created a game that was never trying to redefine and push any gaming boundaries (though you’d think otherwise from some people’s expectations); instead it seeks to appeal to the masses.
How? By performing a sturdy balancing act that welcomes the newcomers in and throws some frustrating, yet rewarding, twists to the multiplayer that will keep the veterans screaming and shouting until they get back to the top of the leader boards.
Modern Warfare 3’s main campaign is a short, sharp and sweet spectacle. Running approximately 6 hours on the normal difficulty, the conclusion to the trilogy ups the ante with the much mentioned World War 3 motif. Now, no one really buys Modern Warfare for the single-player, but the series has always delivered some pretty spectacular levels, coupled with a bat-shit crazy storyline.
By this, the third installment, I have to be honest and say I’m not completely pulled in by the long winded, room-to-room, ‘bullets flying from all angles’ sections. I find these parts incredibly predictable and tedious. These portions also don’t deliver any satisfaction when killing an enemy, rather it all feels a bit underwhelming, like throwing pebbles to knock over flimsy cardboard stands. The sense of achievement seems to have been replaced by a hardened sense of luck, as you consistently dart for cover hoping to avoid the forty odd guns that are trained on you.
What Modern Warfare has always done well is to incorporate large set-piece action sequences and flawlessly weld them into the campaign. By putting you in the driver’s seat and creating an atmosphere that oozes tension and ferocity, MW3 effortlessly brings out the inner action hero in all of us. In my opinion, the game out-does the previous two games in the series by offering up a conclusive chapter that feels much like a roller-coaster ride. You’re hurled through the story at such a pace that sometimes you wish you had longer to take it all in.
When the campaign flows like this, it almost makes me forgive those filler segments featuring never-ending enemy spawns. I won’t go too much into spoiler detail here, but when you’ve got a game throwing you a zero-gravity shoot-out, you do kind of have to applaud its endeavor. Modern Warfare 3’s single-player does offer the occasional level that surprises you by changing the usual format up, and even though a lot of it has been seen before, it can at least be appreciated as a far better effort than before.
The storyline does try to cram in every Hollywood cliché, from chemical weapons to even more pesky Russians. However, fans of the series will undoubtedly enjoy the conclusion to Soap and Price’s tale, especially because of the nods to MW3’s predecessors and the overall familiarity that has grown between the audience and the game world.
Boasting new perks, maps, weapons, equipment, kill streaks and game modes, Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer is set to dominate gamers’ lives across the globe. Deft touches have been made to the menus to display extra stats and emblem/title identifiers have been added for comparing and contrasting with your friends. As usual, there is a plethora of competitive metrics, hard-to-obtain unlockables and specialist perks that will have people mixing and matching their classes to try and counter whatever is thrown at them.
An interesting overhaul has been made with the introduction of strike packages, letting you choose how you want to stack up your kill streaks. This allows players who struggle to rack up the kills a chance to still change the game dramatically. For instance, the support strike package grants players the benefit of building their streak even after their death. This adds a nice touch of strategy to game modes such as Domination, where air supremacy used to be all that you needed to win a match. Thankfully, this change also forces players to become a lot more involved in the game’s actual objective rather than sitting back and working up a good kill/death ratio.
Kill Confirmed is the new multiplayer mode that delivers some diversity to the play lists. The basis of the game involves killing an opposing player and then running to their body to retrieve their dog tag to secure the point. However, it is not necessarily a wise move to run directly for their tag, as if an enemy puts you down before you reach it, they can claim not only your tag, but prevent you from scoring by retrieving their fallen comrade’s tag, as well. This can lead to loads of tags building up at certain points of the map, while both teams wait around for the opportunity to claim them. It is a mode that brings heaps of scheming and is arguably one of Modern Warfare 3’s greatest achievements.
For MW3, the game designers have chosen to branch out from the style of map that features multiple high traffic areas where teams often clash head-on, instead opting for a lot more twists and turns in the level layout, with multiple structures, stairwells and other tight spaces. So far, there seems to be very few points where both teams end up waiting on either side of a wall, lobbing flashes and grenades down at each other. While this shift does remove choke points and make it harder for snipers to prosper, you could argue that without many lengthy maps, matches occasionally suffer from a bit of a ‘kill and then be killed’ scenario. Spawning is currently worse than ever, with players appearing right in front of an enemy’s gun sights regularly, something that will hopefully be fixed by upcoming patches.
As far as quality goes, the maps are split overall, with some showing great promise for epic fire fights in famous locations. However, developers seem to be unable to resist going back to those drab Eastern European backdrops featuring dull and murky colors that blend into each other, making it really hard to give the map any character and depth at all. It almost feels like some of these are maps Treyarch had left over from the 1960’s-inspired Black Ops. Unfortunately, this seems to set the stage for the inevitable overpriced and underwhelming DLC map packs, with which Activision must already be preparing to flood the market.
The Special Ops mode that was such a welcome addition in Modern Warfare 2 is back, and it serves up another dose of painstaking challenges for you and a friend to navigate through. Achieving 3 stars in each mission here provides ample distraction, something particularly welcome once the frantic multiplayer action has begun to drive you mad. Taking the impetus from games such as Gears of War and last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops, MW3 also brings in a Survival mode, which can be played alone or with a friend, whether local or online.
Bizarrely, this mode is spoiled by what seems to be a glaring oversight in only allowing the mode to be playable with up to two people, rather than four. Even the lackluster Black Ops offered a 4-player Survival mode, so it seems peculiar that it is not available here. Aside from that, the mode really delivers by steadily increasing the oncoming hoards of enemies that you must defend yourself against. Strategy is everything here, with wave after wave becoming more varied and aggressive in AI tactics. You are aided by three laptop terminals that provide weapons, equipment and air support, but only if you have the cash. Some of the goodies that you can bring in to use once you level up some are fantastic, creating some truly epic battles.
In my efforts with this new mode, I stuck largely to a shotgun to try and drum up the bucks, funneling the enemy into tight passageways. Twenty waves later, I was in a full-scale panic, rushing round corners, dodging the enemy fire and then turning quickly to pop a couple of attack dogs. This mode really tests your speed as you will be desperately deploying a predator missile to thin out the numbers, while hoping those claymores all around you hold back the oncoming enemy long enough when you’re most vulnerable. It truly is a thrilling experience that completely wipes the floor with Black Ops’ repetitive zombie horde mode, at least in my opinion. Also, to my surprise, MW3 actually opens all the multiplayer maps up to be playable as survival maps, rather than restricting you to a measly few.
Graphics & Engine
The gameplay mechanics have had small tweaks and touch-ups, with bullet register being at its best yet. The controls are as responsive as ever, though the knife attack seems to not only have been reduced in its range, but also become rather glitch-prone. I suppose it might just be me, but having your player go prone in multiplayer seems to give you a brief time of invulnerability as you drop down, too. Time will tell how well the guns and perks are balanced, but my initial impressions are that the guns feel more evenly weighted (the grenade launcher has finally been toned down), though a certain ‘Type 95’ rifle does seem to put people down incredibly well.
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