12th November 2011 - By now, we all know what Call of Duty is – it’s the biggest force in the gaming industry, each year setting and breaking new records and numbers with one of the largest fan bases of any digital media franchise – and we all either love it or hate it. It's easy to see arguments on both sides of the equation, but no one can deny its foothold on the interactive media industry. Modern Warfare 3 is the latest in the long-running, annual FPS giant. But is the series still pushing on strongly or have Infinity Ward finally hit a road block with their latest instalment?
Continuing on from the popular story of the last 2 Modern Warfare titles (Infinity Wards’ baby every other year since 2007), MW3 puts players back in the shoes of highly trained soldiers from around the world. Again the story focuses on the goings on of the likes of Soap McTavish and Captain Price (the guy who has been wielding firearms since WWII), while also implementing new soldiers to lesser extents in other regions of the world. It allows for the larger picture of the impending WWIII and helps with pacing and drama – two things the Call of Duty series has always done magnificently. Unfortunately, staying on the same formula has resulted in a few too many clichés which will help some of the more seasoned fans completely out the story and twists of the tale long before they go down.
Last years Call of Duty effort, Black Ops took a bold step and stirred things up a little in the gameplay department, which a lot of fans weren’t too happy about. It was nice to see a step forward, but like the old saying goes; if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Modern Warfare 3 seems to have actually taken a step backwards towards the gameplay feel of the original Modern Warfare title, which is in no way a bad thing. Often looked at as the best game in the franchise, MW3 now plays out a lot like its early predecessor, with a fine amount of new features thrown in to keep those after something new happy. Gone are the stupid amounts of useless and unbelievable customisation from the multiplayer (but I’ll get to that a little later on), and back in is a mix between the simple (aka the classic) and the modern.
The campaign is essentially 6 to 8 straight hours of set pieces. With little room to move, the missions – like usual – set you on a path that tells a story and forces you to stick to it. I would personally love to see some more of the large scale fights that aren’t just scripted moments of explosions and hails of bullets that were present in the franchise back when it was actually a ‘War’ game, like my personal favourite from the series, Call of Duty 2. So as you may have expected, there really isn’t anything new here. Some new gun attachments and abilities are a given, but we are still playing a build that we have experienced for 4 years straight now; Michael Bay-esque style-over-substance storytelling with a few QTE’s thrown in for good measure and topped off with overly dramatic set pieces. With all that said though, it's still damn good fun if you let it be, and will keep you entertained from beginning to end.
But of course, we all know Call of Duty doesn’t break its records with a single-player campaign alone. In fact, a very high percentage of people don’t even bother with the campaign (if I recall correctly, Activision claimed a number as high as 30% of players didn’t even start the campaign in Call of Duty 4). They come for one reason and one reason only; the multiplayer.
Much like the core gameplay of the game, the vibe I got from the multiplayer package was a return to form; like we stepped back a few years to when things were simpler. Like I touched on before, a good deal of the silly and quite frankly, utterly garbage customisation of Black Ops is out of the window, instead we are given a solid amount of personalisation with some new touches that really liven things up. From the newly redesigned Gun Rank system to the much more balanced Perks implementation, the Multiplayer in MW3 has given me the most enjoyable CoD experience since back during Call of Duty 4 days. You still can't help at get frustrated at the likes of Campers and Quick Scopers, but overall the game does a great job at keeping things level and interesting, and definitely looking at capturing some of that essence that has long been gone from the series.
Map design is solid, but there is a distressing lack of maps which have that ‘instant classic’ feel, but it balances itself out with an above-average number of playable stages most of which aren’t dull or too forgettable.
Finally, where the Treyarch-developed CoD games have taken to jumping on Zombie bandwagon, Infinity Ward have taken the Horde-mode route, with their version, Spec Ops. We were given a Spec Ops mode in Modern Warfare 2, which was brilliant fun, but lacked longevity and replayability. Thankfully, MW3 have given a complete overhaul. Now, not only are Mission maps available to play with friends online, but there is a new wave-based gametype which is highly enjoyable. With its own ranking system and series of unlocks, it's fast, fun and highly replayable. You can purchase new guns and equipment, and even attachments and airstrikes on the run during the maps, which can quickly become a nightmare if you don’t communicate with your partner and have some good teamwork going on. With a lot of games including this type of mode, it's good to see Call of Duty’s does its best to stand out, and while it may not be as solid an entry as say Halo Reach’s Firefight, it’s still worth your time.
Here’s where things get tricky. In anticipation of Modern Warfare 3, I booted up the first 2 titles to play through the story mode one more time. After playing some Battlefield 3 and some Medal of Honour, it occurred to me that modern day military shooters have not come far in terms of graphics. Call of Duty 4 was released 4 years ago now, and to me, it looks on par with a lot of games coming out this year. Sure, it was great for its time, but it appears as if 4 years of graphical expansion hasn’t come very far at all. So while some may scrutinize Modern Warfare 3 for looking a lot like, and not too much better than its 4 year old original, one must also look at the competition. I’m going to boldly say I think Modern Warfare 3 looks better than the aforementioned shooters, and from the explosive campaign set pieces to the great textures within the multiplayer levels, is a completely beautiful game throughout.
Models and animations are what you would expect, and have gone through the least of an advancement, but environmental design and modelling, the look of crumbling buildings (and trust me, there’s a lot of those) and the effects like water and light contrast are all excellent quality. No one should deny it’s a good looking game, and while it may not be pushing any boundaries, it's certainly sitting on the fence of what’s possible without meaty installs.
The same as I've said about the structure and graphics, can be said about the audio department; it hasn’t changed a whole lot, but it still holds up well to today's standards. It has its cliché moments in conjunction with the story, like the typical dramatic music as the intensity hearts up in battle and during some of the more tense storytelling scenes, but while it isn’t trend setting or boundary ushing, it does nothing wrong. It's good, great in fact, it’s just nothing new and nothing we haven’t seen year after year in other Call of Duty games.
The voicing of the character is in great shape, with returning characters being donned by their long standing actor counterparts once more, and accents and localities spoken to the prime. There isn’t much more that can be said here, but know you will be hard pressed to find a fault in this department.
You either hate it, or you love it. Of course, you can be somewhere down the middle, but in the gaming community, if you don’t love CoD, you’re considered a hater. And vice versa. The value of the game comes down to which side of the argument you’re on. There’s nothing unexpected here, with the standard short campaign we get delivered year after year, same multiplayer we get delivered year after year and the newly redesigned co-op mode which we’ve been getting a variation of year after year. As you can see, there is not enough new content to get excited about if you’re weary of the never ending cycle, but if you are a Call of Duty fan, you should start revving your engines now, because there is still a lot to love about Modern Warfare 3.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 is good game. Even if you hate it, there is no real argument to say otherwise. With a well-rounded conclusion to the great saga and story (yet still left open enough for more…), a highly enjoyable Spec Ops mode which can be played with friends online for the best experience, and the most enjoyable multiplayer component seen in a CoD game since the original Modern Warfare title, there is a lot of content here at a great quality. But no more than ever, I just can’t help but get a sinking gut feeling that I’ve played this before. And before that. And before that even. You get the point.
+ Good deal of content
+ Enjoyable multiplayer
+ New Spec Ops mode is brilliant
- Same old, same old
- Clichéd and predictable
Reviewed and Written by John Elliott