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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review

Is it that time already? Maybe we were distracted by the constant ‘bzzz bzzz bzzz’ of Battlefield 3’s infuriating advertising campaign, but we can’t help but feel that the run up to Modern Warfare 3 hasn’t been quite the assault on the senses it’s been in previous years. The game itself, however, most certainly is.

The COD franchise catches a lot of flak for having more explosions per minute than Michael Bay arguing with Jeremy Kyle , but a quick playthrough of Battlefield 3’s turgid campaign (or Homefront, or Blacksite: Area 51, or Duke Nukem Forever) reveals a real skill to the way the franchise carefully meters out colossal set-piece after colossal set-piece. Simply put no other series is more effective at delivering instant, accessible thrills, and MW 3 is not about to buck that trend.

The formula hasn’t changed: it’s still ‘go here, shoot many men, sometimes get in a vehicle, listen to military jargon, repeat to fade’. What has changed is the scale of the campaign experience. It was natural that MW3 would have to ‘go bigger’ than before, but it is the manner in which Sledgehammer Games – drafted in when co-developers Infinity Ward underwent its crisis last year – have gone about the task that impresses. You get the feeling that Sledgehammer, with its pedigree of having been founded by two important figures in the creation of Dead Space, brought much to the pacing and storytelling aspects of the game, as well as the action itself.

Moving away from a Modern Warfare 2-style ludicrously convoluted plot  – you know the one: some nonsense about Russia, a rogue US Army Officer, and the general feeling that the writers simply got a bit carried away on Red Bull and started smacking the keyboard – for what boils down to a straight out manhunt (with added distractions, of course) MW 3’s narrower plot focus enables the rest of the game to shine.

With the world now at war following Russian Ultranationalist leader Vladimir Makarov’s nefarious schemes (one of which is wearing a bitching scarf and always, always being behind a door with a pistol, the cad) MW3 has the opportunity to drop players back into the ‘proper’ warzones that defined the earlier, pre-Modern Warfare COD games, and that opportunity has been seized with both hands. With Price and Soap on the run, Europe ablaze with the Ultranationalists pushing West and the United States still on its knees following the Russian invasion, missions (especially those featured in Act II) feel like they have a real frontline sense to them: of taking territory from the enemy and clawing the war back yard by yard.

Compare, for example, the opening missions of the previous two games: an assault on a tanker and a fairly low-key battle with Afghan fighters. The Modern Warfare games, with their focus on clandestine conflicts and guerrilla insurgency’s have generally propelled players along tight corridors of action. Here, they’re blown out in awe-inspiring vistas and high technology: a combination of Call of Duty’s past and present, what World War II would have been like if it had recon drones, helicopters and people constantly saying ‘Copy’.

The game opens with Delta Force operatives fighting through a destroyed New York: tattered flags hang over a ruined Wall Street, rubble, cars and bombed out buildings litter every avenue and impede every run for cover, and rooftop shootouts and helicopter evacs snaking around skyscrapers enable players to see it all from the air. The game sets its stall out in grand fashion after Delta operatives Sandman and Frost take down a massive nuclear sub in the NYC harbour: resurfacing after using Scuba gear to get the mission done the player is greeted with the sight of the financial district, as wide as it is tall, absolutely destroyed, gigantic USS aircraft carriers scuppered and half overturned into the shallow waters filled with wreckage and bodies.

It’s a great scene, and much the same can be said of the other missions that involve Sandman and co. As part of ‘Big Army’ (ie a massive offensive force), you’ll find yourself fighting across European frontlines as part of a platoon of soldiers, not just saving the world yourself. Call of Duty 4 is still loved because it made you feel like a cog in the war machine; the sequel and Black Ops less so as you went from being a soldier to being James Bond.

Despite the increased bombast (if that was even possible) here the series has gone back to its roots. From storming a beach in Hamburg that recalls Normandy to fighting through dirty bomb-addled Parisian streets and catacombs (and the rather grim feeling of stepping over hundreds of civillian bodies as you push the Russians back) it feels like a ‘proper’ conflict, propelled forward with gusto by Call of Duty’s excellent framerate and comfortable, instinctive combat systems.

As ever the game sees you playing as multiple characters: as well as Frost you’ll play most of the game as Russian loyalist Yuri, who joins up with Price and the now disavowed Task Force 141 to hunt down Makarov. Sadly, most of the missions featuring the series stalwarts feel like token, throwaway stuff rammed in to increase the globe-trotting quotient, including the last couple of missions. Following a massively strong run of levels they’re simply disappointing, returning to nondescript locales that feel out of step with the conflict in Europe, with the finale in particular feeling fractured and half-baked.

Much better however are the smaller vignettes that serve as either exposition or backstory for the game’s main narrative. An explosive London Underground chase as members of the SAS – climaxing in arriving at Big Ben just as an atrocity takes place – is a great diversion, and those of you that loved the missions ‘One Shot, One Kill’ or ‘Shock and Awe’ from COD 4 will lap up the flashback sequences involving these missions. The development team have even been confident enough to include ‘disturbing content sequences’ that can be skipped, an interesting move considering last year’s similar (and rubbish) No Russian mission. Rest assured that it’s pretty gruesome, even if the game telegraphs what happens badly.

So, unlike MW 2, there’s plenty to recommend here if you can tear yourself away from the multiplayer:  while the series is naturally repeating itself (you’ll constantly going ‘oh, this is like the bit from…’) and we’re approaching (but haven’t quite got to yet) the point where familiarity meets contempt, MW 3’s six hour or so campaign is better than the last two games, and nearly as good as COD4’s.

For most however the lure of Multiplayer means that they’ll probably never touch the campaign, and for good reason: Call of Duty online is still the most fun you can have in the shortest amount of time online, pornography aside. Totally different to Battlefield yet equally as brilliant, Modern Warfare 3 has stuck to its guns and come out shooting. Or something.

Still heavily focused on run-n-gun, spray-n-pray gametypes, this is Call of Duty as you always remembered it. There are changes, but beware: if you hated COD before then there’s nothing for you here.

Probably the biggest new element when it comes to the overall game is the new Strike Package system. Comprising Assault, Support and Specialist rewards, they’re designed to enable online Rambos to get the most out of the game no matter how you play.

If you’re a good shot (or a 13 year old) then Assault is the classic Call of Duty killstreak package. If you’re constantly getting killed by good shots (or 13 year olds) then Support is for you. Enabling players to call in defensive killstreaks such as multiple care packages, upgraded UAV’s and even juggernaut suits they’re designed to help people help the team while also being rewarded themselves, as your streak doesn’t reset on death.

Finally, Specialist is for true professionals only. Giving those with the skillz the ability to add up to three extra perks to their originally allotted three, this is for the ninjas out there, but it at least gives the ubermen-children something to shoot for.

They’re good additions, especially the Support package, but they don’t really change things up in a major way. Neither does the main new gametype ‘Kill Confirmed’. Players have to kill their opponents in classic fashion, but then they (or another person on their team) has to run over the body and collect their dogtags. If the enemy does it before you do, it’s no points for the team. It’s fun, don’t get us wrong, and it actually puts the ‘Team’ in ‘Team Deathmatch’, something that has been absent from that mode for some time. But it’s not an earth-shatteringly amazing addition, and you’ll probably soon find yourself heading back to good ol’ TDM or Headquarters before too long.

More promising however are the new Private Match gametypes. For those of you that prefer playing with friends rather than randoms, the new customisation features on show will be the perfect addition to a game that’s already pretty damn good. Massive flexibility enables you to create your own game types: define the length, the amount of kills, the weapons, and the rules, and you can then share these with all your friends We played two new (to COD) gametypes: Infection, a gloriously tense game where players killed by the infected switch sides to hunt the remaining players down, and Dropzone. This mode sees players try and hold an certain spot on the map. If they do, they’re rewarded with more points and regular care package drops. Similar to King of the Hill the games soon become tense battles for territory, and overall it’s great fun.

It’s a suite that could change everything you know about Call of Duty online, but it has to be said that the main online modes, while still great, haven’t evolved that much. That said Modern Warfare 3 is still a superb package: one that easily bests MW 2 and just overcomes Black Ops, and will keep you entertained for months. Precisely 12, in fact.

Feels like a true sequel to the original Modern Warfare in every way, and banishes the memory of MW 2’s sorry campaign. The multiplayer is still shockingly playable but it’s not a huge leap over what’s come before. That said, COD fans are going to love this.


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  • Sam

    I see yor opinion with the review, however if in the conclusion you are implying it is better than MW2, should it not be rated higher than MW2? 95%?

  • William

    Great review guys keep up the good work, but i noticed that you have not mentioned the spec ops? Would like to know your opinions and thoughts on that.

  • they over hyped the game they made it seem it was the best game in the world but play rated it fair unlike those cod whores ign who compare any game thats fps to cod

  • george

    @sam no. because mw2’s worse than newer games with the same score and both games are pretty much exactly the same.