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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review

call-of-duty-mw3-reviewLike all industry leaders, the Call of Duty franchise has become a victim of its own success. The people that like the series swear by it, while those that dislike it tend to righteously hate it. The thing with the Call of Duty games is that you can criticize them for the style and dislike the nature of the games, but you can’t really claim that the games are bad or technically flawed. Not that they are perfect, but they are polished.

It is fair to criticize things like the series increasing stagnation and the lack of risks the developers take, but the franchise is where it is because Activision releases quality games stemming from the best possible resources available in the gaming industry today. Activision has too much at stake to let the series totally fail. The games could slide into tedium and mediocrity, but they will still retain a sense of technical proficiency at the very least.

And because the series takes very few risks, they won’t likely win over any people that aren’t already converts. The core fans may not be blown away either, but they are typically satisfied. In the case of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Infinity Ward (and company) did a good job of examining what has worked, and tweaking the things that didn’t, even with all the hoopla stemming from the behind-the-scenes telenovela surrounding the ousting of the former IW heads. But that’s another story for another day. Perhaps the loss of West and Zampella hampered the creativity a bit, but there is no obvious loss of quality.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 does what it needs to do, and should satiate fans without alienating any. The campaign is on par with the last Modern Warfare story (take that for what you will), while the multiplayer will likely suck the life from gamers for months to come—right up until the next Call of Duty in 2012. It doesn’t take any risks, but when you have one of the most successful franchises of all time, you really don’t have to.

Michael Bay Presents World War 3

If you played the previous Modern Warfare campaigns, than you know what to expect: Lots of ‘splosions and shootin’. In fact, with the exception of the cut scenes and a few very deliberate parts, there is not a single 60-second stretch where you are not involved in combat. From minute one, there is never a slow section as you race through the six-hour or so story.

The plot picks up immediately where Modern Warfare 2 left off, with Soap and Price having just confronted Shepherd, the Russians invading and Makarov still loose. As with the previous games, the story regularly shifts perspectives. This time the bulk of the plot is played through the eyes of an America Delta Force soldier codenamed Frost, and a former Spetsnaz member working with Price, named Yuri. There are exceptions, and you do take on a few other roles, but the bulk of the story focuses on these perspectives.

When you are with Price, the plot is focused on the hunt for Makarov, as the former Task Force 141 travels around the world looking for their prey. The Delta team is mostly involved with the larger story of the outbreak of combat around the globe that heralds the start of World War 3. Regardless of the character, the plot can usually be summed up by you killing everyone before they kill you.

As with most third entries in a trilogy (and while there may be several more stories to tell with the same core characters there is a definite ending to the current storyline), the characterizations are a bit weaker than before–but for a game like this that hardly matters. The story is not quite as compelling as the first Modern Warfare, and it doesn’t have quite as many over-the-top moments as MW2, but it is a serviceable story, and a fitting conclusion to the trilogy.

There are still plenty of wild instances as you fight around the world through some impressive settings, but it is the gameplay rather than the plot that will keep you involved. 

The same technical problems with the campaign exist as they did with not just the other Modern Warfare games, but all CoD games. The enemy AI is fine but unremarkable, while your AI teammates—while not busy trying to catch your bullets with the back of their heads—are mostly ineffective. The AI isn’t great, but it isn’t bad either. Again, Infinity Ward (with help from Sledgehammer) did what they needed to without taking many chances.

The campaign is fun and will appeal to fans of the story, but it won’t really impress either. Then again, as long as it is decent, it doesn’t have to.

A Good Reason to Have the Internet

Few games are as geared towards online play as the Call of Duty franchise. The campaign is important, but secondary to the series. Most won’t be playing the campaign a year from now, but you can be sure that there will be people online playing the multiplayer. While Infinity Ward (with the help of Raven Software) didn’t exactly rewrite the book with MW3‘s online side, there are a few key changes that should make fans happy.

With a game like this–a game that will have so many people playing and scrutinizing it–there will always be a few balance issues that make people angry. In the first Modern Warfare juggernaut and martyrdom could make a nun swear. In Modern Warfare 2, several weapons were too powerful (looking at you, Model 1887 akimbo shotguns) while others led to weird semi-glitches (javelin glitch, anyone?). There are sure to be the same complaints about Modern Warfare 3, but nothing immediately stands out. With a closed beta though, those problems are to be expected, as are the inevitable “oh my god, using the ___ ruins the game! I’m never playing CoD again!” exclamations that will come. Give it time.

But for the most part, the weapons do have a sense of balance. Sniping seems to be a bit easier as the “strike zone,” so to speak, is a little larger and bullets will kill with what may look like a glancing blow. The rest of the weapons are all fairly interesting, and there are a lot of them. Many of them also feel a bit meatier, and the sound, kickback and controller feedback make them feel a bit more realistic and unique.

Each weapon now also has its own leveling system, which unlocks weapon-specific perks and attachments called Weapon Proficiency. The more you use a weapon, and the more success you have with it, the faster your level rises. Once you’ve put in a bit of time with a particular weapon, you will start to unlock the things you would expect like red dot attachments, cammo or things like extra ammo—the purchase system from Black Ops is gone, but he new Weapon Proficiency allows you to add a perk to your weapon on top of the attachments. Some perks are things like kickback, which reduces your weapons recoil, while others allow multiple attachments. It is just one more thing to level up, but it is a solid addition and gives more customization options.

Beyond that, the perk system remains more-or-less the same as always, with three perks to choose in each loadout. Secondary weapons have also followed the Black Ops’ path, so while you can carry machine pistols, handguns and launchers as a secondary, unlike MW2, shotguns are once again a primary weapon.