With console libraries full of different experiences, shooters still retain the highest popularity rankings on online-based services like Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Network. When the biggest and best shooters are released each year, they spark long line-ups at midnight launches around the world. It seems that gamers just can’t get enough of first-person shooters – specifically the Call of Duty franchise. Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games and Raven Software have teamed up with Activision, to release Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – the third game in the world’s most popular and best-selling video game franchise. Bringing the trilogy to a close in high-intensity ways, it certainly will not disappoint.
Continuing on from the events in its predecessor, Modern Warfare 3 chronicles a fictional and deadly version of World War 3. Found within its incredibly mature campaign are dastardly events put into action against Europe and, for the first time, the United States of America. The war has come to the west and its string-holder, Makarov, is ready to step things up to eleven. This means a lengthy and world-reaching trip full of shootouts and covert ops missions, taking place in locations from shanty-town Africa to France and New York.
Playing as different characters who have united for good, players must shoot, stab and explode their way through some incredibly visceral set-pieces. Popular world landmarks are at stake, as are the citizens who surround them. It’s the player’s duty to put a devious plan of mass terrorism into a casket, though the quest is not very easy. Fight your way through staged kidnappings, gaseous attacks and epic invasions against the west. The action is turned up to eleven throughout, only ever stopping briefly to give players a breath before they’re plunged back into the depths of warfare. Thankfully, it’s not just an action-packed campaign, but also one which is a heck of a lot of fun.
By now, most members of the gaming community have had a chance to go hands on with a Call of Duty title. The formula has been similar since the series’ onset, though the action has certainly intensified from the beginning. Each new release ramps up the shock value just a bit more than those before it, in an attempt to show exactly what the human race is capable of given maniacal cause and terribly powerful weaponry. In the digital fight of good versus evil, a select group of soldiers must save the world from imminent extinction.
In Modern Warfare 3, the name of the game is quick action first-person shooting. Click the left trigger or second shoulder button to line up enemies in quick succession, taking them down before it’s too late for your digital avatar. Grenades, rocket launchers and those pesky ‘noob-tubes’ aid this cause in several different ways. The visceral, explosion-filled action unfolds on the ground, in the air and underwater. Yes, the series has now decided to venture into the watery depths in order to perform covert espionage. All of this is done using some very high-tech military equipment. Nothing is held back in this fictional take on an event which many of us fear will occur in real-life.
Throughout the experience, the gaming community will be treated to one quality set-piece after another. Only a couple of the levels are underwhelming, with the majority providing the quality action that fans have been dreaming of. Whether you’re engaging in zero gravity shootouts aboard a plane, scuba diving with an arsenal of mines or shooting up Wall Street, a high level of intensity and polish can be found. Realism is included in spirit, with arcade elements taking the forefront as always.
An average estimate would pit the game’s campaign at around eight hours on most difficulties. My play through took nine and a half hours, but that was on veteran, meaning that its difficulty added a bit of time to the proceedings. On that difficulty, the experience was quite well-balanced. Sure, it was difficult, but it was also fun and understandably challenging. There were times where guys would kill me within two seconds of spawning, which got a bit annoying, but it was never too frustrating. The only real complaint I can levy pertains to a stage where the player must use tanks for cover while moving through hostile territory. It was unbelievably difficult and somewhat cheap on veteran, providing an unnecessary choke point.
Of course, we all know that the campaign is just one facet of the overall Modern Warfare 3 experience. Millions of gaming hours have been spent on the series’ fast-paced and incredibly addictive online servers, and that is certainly not going to change with the release of its latest iteration. The competitive online interactions found within this game disc are varied and polished, having been tweaked in order to allow for more parity between classes and play styles. Removed is the disadvantage newcomers have upon their first four level venture, replaced with well-built classes that are aimed to keep things fair. Also removed is the instant grenade launcher kill, which can be counteracted by a perk eliminating a set amount of explosive damage.
Keeping with the upgrade and make fair mentality, the development teams behind this release also went a step further. Now, individual weaponry can be upgraded based on performance statistics. It’s a nice touch, which provides extra reason to stick with your favourite and most trustworthy piece of lead-shooting doom. This will also make it more challenging for those who have to make the decision as to whether they would like to prestige or not. Losing a high-leveled weapon would be a tough thing to do for those who spend quality time immersed in online arenas.
Kill streak unlocks have also been altered, allowing for three-tiered categories: Attack, (Team) Support and Specialist. Selecting a category will bring up some memorable and well-liked benefits, as well as newcomers like the ability to gain extra perks. It’s a much more refined and interesting system, which will help players form their individual characters. Considering how different each gamer’s play style is, this is certainly a welcomed change.
Fans of the series can also look forward to two new game modes, along with a quality selection of newly-crafted maps:
Team Defender forces the two teams to grab a flag, which has been dropped by the first person taken out at the onset of the match. Double points are awarded to those who possess it, while the other team is left with a paltry single point award.
Kill Confirmed provides a great new twist which is placed onto the classic team death match formula. Instead of receiving credit for every take-down right away, players must put in extra work for the addition to their team’s score. Gold dog tags are dropped whenever someone is killed, requiring the shooting team to grab the pieces of metal in order to obtain credit for the slain. Conversely, the team that lost a member is given a chance to redeem itself. On their screens, those gold tags are red, allowing a denied kill when picked up. Needless to say, this mode is a heck of a lot of fun.
Although I miss the great map known as Terminal, the new crop of maps made available in Modern Warfare 3 are certainly no slouches. There’s a good amount of well-designed and competitive offerings to be found within this game, encompassing different types and sizes. It’s nice to see that the development teams added some more vertical inspiration to the action, allowing for maps to have different levels and some interesting areas up above. Sure, there are one or two which won’t become fan favourites like the rest, but that’s a given.
After reading all of that, you’re surely expecting the content description and analysis segment to end. In reality, the competitive online offerings and campaign are just two out of four game modes available in Modern Warfare 3. Adding extra fuel to the shrapnel-filled fire is the return of Special Ops and the new addition of Survival Mode. Those who’ve spent a lot of time with Modern Warfare 2, will remember Special Ops as being a list of varied co-operative challenges, where star-based ranks are awarded based on performance and difficulty. This challenging mode returns with new and interesting offerings for friends to tackle together.
On the other hand, Survival is a completely new mode, which pits players against waves of increasingly difficult opponents. It’s reminiscent of horde mode from Gears of War, although the Call of Duty twist has been placed upon its contents. Gamers can expect fast-paced action and a points-based currency system which can be used to purchase and upgrade weapons, unlock new equipment and complete a kill-streak arsenal. This new addition provides a fun way to play cooperatively with friends. Plus, both of these cooperative modes share a unique leveling system, which adds extra incentive to those who must always reach the top tier.
Everything mentioned above ran quite well, for the most part, without any game-breaking issues. However, there were some minor and annoying faults that I noticed. Grenades would sometimes fail to explode in the campaign, and the game’s frame-rate dropped to a freeze-like crawl on a couple of occasions. The latter performance problem reared its ugly head twice – once during single player and another time during Survival Mode. It would seem to freeze once, then would regain its standard performance quality. This would occur three times in rapid succession, and then the experience would go back to normal.
Presentation is always a high priority for the folks behind the Call of Duty franchise. With Modern Warfare 3, this trend continues. Its audio is varied and intense, featuring powerful explosions of all shapes and forms. The action elements all sound quite good, though the game’s high-quality voice acting couldn’t compete as well as I’d hoped. Occasionally, it would be a bit difficult to hear the soldiers’ chatter over the effects placed around them. This isn’t much of an issue in multiplayer, but it was a drawback during the campaign action.
Visually, the title looks quite good. It’s aesthetic design is polished and varied, though the utilized engine does seem a bit dated. Some textures resembled plastic matter, with a good example being the mud in that aforementioned tank level. Those are minor issues which certainly don’t deter from the overall experience, as the game’s art direction and great set-pieces make up for any small visual issues. There’s a noticeable bit of added polish, but the game doesn’t look drastically different from its predecessor.
With all said and done, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is a must-play for fans of high-intensity first-person shooters. Its fast-paced action, scary set-pieces and great online modes are tough to top. Having tweaked and altered elements within its core competitive offerings, the teams behind this release have certainly made noticeable and appreciated upgrades to the whole experience. If you’re a fan of this series, you certainly will not want to miss out on this one.
This review is based on a copy of the game which we received for review purposes.