Release Date: Out Now!
Developer: Infinity Ward
(Thanks to Activision for providing a copy of Modern Warfare 3 for review)
After much fanboy bickering on the internet, promises of boycotting the series and plenty of broken hearts Modern Warfare 3 is finally here, having already sold enough copies to make most other game franchises green with envy. The global sensation that is Call of Duty is now on its 8th game, but there’s been a growing group of gamers becoming annoyed with a lack of innovation or anything new from the series. Does Modern Warfare 3 prove them wrong? Nope. Is it still a good shooter? Yes.
The story picks up almost directly from the events of Modern Warfare 2, following the story of Price, Soap and several other characters as they follow the trail of Makarov who has brought about a third world war. Like the previous games in the Modern Warfare story it hops from character to character, and from location to location, in an effort to tell its story, but this means that it can be a little hard to follow what’s actually going on and why, but should you manage to it’s an enjoyable, if bonkers, tale that mostly serves as an excuse for insane action and epic moments. Your mission to bring down Makarov will take you to Paris, London and even Africa. You’ll witness New York burn as you assault a submarine, have entire buildings collapse on you and fight your way through seemingly endless waves of enemies, all of whom are determined to put a bullet in your face. It’s not going to be winning awards anytime soon, but it keeps things running along at a smooth pace.
So it’s standard Call of Duty affair, then. There’s little new to be found here, yet that doesn’t mean the campaign is bad, just familiar. Infinity Ward once again prove that when it comes to producing a campaign that feels intense, chaotic and epic they have no peers, delivering a staggering amount of stunning set-pieces, all of which bring a smile to the face. Yet these massive moments are arguably used too often; at times it feel as though you can’t even go twenty feet without something blowing up, falling down or doing something else spectacular and eventually the feeling of awe disappears as you come to expect each new moment. By using them too often they become commonplace events, no longer able to capture the attention of gamers as well as they first did back in the first Modern Warfare. However, this is partially combated by the simple fact that you’ll blast through the story in just five short hours on Normal difficulty, ensuring the constant carnage begins to get tiring just as the game ends. Maybe a short singleplayer is a good thing, then. Well, sort of.
The core gunplay that powers all of this action remains almost entirely untouched, which is understandable as Call of Duty’s strongest aspect is its slick, satisfying shooting. Running, jumping, and gunning feel as smooth and ever, leaving little room for criticism in this department. The game does attempt to break up the gameplay by throwing stealth missions and more in your face, but again it’s here that familiarity rears its ugly head. The on-rails style stealth missions are back, and while they still feel quite tense it’s disappointing to note that they still hold your hand far too much, never feeling like you’re getting by on skill but simply because the game wants you to, making it all the more satisfying when you take on the stealth missions in the returning Spec Ops mode, but more on that later. However, one stand out stealthy moment comes when you have to sneak through a battlefield, mixing stealthy sneaking and blasting in to a solid mix. At other times you’ll find yourself gunning down targets in an AC-130, switching periodically between the flying doom-machine and your character on the ground. Next you’ll be frantically opening up a laptop on the battlefield so you can rain down Predator missiles on your foes or breaching a door in slow motion, but apart from just one or two new moments you’ve already seen and done this before. There’s just no new elements added to the mix to keep things interesting. Nothing to combat the feeling of having been here, done that, drunk the enemies blood and gotten the T-shirt. Even the epic set-pieces sometimes feel recycled, but I guess after a while you simply run out of things to blow up and have to repeat yourself.
Of course the now mandatory controversial moment is present and correct, standing ready to shock the journalists around the world. Despite the media outroar at Modern Warfare 2’s No Russian level, which had the player taking part in a massacre of innocents at the airport, though actively shooting anybody yourself was option, it did actually have good reason to exist within the game’s storyline and world, providing a damn good reason to hate the enemy and want vengeance, though also managing to raise the question of what kind of person would allow this sort of atrocity to occur when they could just shoot the bastard responsible for it. Modern Warfare 3’s moment has, perhaps, a less justifiable existence than the No Russian level, and will doubtless spark more media ranting, but does serve as a rather sobering amidst what is otherwise an over-the-top shooter. It’s a stark reminder that the blood we shed today doesn’t wash away the blood we shed yesterday, and that terrible things can, and do, happen in our world.
The only complaint that I would level at the singleplayer experience, apart from the familiarity and lack of anything new, is that the AI are still a bit bonkers. For the most part your squad are smart enough, sometimes even managing to kill quite a few enemies, but at other times they suddenly become the intellectual equivalent of your average stereo-typical dumb blonde who appears on Television because they look good and over-uses the words, “like” and, “Oh my God” in the same sentence. They’ll run head-first into a hail of bullets, seemingly believing that they’re Superman, and sometimes even wander into your line of fire, causing you to mow them down and get a mission failed message flashing on the screen. The enemy AI also still suffer from the same problems that we’ve seen before in the Call of Duty series; namely the fact that they’ll sometimes all turn around, aim at you and unleash a barrage of absurdly accurate gunfire at your face, leaving you a bloody mess upon the ground. They’re also still prone to bouts of suicidal tendencies, charging across open ground when perfectly good cover is available.
So, despite the fact that the campaign introduces almost nothing new, and a sense of deja vu is present in almost all of it, it’s still a fun, intense and chaotic globe-trotting block-buster that’s fun to play.
Graphically the Call of Duty isn’t quite the powerhouse it once was. The beautiful textures that once amazed don’t have the same impact in today’s world, simply because so many games look damn fine these days. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad-looking game, though, because while the textures and animations aren’t as stunning as they once were, they’re still pretty good-looking. It’s the on-screen carnage that makes the game stand out from the crowd, though; every level is filled with bullets, explosions, soldiers, crumbling buildings, tanks and much, much more. The sheer amount of stuff going on is quite amazing, especially when you take into account that the game maintains a silky smooth framerate throughout, although it did drop on me a few times during play, but only for a few seconds. The solid presentation continues with the sound which provides suitably dramatic music for the world going to hell. The visually chaotic battlefields are complemented by equally chaotic sound effects, with bullets, explosions and the screams of dying foes filling your ears. The voice acting is a decent affair, with the gruff Soap sporting a badass Scottish accent and Price delivering his lines in a suitably dramatic tone, though there were a few points where the acting was cringe worthy.
Stepping away from the singleplayer you can venture in to one of the games two co-operative modes, both of which can be played solo as well, for some blasting action. The Spec Op missions from Modern Warfare 2 have made a welcome return, giving you a series of daring missions to undertake, such as collecting toxin samples while wearing a Juggernaut suit or sneaking your way through a burning plane wreck. In an interesting twist these missions often let you see things that occurred in the singleplayer from the eyes of the enemy. It doesn’t really add anything to the story, but it’s a neat idea. These missions are great fun to play and, best of all, provide a good challenge with which to hone your gunplay skills. Once you’ve gone through the Spec Op missions you can take on the games new survival mode which pits players against waves of evil enemies determined to eat your brains. Oh, wait. Sorry, that’s Black Ops zombie mode. Instead you’ve got waves of perfectly normal enemies with guns, determined to hunt you down. During a game of survival you can purchase weapons from crates around the maps as well as airstrikes and other death-dealing doomsday machines with which to attain victory. The enemy AI here feels even more suicidal than the singleplayer’s, choosing to charge heedlessly into gunfire in an attempt to end your life. It’s an entertaining little mode, albeit one that we’ve certainly seen before, but doesn’t really feel like it will keep players coming back for more.
However disappointment does rear its ugly noggin in the form of the complete lack of Combat Training, a brilliant mode added into Black Ops which allowed gamers to play multiplayer using AI bots instead of real people, who can be…..annoying?. It’s strange that they should remove this mode which became a fan favorite in Black Ops, though presumably it’s because the mode was created by Treyarch and some sort of pride factor stops Infinity Ward from using it in their game.
The competitive multiplayer has seen a couple of tweaks to the classic formula, as well. The COD Point system introduced in Black Ops has been tossed out of the window, again, presumably because it was Treyarch that created it, in favour of the standard ranking system that the series has been using, but with one major change; individual weapons can now gain ranks, unlocking new attachments and goodies for them as you go. Far more interesting is the unlockable perks for each weapon, such as less kick, being able to use two attachments and more. This is definitely a change for the better as it rewards you for using your favorite weapon, which can only be a good thing, though it does mean that deciding to try a different gun can be saddening when you realise that means you’ll have absolutely no attachments for it, essentially forcing you to start from scratch, so it’s advisable to play around with the guns in a private lobby and pick out a few that you really like and focus on them. Other than that the levelling system works almost exactly as Modern Warfare 2’s, going with the simple concept of it ain’t broke don’t fix the bloody thing.
The next big change comes in the form of those infamous Killstreaks, a system which awarded players who could chain together kills without dying with massively overpowered bonuses such as a helicopter that would circle the battlefield mowing down enemies. The various Killstreaks have now been split into three distinct “Strike Packages” from which you can choose just one to take into battle. The Support Package is designed to help out your team, offering a selection of rewards from the lowly UAV, which displays enemies on the radar, to the badass Osprey which rains down Care Packages, each containing a Killlstreak Reward, for your team while gunning down the enemy. The real surprise of the Support pack is that it allows you to carry your kill count through death as well, making it a superb choice for those that struggle to get long killstreaks, helping to level the playing somewhat. The Assault Package is home to the more familiar rewards such as Predator Missiles and helicopters that rain down death upon your enemies, with Killstreak counts being reset on your death. The final package, the Specialist, is the most interesting of all as it allows you to pick out three extra perks, which are bonuses applied to your character that can let you aim faster, reload quicker etc., which will each activate upon reaching a certain number of kills. Get enough kills and every single perk will activate, turning you into a super-soldier of sorts. It seems doubtful that this package will attract many fans, but more experienced players should be able to make good use of it. All of the Killstreak rewards have been tweaked to make them less powerful, but many of them still dominate the battlefield far too often, making many matches simply feel like a game of who can get the AC-130 first, and leaves an especially sour taste in your mouth when the game is won by an AI controlled helicopter that simply kills you upon spawning. A more welcome change comes in the form of being able to gain Killstreak rewards by completing objectives as well as killing enemies. In theory this should finally put an end to people simply camping out near an objective so they rack up the kills, but in practice it doesn’t seem to have solved the problem.
Once out on the battlefield you’ll quickly realise that these tweaks and changes haven’t really changed the feel of the game at all. The classic Call of Duty multiplayer which won so many fans is still very much here, favouring quick-paced twitch shooting and tight maps with plenty of blind turns. It seems that Infinity Ward are sticking to their guns like glue, refusing to budge from what made them so popular. On the one hand this does mean that if you’ve loved the Call of Duty games since the first Modern Warfare then you’ll most likely be happy with what’s on offer here, but if you’ve been tiring of it then you might want to steer clear of Modern Warfare 3. The changing of the Killstreaks has lessened the amount of choppers in the sky slightly, but matches are still often dominated by airstrikes and hovering choppers that love to kill you as you spawn. But otherwise this still feels largely like Modern Warfare 2. Even those hated knife lunges seemed to have made a comeback, along with some dodgy hitboxes that often leave you swearing loudly at the screen as your intended victim continues along unharmed. At other times enemies seemingly become invincible, failing to fall despite you sending a hail of bullets through their forehead. Despite these returning problems the multiplayer action does remain highly enjoyable, but suffers from the same problem as the rest of the game; familiarity. The multiplayer mayhem feels exactly the same as Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on how you feel about those two games.
The game ships with a total of sixteen maps that follow the same rules as we’ve seen before; lots of tight, confined spaces with plenty of sharp turns and the occasional open area. This time around, though, Infinity Ward have opted to make the average map size smaller rather than larger. Most maps are now smaller than previously seen in both Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops, creating an even more claustrophobic, linear shooter. With fewer lines of sight and even less room to move it feels though what limited tactical depth Call of Duty offered before has been nearly stripped away, simply leaving the reflex shooting. They also suffer from circular designed, making getting shot in the back an incredibly common occurrence. The map designs themselves, apart from the problems mentioned above, serve their purpose well enough, but aren’t the most memorable that we’ve seen from the series
A few new modes have been thrown in to the already quite plentiful selection, with a variety of customisation options in private matches hinting that even more intriguing playlists could be added, providing a decent amount of choice. The real star of the show, though, is the new Kill Confirmed mode, in which dead enemies drop dog tags that must be picked up for the kill to count. You can even pick up fallen comrade’s dog tags to stop the enemy scoring and generally just to annoy them. This interesting variation of the normal Team Deathmatch does allow for a bit of strategy to be used, with leaving dog tags as bait being the favorite tactic, . However, it also encourages team mates to steal dog tags in an effort to score extra points, giving the impression that Modern Warfare 3 cares even less about teamwork than its predecessors.
We’re almost at the end of this review and that means we’re getting close to a rather big problem. In this generation of games it’s hard to criticise sequels for being too similar simply because it’s such a common occurrence, with most choosing to refine and polish what already exists in favour of radically altering the gameplay or adding in new and innovative. But Modern Warfare doesn’t even do that; there’s no real refinements to the existing gameplay, nor does it feel like it has been polished up thanks to old problems still existing within the game, and that does leave Modern Warfare 3 open to criticism for being complacent in its design.
So is it a bad game, then? No, not by a long shot. It’s still a fantastic, smooth shooter than has some of the best gunplay in the FPS market. The multiplayer is still fun, if frustrating, and Spec Ops are a blast to play, but it’s simply too familiar now. Old problems still haven’t been fixed, the singleplayer campaign has no new ideas and the multiplayer hasn’t really changed at all, despite a few decent little tweaks. It feels like you’ve played it all before, and that you’ll most likely play it all again a year from now when Call of Duty 9 releases. Ultimately, Modern Warfare 3 can be summed up like; if you liked the previous games and aren’t bored with them yet, then you’re going to love Modern Warfare 3.
+ The campaign never lets up!
+ It’s still a damn fine shooter.
+ Spec Ops!
– Nothing has changed.
– Old problems still exist.
– Killstreaks can still be frustrating.
Not as impressive as they once were, but the sheer amount of mayhem on-screen at anytime is still cool.
Explosions rock the ground, gunfire sounds brutal and the screams of the dying fill your ears. The voice acting is mostly solid.
A typical summer-blockbuster of explosions, but enjoyable enough.
As slick and smooth as ever, with plenty of fun moments that’s simply overshadowed by a sense of deja vu.
Around 6 hours for the campaign, a couple more for Spec Ops and a few more for Survival. Ranking up in multiplayer is extremely quick, but it should keep you going for a while.
The Verdict: 8.5
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a damn fine shooter, filled with epic moments, silky smooth gunplay and plenty of multiplayer mayhem, but there’s just not enough additions and refinements, giving the impression that this is a lazy sequel.