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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review

Review; Jan. 5, 2012; Channels: Video Games; By Kyle James Hovanec
Becoming the median

It's impossible to ignore the FPS juggernaut that is the Call of Duty franchise. From its rabid fanbase to its yearly installments that earn millions, the franchise has -- love it or hate it -- earned a strong presence in the video game community.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Modern Warfare 3 is the latest in the military first-person shooter series. This title, a continuation from Modern Warfare 2, is the end of the line that began with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2007. That means characters and situations fans have become familiar with all have their final moment in the spotlight before the bullet-and-explosion-filled finale. For a series as popular and as successful as Call of Duty, one has to ask if the most recent title, the 8 th, is as compelling as the introduction was to the gaming world. Is the single player still filled with epic moments? Is the gameplay still easy to pick up and play? Is the multiplayer fun? An even more important question: Is the multiplayer balanced?

After experiencing single-player mode in its entirety, and playing a large portion of both the cooperative spec ops mode and the competitive multiplayer mode, I can say Modern Warfare 3 delivers exactly what one expects from a CoD title .

The single-player campaign puts you in the role of Delta Force soldiers, Russian secret service, and series' main characters Captain Price and “Soap” MacTavish as you work together to stop the terrorist Makarov threatening to destroy the world by starting World War III. Throughout this six-hour campaign, you'll be playing the role of different characters through war-torn New York City to a poison gas-filled downtown Paris. As with all of the previous titles in the series, Modern Warfare 3 has some impressive levels that guide you down a narrow path, shooting enemies as you go with the newest and most impressive weapons. The single-player campaign was an impressive and well-made experience that provided a whirlwind tour of a modern world at war. However, despite the amount of fun I had with the campaign, it is impossible to ignore that the entire experience feels hollow.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Screenshots
Click the image to view game screenshots

The campaign attempts to give you one set piece after another, one explosive combat situation after another, and make the experience come across as a dark and somber commentary on the horrors of war. It is a game that thinks it has an important message to tell and tries too hard to tell it. The characters are nothing more than one-dimensional cut-outs functioning as a convenient way to deliver a few lines of dialog. When characters, civilians, and enemies die, we never get a sense of loss due to the fact that they're so shallow to begin with. I have nothing against simple shoot-em-ups, and even less against paper-thin FPS stories so long as the game itself plays well. When you make one type of game and expect people to invest in characters and ideas that are not there, it comes off forced, annoying, and generally unpleasant.

The cooperative-based Spec Ops mode is easily the most fun I had playing MW3 as it takes the game's biggest strength, its core gameplay, and dumps all the less enjoyable elements. It drops the cheesy story and multiplayer balancing and lets you and another friend take on waves of enemies or complete a series of cooperative missions.

Survival mode is similar to the previous entry in the CoD series, Call of Duty: Black Ops, in which you and a partner take on wave after wave of enemies earning stronger defensive options and weapons as you progress. Even though the zombie theme has been dropped in favor of more realistic enemies, the gameplay feels as fast and as smooth as ever. I played through a significant portion of the survival maps alone and with friends, both online and split screen, and I didn't run into any lag or glitching -- just pure FPS shooting, fast, furious, and a lot of fun.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Screenshots

The other cooperative mode involves either yourself or a another player taking on a series of separate missions that focus more on objectives rather than trying to shoehorn in a plot. The difficulty and the variety of objectives has been vastly improved from its previous incarnation in Modern Warfare 2. Objectives range from disarming chemical bombs as you take fire from enemies to assassination objectives. Each of the missions was fun, provided a consistent level of difficulty, and never seemed to repeat the same mission objectives twice.

Finally, the biggest bullet-point on nearly every CoD fan's list is its multiplayer offering. Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games have taken great strides to improve the multiplayer experience by adding new modes, new kill streaks (now called point streaks), new weapons, and new pregame modes (such as a zombie mode). All of this sounds like a substantial addition to the multiplayer offering, but underneath exists issues that have plagued the series since its rise in popularity and also introduces some new issues as well.

One of the largest problems with this latest installment is the bland and uninspiring map designs. Not a single map stands out as memorable or exciting. While previous installments may have had a few clunkers among their selections, most of them had memorable design, easily recognizable landmarks, and played with different game types. Here, the maps all largely look the same, play the same (massive choke point in the middle, some sniper spots above), and seem made more for deathmatch than objective-based modes. There may be less camping and defensive play, but instead a stronger focus on run-and-gun gaming and close quarters combat. If only a portion of the maps catered to this style, it wouldn't be an issue, but when nearly all of the maps play this way, not only does objective-based gaming suffer, but the weapons suffer as well. Close quarters caters well to assault riffles, sub machine guns, and shotguns. Sniping and more long-range combat goes out the window and forces those using those weapons to make an uphill climb to be proficient.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Screenshots

The spawns are also terrible, as most of the time, they put you as close to the action as possible. Getting killed right after spawning is a much more likely event in this title. I am still baffled by spawn issues cropping up in modern-day games.

The ability for the player to choose their own point streaks, through “strike packages,” is the newest addition to the game and for the most part, functions very well. It forces the player to rely less on getting kill streaks and more on helping the team. Not really good at getting kills? Use the support package and help find the enemies. Still pretty good at getting kills? Use the assault package to rack them up through more traditional kill streaks. Finally, the specialist package can be used to rack up kill streak after kill streak but will only work if you can continually get kills or points. The strike packages do a great job of helping the player feel useful regardless of skill level.

The new modes also make it fun by requiring a kill be confirmed. Simply shooting the other players is not enough, as you now have to claim their dogtags in order to confirm the kill. Team defender is a nice twist on capture-the-flag, forcing each team to scramble for the flag (which comes from the first person who dies in a match). It's a fun mode, but again, not many of the maps play well to this game type.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Screenshots

It would be simple to write Modern Warfare 3 off as another phoned-in project from Activision. However, that would be selling the game short. It has its issues, some of them quite significant, but overall the game still has the rock-solid mechanics and fantastic graphics (quite a feat from such an aging engine) that the series has had since day one. For fans, chances are you will get a great deal of enjoyment out of this title.

For everyone else, the casual fans and those on the fence about purchasing another yearly installment of the FPS juggernaut, it is entirely safe to sit this one out, or at the very least, consider a rental. For those not already a fan, Modern Warfare 3 offers not enough new and too much of the same. There's better ways to spend $60, and this is not one of them.

* Editor's Note: This review is based on the Xbox 360 version.


Review Score


Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

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