Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 review
- Sledgehammer Games
- Infinity Ward
- Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
- Call of Duty
Made2Game Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 review score: 8/10
Formats: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii
Format Reviewed: Xbox 360
Developer: Infinity Ward & Sledgehammer Games
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3's biggest problem is the non-Call of Duty fan. It's the naysayer. It's Mr Anti-Popularity. Infinity Ward knows that the fans need Modern Warfare 3, so what can be done for the person who blames Call of Duty for all that is wrong in the world of gaming?
Modern Warfare 3 doesn't, at any point, consider re-writing the rulebook. Indeed its shameless recycling of assets, guns and even the heads-up-display from Modern Warfare 2 do the game absolutely no favours because at first this seems like a lazy, cheap, safe game designed purely to rinse more money from the millions of Call of Duty fans. Easy.
But it's not so simple. Take a proper good look and you'll see a game that's full of tweaks and refinement. Gone are the naff multiplayer perks and killstreak rewards. Killstreaks are now objective-focused Pointstreaks. Spec Ops are less predictable. In Campaign mode enemies no longer throw grenades with Olympic precision. And when you take damage it no longer looks like someone's flicked strawberry jam in your eyes.
While the arcadey, reaction-based gooey centre of Modern Warfare remains unchanged, the framework around it has been intelligently re-crafted to offer the best Call of Duty since Call of Duty 4.
Symphony of destruction
Modern Warfare 3's campaign picks up where the best Bond film never made, Modern Warfare 2, left off. Captain 'gaming's best facial fluff' Price and Soap McTavish are off the grid, still trying to find and murderise the Ultra Nationalist leader Makarov while the world tears itself apart in the ongoing war between Russia and America.
The story is tailored for absurdity but thrillingly so. Taken for what they are the set pieces and key plot points are all suitably overblown and wonderfully snappy; one specific Inception ape-ing scene on a plane has to be played to be believed. You bunny hop between American troops, Russian bodyguards, British S.A.S and Price's merry band of rogues in this whistlestop tour of worldwide fist pump-inducing action, and to describe the pace as utterly relentless would be an understatement.
There is that one scene set in London involving a camcorder that, in an attempt to humanise the events, feels startlingly out of place so take this advice – say you'll be offended when the game asks and you'll enjoy the ridiculous ride significantly more. Modern Warfare 2's 'No Russian' airport scene was affecting but ultimately tied into the plot, this is simply an off key stumble in an otherwise expertly composed symphony.
Indeed 'symphony' is quite an accurate description. The musical form sees several compositions lilt, slow down, speed up and otherwise mould themselves around a single overarching idea whilst always remaining part of the whole. A level in Modern Warfare 3 has this same elasticity to its pacing.
Where Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2's missions were often rather one note, always this or always that or this into that, Modern Warfare 3 manages to mix up its gameplay on the fly to create an unpredictable rhythm that's fun to be a part of. Sure, you're almost always holding onto the tail of the chap with a big 'follow me' arrow above his head but some missions start with stealth, go into action, then mortar, then more action. Another starts with a brutal onslaught that leads into a slower meander and then into a hurried escape.
One could argue that it's simply playing up to what we know and there does seem to be a bit of box checking with 'here's the all guillied-up style bit' then 'now for the sniper' and 'we need ladles of slow motion breaching', but the campaign rolls along with the adrenaline-fuelled ferocity of the best arcade shooters and manages to play with the now-accepted format in some often entertaining and surprising ways. That and the campaign gets better and better as it explodes through its six-to-seven hour length.
At times it feels like a fever dream stolen from the personal diary of Michael Bay, with us simply privileged to come along for the ride, but these times are undoubtedly its best times no matter how much control we actually have. Is it a great video game? Arguably not but it's a very fun place to be, watching the world explode. The whole campaign manages to mark a nice, uncompromising end to the Modern Warfare saga.
I will survive
But for those that complain about the lack of 'game' that Call of Duty has supposedly wrought upon the modern FPS genre then Modern Warfare 3 does cater for you, even if you don't like to admit it.
'Special Operations', or Spec Ops, is a mode of two halves. One half is a series of 16 missions in which you're given an objective, a level, and told to accomplish it to the best of your abilities for high score bragging rights.
The maps may be shamelessly robbed from the main campaign but the challenges are unique, from speedy runs through tight corridors to slick stealth attacks around a crashed plane. One level even squeezes you into a set of mighty juggernaut armour, calling in airstrikes and mowing down foes with a massive machine gun. The Spec Ops missions are challenging but brilliant, putting as much emphasis on memorisation and working out how best to tackle a mission as genuine off-the-cuff skills.
The other half of Spec Ops is the Survival mode. Available on all 16 of the game's multiplayer maps, Survival tasks you with surviving as many escalating waves of enemy troops as possible. You can call in support attacks and set up traps but the frantic pace and flimsy set ups give this mode a brilliantly slick arcade feel that is a million miles from Gears of War 3's very Tower Defence inspired Horde mode.
Aiming for high scores in both the missions and the survival maps can consume hours of anyone's time, and the well oiled controls make them a simple delight to play, while the addition of two player co-op in both modes extends their life even further.
Run. Stop. Aim. Run. Stop. Aim. Kill. Run. The pace of Modern Warfare 3's multiplayer is frighteningly quick, a frantic confrontation between opponents armed with guns that kill in a heartbeat. This is a multiplayer mode with no time for foolish dashes or careful planning, every match is a ten minute adrenaline rush of quick kills, map knowledge and ample forethought with no time for mistakes.
This exhausting pace is generated by the new claustrophobic maps. All tight corridors and ruined scenery, Modern Warfare 3's 16 maps seem to imbue players with a requirement to move and keep moving due to their often quite circular layout.
Couple this with a striking lack of vantage points that nips the sniper game in the bud and a new game mode called Kill Confirmed – you must collect dogtags from deceased opponents to secure the point - and you've got the perfect antithesis to Battlefield 3's drawn out campaigns and five mile runs. Modern Warfare 3 is all action all the time. No room to breathe, just run, stop, aim, kill, die then catapult yourself right back into the thick of it within seconds. Brainless? A little, but with more action crammed into ten minutes than the best movies of Bruce Willis it's a lot of fun.
That's not to say Modern Warfare 3 hasn't learnt any new tricks. For starters 'Killstreaks' – the idea of earning enough kills without dying to call in assistance - are now 'Pointstreaks', which means playing well for your team and achieving objectives counts towards your streak bonuses as well as simple fragging.
Players also have a limited choice of 'class' for their streak style. 'Assault' is standard Call of Duty affair with death resetting your Pointstreak to zero. 'Support' offers less aggressive Pointstreak rewards but a streak continues regardless of whether you expire or not, just keep playing and you'll reach your streak eventually. The third and final class is 'Specialist', or the 'maverick' class, which replaces the usual range of gadgets for reaching a certain score with additional perks, meaning a successful player could have six active perks at any one time.
A minor change but one that suddenly opens the game up to a whole host of less competent players, there shall be no more pad smashing with the less stringent Support class, while the Specialist style appeals to the lone wolf, off on his own to sow destruction as a one man army.
Modern Warfare 3's multiplayer suite is formidable. Before factoring in the very tweakable custom modes you've got a game serving up gametypes for every style, from Free-For-All to Team Deathmatch to Capture The Flag to one life per round stress-fests, and when combined with the barrage of unlockables and customisable options it's a game that you can easily synch with your personal gameplay style.
Assuming you like the breakneck pace.
The thing with Modern Warfare 3 is, you can't fault the package. The bombastic, set piece laden campaign is incredibly exciting and a real lesson in how to do what Call of Duty does so well (Battlefield take note) but if that is too 'cinematic' and hand-holding for you then the Spec Ops mode provides 16 wonderful high score focused gameplay canapés with a Survival mode that owes more to genre grand daddy DOOM than Call of Duty 4. Then there's the multiplayer that, with its myriad tweaks and refinements, features a gametype and loadout for any style of play, assuming you can keep up with the pace.
And all of this is presented at a gorgeous 60fps with buttery smooth aiming? Lovely.
The shooting itself may not be tailored for gun nut satisfaction a la Battlefield 3 and some may say that, whisper it, the whole thing can feel a tad soulless at times with its often flimsy weapons and finger-snap combat decisions, particularly in multiplayer, but when you look at that base gameplay, that pure point, shoot and kill experience, then Modern Warfare 3 has got its ruthless satisfaction and appeal down to an art.
We were worried for Modern Warfare 3 following Infinity Ward's fallout with Activision and subsequent loss of key development staff but the team behind Modern Warfare 3 have certainly proven themselves more than capable. Thanks to an excellent campaign and Spec Ops, accompanied by a well polished and refined multiplayer that's way superior to Modern Warfare 2's hackneyed additions, Modern Warfare 3 is easily the best Call of Duty to date and marks a satisfying conclusion to one of gaming's landmark modern series. Is it a bit brainless? Arguably yes. But what's here is quality entertainment nonetheless.
Words by James Bowden (Twitter: @Dalagonash)
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