Never has the video game community yearned to revile a game as much as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. But the hope for Modern Warfare 3′s demise is not without cause. From the moment Activision killed the Call of Duty PC gaming community by axing dedicated servers from Modern Warfare 2, many gamers have built a sentiment of resentment towards the company. Mix in the egregious firings of Infinity Ward co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella (as well as numerous other ethically questionable business practices), and you end up with a company that is poised to be hated. Gamers want to see Activision’s bubble burst. After dismantling the developer group that made Call of Duty the most beloved and successful franchise of the generation, many expected Modern Warfare 3 to be the beginning of Activision’s “deserved” decline.
Sorry folks: Modern Warfare 3 isn’t that bad. In fact, at times, it can be quite entertaining. It isn’t a progression of the series by any means, and if anything, Modern Warfare 3 is a testament to the original structure of Call of Duty 4. Four years, two half-sequels, and two full-sequels later, the revolutionary Call of Duty 4 formula still stands up (even though this is probably its last leg).
Modern Warfare 3 is once again neatly split up into three aspects: campaign, co-op, and multiplayer. In Modern Warfare 2, one of the biggest gripes in all three choices was the lack of balance. The campaign had far too many areas with unorganized hordes of enemies and incredibly easy vehicle sequences. The co-op was a rather dull affair. Most importantly, the game’s online kill streak system helped give Modern Warfare 2 its own derogatorily-named subgenre: “twitch shooter. ”
Fortunately, the game’s co-op aspect and online multiplayer component are both improved over versions seen in its predecessor. However, the game’s campaign is a bit of a disappointment. World War III comes packed with a ton of quick-time events, scenic but disengaging vehicle sequences, and some of the worst attempts at storytelling I have ever seen from a video game. While environments are iconic and awe-inspiring, the game’s pursuit of enormity instead of quality winds up being the campaign’s biggest flaw.
There are too few levels that feel properly crafted. For the most part, levels include little exploration. Set pieces are huge and gorgeous, but we never get to properly investigate them since the game forces you to drag along in a straight line. Such a linear design would be fine if there were multiple types of enemies to be shoot. Yet, there is little variety in that regard. While there is a ton of unique vehicular missions, each of them feels more like an excuse to include more explosions than actually being fun. But the game does entertain once it starts to mix in absurd action sequences, and its shooter mechanics are still tightly-designed.
Even though it is entertaining to see the world’s most famous structures fall to ruin, most of the game’s plot devices are laughably terrible. One scene in particular is so egregiously awful that I spit up soda out of laughter. Granted, Modern Warfare 2‘s plot and scenery might have been just absurd and stupid. Yet Modern Warfare 2, for all its faults, was still a fun campaign experience. Modern Warfare 3′s campaign is very fun in bursts, but once you realize that the game’s constant barrage of explosions has little effect on gameplay, you’ll find that there is something lacking in this series’ conclusion.
The game’s co-operative mode, Spec Ops, performs like previous iterations but with far better level design. Some missions are re-hased levels from the game’s single player, offering little co-operative elements. But other missions do require a fair amount of teamwork and can be quite challenging. While many would still rather have co-op properly built in with the game’s campaign, all of Spec Ops 16 levels are fairly well-made and engaging.
But the meat of Call of Duty always has been found in its competitive multiplayer. As someone who believes Call of Duty 4 to be the best console FPS experience of his lifetime, and Modern Warfare 2 to be one his worst, Modern Warfare 3 remains a satisfying online experience.
Kill streak rewards are more properly thought out, with the game’s overly-powerful Nuke reward being axed. A bunch of other annoying abilities (like the “noob tube”) were tweaked for balancing purposes. Maps are better designed based off of the weapon and kill streak changes, showcasing some stellar design in the process. While environments aren’t destructible and some of the game’s textures are a bit dated, Modern Warfare 3 still looks very impressive online and in motion. A complete lack of clipping is a trademark of the series, and that’s still there.
This time around, weapons and perks are more balanced. That’s mostly thanks to the game’s new set of Strike class. Even though kill streaks are a staple of any modern Call of Duty experience, they do create a lone wolf atmosphere for most players. With Support and Specialist classes, the former giving you team-related perks that continue to build up after death and the latter allowing you to bypass kill streaks all together in place of additional perks, there is actual incentive for players to work together.
What you’re left with is easily the most robust and technically sound console Call of Duty online experience. It’s a balanced and engaging thrill ride, and anyone who isn’t prying to hate the game should have hours of fun with it. But unlike Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare 3 isn’t going to blow anyone away. Staleness is just around the corner for the franchise, and that’s rather apparent after a few hours of playing the game. However, if you enjoy a well-made multiplayer, you probably will wind up having too much fun to care.
At the very least, this isn’t the pitchfork party some of you wanted.
3 Stars out of 5
***A 3 Star game is a release that accomplishes most of its goals, and will satisfy the majority of people that enjoy the game’s genre or mechanics. However, the experience doesn’t offer much else and isn’t worth the time or investment for many.***
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