Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review

Activision with the development duties of Infinity Ward, SledgeHammer Games as well as Raven Software have introduced the latest iteration of the Modern Warfare series in the form of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. To understand the worldwide success of this series one must think in the popularity terms of the Star Wars movie saga. Pre-orders from online retailer such as Amazon recently recorded record breaking numbers for the new shooter. In fact, there were two reported heists which took place leading up to the launch week of this latest release where over six thousand copies of the game were stolen, talk about over-the-top. Indeed the Modern Warfare series is undoubtedly at the top of the food chain when it comes to the interactive popularity contest.

So how did the series win over so many gamers? In 2007, Infinity Ward introduced Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and to everyone’s amazement ushered in an addictive FPS experience that changed the multiplayer landscape. An immersive new gunplay affair was born bringing with it an instant gratification system filled with perks, upgrades and incentives to keeps players glued to their consoles for months, now years. Today, while the fanfare continues to grow and evolve with each new title, fully digesting this latest offering reveals a shooter that might just be a prisoner to it’s own success.

With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, players are introduced to a what I would refer to as a cloned experience which has been tightened up in specific areas in order to keep this proven formula moving right along. There is no doubt Modern Modern 3 is certainly the best shooter in the series by a mile but as the third game in the series, this proven formula is severely showing it’s age. Modern Warfare 3 comes in three unique forms as featured in the menu screen; Spec Ops Mode, Campaign and Multipayer.

Beginning with the campaign, I was excited to once again have my senses blown away as I played in the shoes of new soldiers along side the military efforts of Soap Mactavish and Captain Price. If you remember the events leading up to the big showdown in Modern Warfare 2, you couldn’t help but wonder how with Soap and Capt Price as enemies of the state, would conclude their epic journey to stop the elusive and psychotic Makarov. As usual the campaign lives up to it’s name by uniquely throwing you into the heart of the action making life and death a very real ordeal. If there’s one thing Infinity Ward does well, it’s placing you behind the gun, getting you emotionally attached and then violently ripping the character away. Yes it hurts. In many cases I found myself hoping that my characters would make it to the credits, as long as they were playing on the right team of course.

My first playthrough was an amazing experience even though I got to the credits faster than I hoped. I managed to complete the campaign in exactly 5 hours 31 minutes and 16 seconds and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. While the campaign is short lived, the scenarios you are faced with are well fleshed out and engaging. I don’t believe the length of this campaign can be a knock against it at all. For over 5 hours I was given no downtime to wipe the blood, sweat and napalm debris off my face. Again, as with all the Modern Warfare titles, the action is some of the best in shooters today. The soldiers you go into battle with are self sacrificing and all about the cause no matter the cost. There were never any dull moments regardless of the character you played and for this ride you played as quite a few.

At first glance I couldn’t help but wonder whether there had been any real touch-ups to the game from a graphical standpoint. Take a quick look at Modern Warfare 3 and you would think you’re looking at Modern Warfare 2, yet I can confidently state that indeed the game is a much improved visual package over its predecessor. Not by any great unimaginable lengths but indeed the game looks much better. Level designs, textures and technical assets all lend well in creating a believable modern day invasion where innocent lives and the lives of those fighting the good fight are lost as casualties of war. The cinematic flare of the Modern Warfare 3 campaign is of great quality and set-pieces are memorable. You are certainly pulled off the couch and into the action from the beginning.

After three hard fought iterations there is much satisfaction found in this latest campaign which concludes the Modern Warfare story as we know it.

Playing Spec Ops for Modern Warfare 3 and players will find an improved cooperative experience offering a ton of gameplay types which assist well in getting you noobs ready to tackle the game’s popular multiplayer modes. Spec Ops is broken up into two main groups consisting of Survival and Missions. Still with the option of selecting the difficulty of your choice from regular, hardened to veteran, players taking on the Mission co-op types are now given various mission types set within the campaign world testing their skills with one other online combatant against AI controlled enemies. Players can also go it alone if they choose. While there is a ranking system within Spec Ops, your upgrades in Spec Ops are not added to your multiplayer upgradeable assets. Mission types are another valuable asset to Modern Warfare 3 as oftentimes you will need to cooperate your plan of attack with your online comrade as you up the ante with the difficulty settings.

Survival mode takes its influence from the popular zombie experience found in Black Ops by pitting players against waves of various enemy types . Like Missions, Survival is played across varying maps, the better you play and the longer you survive the better the incentives. While Survival mode is fun, the Spec Ops experience is best played in Missions as conquering missions in the more difficult settings is much more rewarding, at least for this writer.

With a well delivered single player campaign and a Spec Ops mode that is thankfully more than just a filler, I quickly jumped into the multiplayer action with bated breath in hopes of a new experience which would bring with it the raw essence of Modern Warfare. Immediately upon entering my first match and it’s obvious Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games have tightened up the feel of the gunplay giving the weapons much more punch. Squeeze off a few rounds of any weapon you find and there is much satisfaction. Continue playing and you find a smoother instantly gratifying reward system that while more balanced gives out upgrades like candy. This is certainly the multiplayer experience players deserved two years ago under the Modern Warfare 2 umbrella, yet by today’s FPS standards this is a dated multiplayer experience with no innovative ambition.

Desiring to relive the multiplayer standard that was set by COD4: Modern Warfare, it seems that endeavor has been met with a cherry on top with Modern Warfare 3, but again this dose of improvement has arrived a bit too late. Outside of the well balanced upgrades and leveling system, great new maps and a robust feel of the weapons, at its core this is nothing but a prettier update. Still offering that rogue spear approach to the multiplayer experience, there is still much to be desired. A complete make over is not the request for this proven shooter, indeed it certainly keeps the light bill paid at Activision among other things I have no doubt however, the series desperately needs to evolve its most coveted attribute. For starters, this scream of help begins before every match as you and your teammates are frozen unable to move waiting to engage in combat as the counter ticks down to ‘0’. This waiting behind the timer gate like a group of well-trained combative horses until the gun is fired was super cool in 2007, today, it’s exactly the same as with the majority of this ‘new’ mulitplayer experience. Maybe a different camera angle revealing your whole team allowing for the option to check your weapons and gear of both you and your teammates would add to the teamwork mindset from the outset. Just a suggestion!

Speaking of teamwork, while there are many modes which offer teamwork based scenarios or should I say offers the word ‘team’ in the suggestive play type, this new multiplayer affair like its predecessors lacks any real teamwork based experience. Sure, Spec Ops mode does offer a team based exchange but with only one other player. What could lend well in assisting this franchise could potentially be a class based approach added to the mix giving each class a distinctive characters attribute. Of course we’ve all seen this approach before in other shooters and it works quite well. Imagine playing a game of Modern Warfare #? where you find yourself wounded but not all together out for the count, your teammate just empties a clip into the enemy and now the area is clear, it would be great to have them quickly pump you with a dose of morphine or any other adrenaline drug which gets you back into the action or how about making a medic ability available via a perk which offers significant upgradable value to the end user making the perk valuable.

With a name like Modern Warfare, it would also be nice to experience something more geared towards a real-life modern warfare  scenario, for example, an airdrop into a multiplayer combat zone. Players could engage in a multiplayer based night mission of team deathmatch in a level filled with flairs, laser optics, night vision goggles and tracer rounds.

How about a more visceral melee maneuver which would brutally offend your enemy given the user a death quenching rush making the game become more personable. I don’t mean to suggest the same exact over-the-top brutal melee maneuver performed on planet Helghan, but again after 4 years of the same core experience and something has to give. Weather effects could also become an enemy in multiplayer as the elements of nature such as heavy rain storms or any other ecological element could slightly alter your attack or even the dark of night as mentioned before would make a great addition where players have to utilize their night vision to reveal enemy players in certain locations. Of course I’m no developer, yet the regurgitation of the same core experience with each iteration is bordering on ridiculous. Today, multiplayer experiences have become more bold and engaging with every new title. From vehicular combat, mech suits, jet packs for vertical gameplay, brutal in your face melees, to the utilization of blinding spot lights to blur ones vision in close-quarters combat and nearly fully destructible environments, more in term of gameplay engagement of warfare is best found elsewhere. Modern Warfare 3 is a fun multiplayer experience, but only until the initial shock value has worn off. Once you’re accustomed to the great new feel of the weapons and new maps and it is back to the same gameplay as usual which does hurts the replay value as you start to sense you’ve been here before all too often.

Regardless of the multiplayer shortcomings, there are people who are willing to strategize a plan in efforts of stealing thousands of copies of this latest title, literally. For today’s shooter fans, the mass majority seem to be content with minimal updates for their favorite shooter. So, why should Activision commission an ambitious effort to re-imagine their number one bread winner. I guess ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it’ right. When looking at the financial bottom line that certainly does seem to be the case.

In conclusion, Modern Warfare 3 is easily the best shooter in the series as a complete FPS package. Shooter fans can expect to dive into an engrossing campaign that brings this epic military journey to a conclusive ending. Adding more bang for your bucks and the new addition of Spec Ops adds many more hours to the overall experience after the credits of the campaign have rolled. While the multiplayer mode is fun with it’s great new maps, you might quickly tire of this been there done that affair that gives no glimpse of innovation to move the genre further. Despite the great sales and first place prizes in the popularity contest which centers around the games multiplayer experience, Modern Warfare is behind the competition on many fronts. Other FPS franchises have placed Modern Warfare in their crosshairs and have definitely pulled the trigger.

Review Score: 8.7/10

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  • MongPong

    A lot of your comments about imporvements that could be made are really good ideas…a lot of them seem to have been done my Battlefield 3 though!

    I’m not a fanboy (or whatever it’s called) as I love both franchises but MW3 really is quite dull. I tried out the multiplayer and i think I’ll just stick to COD4 (MW1)multiplayer…it ain’t broke yet they tried to fix it…again and again and now again.

  • Overall MW3 is a solid shooter and hopefully our review score reflects that. While some of the suggestive examples in the review are ideas borrowed from BF3, there are other hints from other great shooter such as Killzone 3, Battlefield Bad company 2 and so on. Again there is just so much untapped multiplayer potential just waiting to be discovered in the Modern Warfare universe. Of course the strong sales would beg to differ however, that’s a whole completely different topic.

  • Julie

    Great review. Thanks. I was on the fence about getting the game but I think now I’m definitely getting it.

    By the way, I-T-S is possessive. I-T-‘-S is IT IS. Sorry for the grammarnazi-ing.

  • I completely agree with this review. While the Modern Warfare series is incredible as a whole, I was extremely disappointed that Infinity Ward didn’t come up with something new. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Modern Warfare series, and I will continue to play it’s addicting multiplayer, but it just seems like all they have been doing since the first Modern Warfare is slightly improving graphics, gameplay mechanics, and adding new guns.

    I have this theory that Infinity Ward may have not changed a whole lot so that they could tell one continuous story, so it didn’t feel like a completely new one with each new sequel. Games like, Assassin’s Creed have been doing this as well. I think that once the story has reached a conclusion (Which Assassin’s Creed will be doing, tomorrow) I believe that a new engine will be introduced, a new story, and new characters.

    I also believe that with next generation consoles being around the corner, we will be seeing a whole lot more with the Modern Warfare series. Hopefully…

  • The Call of Duty Series has reached the coveted “Too Big to Fail” status developers and publishers desire for any of their IPs. These games will, more than likely, receive consistently low 90s, high 80s as far as reviews go, sales will be phenomenal, and we’ll see an iteration of the game almost yearly.

    When you build a “constituency” of gamers this strong, you are faced with at least two different expectations. With each successive release, some want something new and innovative while others want things the way they were. As a developer, what do you do? You don’t want to alienate either group. So you make changes that are marginal but noticeable and maintain the original formula. End result? Consistent sales records, consistently solid reviews, and a bevy of criticism from gamers who purchased and are playing the game anyway.

    If principle is paramount and you feel sligthted by the fact that Infinity Ward chose an evolutionary path as opposed to a revolutionary path with the Modern Warfare series, there is still plenty of people playing your favorite version of the game…all the way back to Call of Duty 4. And yes, Call of Duty 4 is still as good as you remember it.

  • Kevin your keen ability to point out the desired balancing act in game development for developers is to be applauded. The luxury of slightly fine-tuning one’s proven formula while generating paramount and world dominating success is indeed the epitome of publisher/developer accomplishments. Touche!

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