Lock and load Call of Duty fans, it’s time to hit the battlefield in the latest installment of the smash hit from Infinity Ward/Activision, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Continuing the story from Modern Warfare 2, gamers jump back into the boots of soldiers of the series we have come to know and love over the years, as they continue their fight to find Makarov. MW3 remains true to the series with over the top action pack campaign missions, addictive co-op play, and the always time-consuming multiplayer.
Like the prior games the battles of Modern Warfare 3 take place all around the world, from New York City, to London and Paris. With the global war raging, these cities have all seen better days. Each city just looks stunning even with destruction and mayhem around each and every corner. The level of detail put into the rubble of the cities really makes an impact on your emotions. There are few games that I play that really grab my emotions, but the war-torn cities of Modern Warfare just seem to real at times. Like the earlier campaigns of the series you seem to always be fighting for the upper hand, and most times just as you think you are about to turn the outcome something happens and you find yourself as the under dog again.
The gameplay formula of the campaign is fairly the same as we’ve seen in the past. You’ll go through stretches of large gun battles, followed by scenes where you are manning vehicle guns causing huge explosions. At times you’ll be able to take controls of various air assets providing support for ground units, and then there are times when you are using stealth and sniper rifles to infiltrate bases. Obviously if you played prior MW games this isn’t a new, it still works though, and it keeps the game moving along and action packed. If you’ve played the last two Modern Warfare campaigns you must make this last 5-6 hour adventure, as it caps off this great trilogy. While I’ve never been a big fan of the story line in the first two games, and was always annoyed by the disconnection between characters, with MW3 I’m happy to say I enjoyed the campaign and some of the throw backs to the first two games really tied everything together. While still not as amazing of a story like Uncharted, the MW3 campaign is by far the best in the series.
Once you tear through the campaign you’ll be ready for Spec Ops and Multiplayer. When Spec Ops debuted in MW2 I was instantly hooked. It was very easy to spend countless hours playing Spec Ops split-screen with friends and I’m happy to say in MW3 the experience is bigger and better. The mission styled Spec Ops returns and works the same as MW2. You get specialized missions which should last no longer then 6-7 minutes and they take place within the campaign world. Some missions you will find yourself on the flip side of the campaign mission, for instance in one of them you are trying to capture the Russian president, you have to fight your way through his aircraft taking our his protection the missions ends where the campaign’s version of the mission began, but int he campaign you were playing as the presidents bodygaurd. It’s neat playing these types of Spec Ops missions as they give you another perspective of the game’s storyline.
If you aren’t in the mood for mission based Spec Ops then you can try out the brand new Spec Ops Survival mode. This is the Modern Warfare version of wave/horde/zombie based mode. You can take on survival mode solo or with a friend and play out on all the multiplayer maps. The way it works is you begin with a pistol and need to fight off waves of enemies that will get ever more difficult. With every kill you make you earn cash, make kills without taking damage and you earn bonus cash. This cash can then be spent on new weapons, equipment or air support. As you play through the first 3 rounds three terminals will unlock giving you access to the weapons and such. Now to keep you coming back for more Spec Ops, you are ranked, and each rank unlocks more items for you to spend cash on when playing, as well as opens more of the maps. Your Spec Ops rank is built through both Survival and mission based play, so while it is annoying that you will be ranking in both Spec Ops and multiplayer at least you have enough options to rank up in Spec Ops, and truthfully I was able to rank up pretty quickly and didn’t feel like I was doing the same work twice, so don’t fret you’ll be able to use that grenade sentry fairly quick. And if ranking up wasn’t enough to get you to play lots of Spec Ops, every level has leaderboards so you can compete with friends!
Multiplayer has been a big staple of the Call of Duty franchise since Modern Warfare launched years ago. The fast action and addictive gameplay really established the series as one of the multiplayer juggernauts in gaming. Each game built of the prior games online success and furthered the experience. While truthfully the core of multiplayer hasn’t changed much, do they really need to fix something that isn’t broken? If millions of gamers are enjoying the multiplayer action there is no reason to go and try to make radical changes. That being said there are still some changes that change how some of the multiplayer mechanics work. The first change is the revamping of Killstreaks. While you still get those awesome call-ins now you have some choices and new ways of gaining them. Killstreaks are now tied to Strike Packages, Assault, Support and Specialist. Each strike package has its own killstreak rewards. You also don’t have to make kills to unlock the rewards, capturing flags, command points, planting bombs and what-not add to your streak.
The Assault Strike Package works the same as Killstreaks in the past, rack up kills and you get an offensive type of reward, if you die you start all over again. The Support Strike Package is very different. This package has support styled Killstreaks, like the remote sentry or various drones. Also if you play with the Support Package your count doesn’t reset if you die. Specialist is the real odd and interesting Strike Package in the bunch. Instead of getting call-ins you get more Perks, every two kills you get another perk. So if you want to be a super soldier this is the package for you. Though I liek th idea I think Specialist is a bit overkill and truthfully I haven’t enjoyed playing that Strike Package in the least bit, it’s just not enough bang for the buck. For me I’ve always been that sit back and hold the point type of player and I also play a lot of objective based multiplayer, so I’ve been loving the choice of using the Support Strike Package and still getting rewards even though I’m not racking up huge kill counts instead racking up lots of points.
Another new addition to multiplayer is Weapon Proficiency. Now each weapon has its own rank and as you play and rank that weapon up you unlock a new proficiency, such as Kick which lower the kickback from the gun, or Impact for increased bullet impact. Pretty much some of those weapon focused Perks have been moved to this section so you won’t have to waste a perk space. This is another addition that is great, it adds a level of reward as you need to rank up your weapons, but also give you many more options for creating classes that fit your play style.
Strike Packages and Weapon Proficiency are the two big changes made to the multiplayer mechanics of Modern Warfare 3. There are also some changes to the modes, there are two new modes, Kill Confirmed which is pretty much team death match but to score points you need to pick-up the enemies dog tags. The other addition is Team Defender, there is one flag and the team that can hold onto it the longest wins. Both of these new match types are a blast to play and each time I’ve played them they went down to the wire.
Beyond the in-game additions, also new to the Call of Duty franchise is the stat tracking social network Call of Duty Elite. Elite is a free service that will track all your stats and give you a place to find and join friends who also play MW3 and future COD games. The free level of Elite is pretty deep and will be good for most players, but for those that opt to subscribe tot he premium level of the service you’ll get a hardy amount of extras. You’ll get clan support, Elite TV and the best perk all DLC free of charge. Clans are pretty self explanatory. EliteTV didn’t really interest me at first but after watching some of the videos I’m hooked. You’ll get some neat created videos but the big draw for me is the videos that show you how to improve your game. They are pretty much video versions of a strategy guide. As far as DLC goes the plan is to have new content each month, so we’ll see how that is over the next few months.
Now with all the core gameplay mechanic stuff out of the way I can touch on the visuals and surface of the game. While MW3 doesn’t see the visual jump forward that we saw years ago, there are some really nice changes that brings the world to life more than ever. One of the biggest visual “wows” was the way cars now blow up, instead of them just turning into a cloud of smoke and a burnt up car in-place when the smoke clears, now you’ll see the car pop off the ground and the wheels blow off and even roll away. Even other explosions in the game seem to be much more toned down and realistic. While you won’t find the level of destruction as in other games, there are still quite a bit of set pieces that will chip and break apart during battle, and nothing is crazier then the interior firefights that see glass, paper, sparks and other debris flying around the air. So yes while MW3 doesn’t make a huge jump in the visuals from the prior, the changes and tweaks have really refined the game’s engine to give you a realistic visual experience. The bottom-line is the game continues the franchises high quality sharp visuals.
I have spent many many hours with Call of Duty over the years, and each year the teams behind the games strive and usually bring us a bigger and better game than the prior year. With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 not only do we get the best game to date in the series but we also get a nicely finished story. While the game doesn’t sport the big jumps in graphics and changes to gameplay we have seen in the past versions, there are enough changes that you’ll still enjoy countless hours of fun. Graphically the game is stunning, explosions, lighting and particle effects have been refined that they look more realistic than ever. Moving through a desert dust storm just looks amazing and the destruction of big cities around the world is just mind-blowing. Spec Ops was my favorite mode in MW2 and it’s now even better with the addition of Spec Ops Survival. Multiplayer has been a big part of the Modern Warfare series and the additions of Strike Package, Weapon Proficiency, and addition of Elite are all great and fit perfectly. Strike Packages are by far the most welcomed change as for once I can play the game how I like and still get rewarded. While the online match types remain addictive it would be nice to see something new and different attempted. Look at games like Gears of War 3 and even Left 4 Dead 2 which gets new match types weekly, how about something a long those lines? Elite is still a work in progress but it has some major potential and will be a big part of Call of Duty now and in the future. If you have been a fan of the series, then Modern Warfare 3 is a great addition to your library, for those who have sat on the sidelines, pick-up the first two games and play the campaigns, then treat yourself to MW3 and finish the trilogy!
A copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Hardened Edition for Xbox 360 was provided to us for review from Activision.