With Vince Zampella and Jason West, the former heads of Infinity Ward out of the picture, many questioned if Infinity Ward was now a shadow of its former self. Activision brought in all of the guns to get this game together with Sledgehammer and Raven Software backing up Infinity Ward on development duties.
As I wrapped my brain around review copy of the game, I found the final result to be actually quite pleasing. The studios have crafted a refined title that is on par in quality to all of the previous Modern Warfare titles.
Everything in the Modern Warfare series has built up to this climatic moment with the entire world engulfed in war. Modern Warfare 3 picks things up by replaying the ending of Modern Warfare 2, which leaves Soap and Captain Price, hurt and dying with Nikolai out to save them. The gears to start World War 3 have been set in motion, as a misguided military faction engaged the US on American soil in the previous game. This time around the enemy has taken the fight to New York as the center stage for the global war.
The war is spreading to Europe with armies invading England and France. There is even a World Trade Center moment in Paris that will leave your jaw on the floor. With the fictional World War 3 in full swing, the hunt for the man responsible for setting things in motion, Vladimir Makarov has begun.
While the story can be exciting, if you can keep up with it, most will find it a bit confusing and difficult to understand. Admittedly, many hardcore COD fans will just skip the story as it really serves to train entrants for the beefier multiplayer mode. The story is also considerably shorter than its predecessor as many will complete the single player campaign in five hours.
The action has been cranked up to a 10, throwing non-stop explosions into your face. Unfortunately, this means more scripted cinematic moments taking the controls from your hands quite often. A good portion of the game feels like an on-rail shooter as you hop on a speed boat, tank, van or chopper to be carried from point A to point B, with stuff blowing up everywhere.
While many may have difficulty following the confusing story, there will be a sense of satisfaction from completion the single player campaign as it finally closes the book on the Modern Warfare’s story arc and all of its loose ends.
The real meat of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is in the multiplayer mode. Its unbelievable the amount of value per dollar that exists between Spec-Ops and the competitive online modes. The latest iteration of Spec-Ops is back and its better. The mode features online and split-screen co-op capability again, with an assortment of action packed missions.
For the first time, Spec-Ops includes a new horde-like mode called “Survival” where you can buy and upgrade weapons similarly to Zombie Mode. In addition to a new cash economy, Spec-ops have its own leveling system integrating many of the popular multiplayer elements.
The competitive online multiplayer mode is largely the same but with some tweaks and additions. The mode is still largely perks driven, but the introduction of the Strike Packages spices things up. This addition allows players to quickly select a class that has its own skill tree-like progression system. The Strike Packages come in three flavors: Assault, Specialist, and Support.
Each Strike Package comes with a different set of kill streak bonuses. The Assault class comes with a set of deadly bonuses but resets after each death. However, the Support Strike Package allows gamers to carry over their kill streaks even after death, allowing players to accumulate them during the duration of the match. This may seem unbalanced, but the kill streak bonuses are much weaker- and defensive in nature. The Specialist package is for hardcore players as there are no Kill Streak bonuses, but it does offer up some extra perks to the player.
The multiplayer mode is rich in content with nearly 20 modes and 16 maps on disc. However, many of the maps do feel recycled with some of the buildings rearranged, providing for a sense of déjà vu at times.
This time around, all of the guns are leveled up individually making gamers really work for that additional attachment. For example a scope unlocked for one weapon can’t be used for another until its unlocked for that weapon. This allows gamers to spend more time with each weapon, specializing in customizing their loadout.
The addition of private matches is a nice touch as it allows for varied but limited customization. Whiles its not on the same level of a custom match on a PC with dedicated servers, it is a step in the right direction.
The biggest addition to the multiplayer mode is the mostly free Call of Duty Elite program. COD: Elite is a stat tracking dashboard on steroids, which can also be accessed from a PC. Elite will allow you to plan out and strategize with your buddies as well as study each individual map.
Elite will also provide interesting information such as what area on the map is a kill zone and where you die often. Elite also allows you to modify and improve loadouts remotely from work or anywhere in the world.
On the graphics front, it seems like Infinity Ward is reusing the same engine and recycling many of its artifacts with each iteration of the game. Unfortunately, in a sea of visually stunning games, Modern Warfare 3 is definitely looking aged. However, it is also important to note that no other console FPS can crank out 60fps in a super twitchy manner on the market.
In addition to the engine the AI is also showing its age with armies of cannon fodders running to their death without hesitation around you. It is understandable that with a tight two year development time, there is very little time to upgrade the tech or fundamental design. Hopefully with the next story the studio will revamp everything.
As always, the series features some top notch celebrity voice work with exceptional audio. The dramatic music playing in the background is nonstop but varied just enough from getting too old fast.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is a nice ending to the main story that has been building up to this game. While the franchise started off as a believable near-future world, the series surprisingly ended on a note that is arguably more sci-fi in nature.
While the story has evolved, the way it is presented continued to stay in its confusing disconnected state, which was probably done for continuity. The multiplayer modes are undeniably one of the best in the business, with Activision mastering the art of addiction on the FPS front. While fundamentally there is very little in the way of innovation, the tweaks and addition to the existing framework pushes the value proposition of the multiplayer offering.
The market is getting crowded with new top notch contenders, but Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 continues to keep the bar high by bringing the same level of quality since the first iteration of the series. I highly recommend that all fans of the FPS genre to pick up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.