War is hell unless Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games have anything to say about it. From roaring gunfire, explosions on all sides and invigorating cut scenes, players have very little opportunity to rest on their laurels when playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Since it’s release on November 8, gamers have questioned whether the game is a true sequel or a glorified expansion to Modern Warfare 2. It’s been heralded for it’s record-breaking sales by the media and criticized for not including a certain level of innovation by many gamers. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 stands where many games wish they could be: in the limelight and encircled by controversy and criticism. This puts Modern Warfare 3 where it wants to be, in our gaming systems and our discussions.
Let’s Jump Right In, Shall We?
Controversial moments from the single player campaign (more on this later) always seem to steal headlines, but the real guts and glory of the Call of Duty series really lies in multiplayer. This iteration of the Modern Warfare series is no exception to the rule. At any moment you can find more than 500,000 players online, and that is just for the Xbox 360. The numbers are staggering, but that is to be expected of a game that sells more than $1 billion worth of copies of the game across all platforms. This kind of variety of potential teammates and foes provides an opportunity of a diverse gaming experience due to differing skill levels and tactics used across the globe.
Multiplayer in Modern Warfare 3 brings back many of the great things about the experience. The gun play is fast and furious. There are a variety of modes to meet your battle preferences, and multiplayer options also come equipped with a private game option which allows you to create your own version of your game mode and play by your own rules. The maps are tailored to faster game play as very few maps feel the “sprawling effect” and much more claustrophobic when both teams are full of players. This holds especially true in Ground War which ups the ante from 6 players per team to 9.
Modern Warfare 3 does introduce new game modes such as Kill Confirmed and Team Defender. These new modes add a little variety to traditional Team Deathmatch and Domination games. They make for a nice change of pace and allow for different strategies than the traditional “run and gun” Call of Duty games are most known for. Along with new game modes, new weapon proficiencies and leveling systems add new elements to the game for those completionist or obsessive compulsive gamers. You can tailor your favorite weapons to meet your game style to make you a more efficient warrior. For those who like to chase after those elusive ranks and perks, there are 10 prestige ranks of 80 levels each for your long-term goal setting.
Killstreaks are perhaps the biggest revamped pieces to the multiplayer experience. Now known as Strike Packages, players can pick packages to tickle their fancies. Players can choose between Assault, Support and Specialist packages. Assault packages are tailored to those who like to work on their kill-death ratios and destroy lesser mortals. Support packages provide some opportunities to bring the pain, but as the package suggests it is more designed for team players who want to “support” their team. Specialist packages are designed to turn you into the universal soldier. You literally can become Jean Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren and the entire cast of The Expendables if you can kill and stay alive. As you add up your kills without dying you can unlock more perks for your soldier beyond the default three you already use.
The real appeal to MW3’s multiplayer is the ability to jump right in, pick it up and go. The controls are very smooth and appealing with a low learning curve. The graphics are improved from its predecessor running at a cool 60 FPS, and the maps are generally easy on the eyes. This is assuming, of course, if war-torn landscape and urban areas are easy on the eyes. Regardless of your taste in graphics, you cannot deny the ease of accessibility to muliplayer for players of all skill levels.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Spec Ops and survival modes. This is great if you don’t want to play alone but also don’t have a whole slew of friends to play with. The Spec Ops mission pits you and a partner in a situation with specific objectives. Completing these objectives on harder difficulties earn you more stars. Survival mode is much like horde mode (sans-zombies), but it still only allows two players. A small gripe I have is why can’t you at least have four players? Most similar games today provide the four player scenario so it was kind of surprising to find this out.
Little Aches and Pains
As with any multiplayer experience with this many players online there are some undesirable problems to work through. One of the biggest challenges for Call of Duty games is balance. This could range from weaponry to perks to strike packages, but it can also be how do you place players in a game and achieve a competitive balance. Spawning and re-spawning in CoD games have always been a thorn in many players’ sides, and the spawn system, while it has made some improvements, continues to struggle with that very problem. There are many moments in which you could find yourself spawning in the line of sight of an enemy, and there are other moments where you can get the kill only to have the person you conquered spawn behind you in moments to exact their revenge.
Game modes also present their own challenges as well. At times it’s still too easy to force another team to spawn in a specific areas and lay them to rest before they have an opportunity to counter. While this can ensure victory, it’s both boring for the winning squad and extremely infuriating if you’re caught in that situation. Capture the Flag (one of my personal favorites in other CoD games) will automatically present the flag carriers position on the map without the aid of strike packages which takes half the excitement out of hunting for the flag carrier. These little inconsistencies can be annoying.
Michael Bay Presents: War
While Michael Bay has no direct correlation with Modern Warfare 3, you can’t help but feel in the single player campaign you’re trapped in a Michael Bay movie. This gives you both the good and the bad of a single player experience. For full disclosure, the single player campaign is not the focal point of this iteration of the Modern Warfare series; however, this single player campaign feels improved over MW2 and provides a fitting ending to the story involving Makarov’s plans for destructions and Price’s limits to stop him.
Each mission is meant to be played at a fast pace. In very few instances is discretion and secrecy advised. Plan to gun your way through various enemies from checkpoint to checkpoint. If bullets aren’t whizzing by your head or if you’ve been in one spot for more than a minute or two, you’re doing it wrong. That’s the way missions have been constructed in this iteration of the series. Nearly every mission comes with an action-pack chase scene or sequence which will make you feel a little bit John McClane. Once you finish these cinematic endings you feel a little bit like a badass.
The campaign is on a grand scale and does jump around the globe as players are thrust into WW3. You fight in New York, on subs, on a plane, the middle east and in Europe as you attempt to put an end to Makarov’s maniacal plan to bring the world to its knees and WW3. While you do jump around a lot, the cut scenes in between each setting allow you to put context into what you’re doing which brings some continuity. At times, the setting still feels stretched or as if you’re being bounced around a lot. It’s at least not a complete disaster.
The controversial scene which stole headlines was not so much as controversial but more out of place. There were several little elements which seemed iffy. For instance, the family was on vacation a couple months into WW3 in Europe. Not being in a world war before may skew my perception but I know my family’s going nowhere if a world war was raging and attacking cities like New York which would be likely my flight out to Europe. The message is sort of clear in what the scene is trying to do, but when you look at the grand story it feels out of place more than shocking. There, I said it. Moving along.
Where To From Here?
The story of the Modern Warfare saga is over. The multiplayer is still the dominant force on the market. The other CoD series’ are still going strong. I don’t see Modern Warfare 3 changing the position of the Call of Duty franchise for the better or worse. As a stand alone game – the experience and game play are solid. As a sequel to the single player campaign – a solid effort. As an innovative force or expounding upon previous features that worked and improving things that didn’t – it’s shaky at best. While I enjoyed the game in its entirety, I couldn’t help but feel as if there should be more.
Giant Bomb (images)