Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 - Review
Call of Duty is a peculiar series. Each year it shifts millions of copies and is greeted with near unanimous critical praise, yet it also attracts a special kind of hatred from a vocal segment of the gaming community that consider it a microcosm of everything that is wrong with modern gaming. If Call of Duty is to be an acquired taste, then with Modern Warfare 3 it's one that is more refined than ever.
The single player campaign is exactly what we have come to expect from Modern Warfare: a relatively short rollercoaster ride, punctuated by memorable set pieces. The narrative doesn’t quite reach the heights of the original Modern Warfare, but it succeeds in telling an engaging story which revisits familiar characters like Captain Price, Soap and villain extraordinaire Makarov. It’s fun controlling these violent men, but war is never glorified in this dark tale that focusses on a bleak near-future, where life is cheap and atrocities par for the course.
There is a lot of jumping around between various playable characters, especially in the early going, but the narrative is far more coherent than Modern Warfare 2, though no less outrageous. Characters are better linked and relationships more clearly defined, though those new to the series may struggle to keep abreast of whose killing who, and why exactly they are at each other’s throats.
The supporting cast is still full of generic characters who spout the kind of hoorah gibberish that might have you eyeing the mute button, but the perfectly paced plot and tight combat makes you more forgiving of these caricatures, as does an outstanding final third where every loose end is tied up. Aside from the ludicrous and ill-fitting death quotes that do their best to kill the atmosphere, it is otherwise an immersive experience throughout.
The campaign clocks in at a lean five hours, though it feels about right, as the spectacle would be in danger of losing some of its lustre were it a more prolonged experience. A great deal is packed into those five hours, as you find yourself speeding through the streets of Paris in an old fashioned car chase and even storming a skyscraper fortress dressed like Robocop. With moments like these, Infinity Ward have proven yet again that they know exactly how to create the most polished and exciting kind of single player, FPS experience.
Once you have finished with the campaign, MW3 nudges you towards the Special Ops mode; a welcome return from Modern Warfare 2 that significantly extends the game's shelf life. This collection of 16 short-burst missions may be enjoyed alone or in co-op, and are great to dip in and out of. In answer to Treyarch's popular Nazi Zombies, a survival mode has been introduced where you must outlast countless waves of enemies spread across surprisingly spacious maps, either on your lonesome or with a friend. Despite offering 100% less rotting fascists, it’s still fairly entertaining, though in comparison to the riches found elsewhere on the disc, it will probably be of limited appeal.
Competitive multiplayer is better than ever before, thanks to a number of new editions that tweak the existing formula, as well as the new Elite service. An impressive sixteen levels are on offer, some better than others, from tight corridors to more cavernous settings that play host to the bigger matches on the playlist. All the standard deathmatch and objective based modes are present, alongside the welcome edition of Kill Confirmed – a brilliant team deathmatch variant where you must collect dog tags from your vanquished foes to score, an objective that discourages camping and rewards exciting and risky dashes for precious shinies.
Pointstreaks replace the killstreaks of old and offer a more nuanced set of rewards to support every kind of player. Completing objectives as well as racking up kills will contribute to any one of three streak types. The Assault package is most like the killstreaks of old; the Support set awards bonuses that benefit your team more directly, and your kill count does not reset when you die; and finally the Specialist option is best suited to more advanced players who are able to string together murderous rampages without croaking, offering stackable perks that make you more powerful the longer you survive. This restructuring makes a huge difference and rewards players who don’t only play for kill counts, as well as opening up more impressive perks to players of all abilities.
With the notable exception of a much desired mute-all button, Modern Warfare 3 is arguably the most feature rich and well-rounded FPS multiplayer around. Alongside the excellent campaign and the addition of Special Ops and Survival mode, it is an exhaustive package that will keep the fan-base more than happy and the naysayers spitting venom until next November rolls around. Sounds like business as usual then.