Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is like a chain restaurant – you know what you are going to get before you set foot in the restaurant. Maybe there are better restaurants out there with better food, but sometimes you just want some salad and breadsticks. While there is no delicious food involved, what you will get with MW3 is lots and lots of action.
It is important to note that while this game was developed by Infinity Ward, the same team that brought us Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2, Modern Warfare 3 was developed by Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games with some help from Treyarch, Raven and Neversoft. Activision brought all of its big guns to the fight to make sure that it could deliver MW3 despite the troubles Infinity Ward faced with its founders and a large chunk of the studio leaving shortly after Modern Warfare 2′s release. Whatever the details behind the drama at Infinity Ward, it is good to see that the series is still in safe hands.
The game starts right where MW2 left off. As Captain Price rushes to tend to Soap’s gunshot wounds, we flash back to some of the key scenes of Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2. After the brief review, we are dropped into the New York scenario that was showcased in the myriad of demos and walkthroughs of the game. From the destroyed corridors of New York City streets to a harbor filled with a fleet of Russian war ships, MW3 truly does feel like you are experiencing World War 3. MW has always been renowned for its iconic set pieces that span the entire globe, with the third entry managing to still provide gamers with thrilling run-and-gun moments.
As you make your way through the single player campaign, you may feel some “inspiration” from previous Call of Duty games. One building in one of the African settings is actually a nearly identical asset from a Modern Warfare multiplayer map that has been repurposed and tweaked to fit the new African setting. In another scenario you will be hiding out from squads of Russian soldiers reminiscent to the World at War ‘Vendetta’ level where you hide from German soldiers in Stalingrad. There is another scenario in a submarine that feels an awful lot like the cargo ship level from Modern Warfare. While some homages to previous games is common, there was a little too much deja vu. At times it felt a little too familiar.
Graphically, the game does not appear to have changed much from MW2. While MW2 was a pretty big step up visually from Modern Warfare, MW3 looks very similar to MW2. Granted, this may be due to the level of scale that some of the scenes are able to accomplish, but the IW engine looks to have peaked in the graphics department. This is a shame as the second Modern Warfare didn’t push the graphical boundaries 2 years ago, so the third entry is clearly beginning to show its age.
While the single player campaign is a great but familiar conclusion to the Modern Warfare story arc, the best aspects of MW3 are in its co-op and multiplayer modes. The co-op Spec Ops missions are nothing short of brilliant. Fans of the series will recognize the Spec Ops Missions concept from MW2. In addition to the task-oriented Missions, MW3 adds a new Spec Ops Survival mode that is their take on the Treyarch developed Nazi Zombies co-op mode or the Gears of War Horde mode. On top of the familiar wave based survival gameplay, the MW3 team has added the progression systems of multiplayer with unlockable weapons, perks and special equipment to help you survive the onslaught of enemies. Unlike the Zombies mode, Spec Ops Survival breaks its missions down into varying difficulties. If you just want to have some fun you can stick to the easier missions, and if you want a challenge you can try out the higher tiers with more powerful enemies. As with multiplayer, each kill earns you points which you can then use to buy more ammo for your weapons and new weapons as you rank up and start to unlock them. As you progress you will also be able to buy explosives like claymores and C4 to take down the more difficult enemies like Juggernauts or soldiers with body armor. And when you are being overrun there are even some of the killstreak rewards from multiplayer that can be unlocked. There is nothing more satisfying than watching an AC130 pummel that Juggernaut that has been chasing you and your buddy through the streets.
The game’s multiplayer mode has no genre changing innovations, but the MW3 teams have done a great job of taking the parts of earlier games that worked, axing the parts that didn’t *cough* knife teleports *cough*, and adding in some new twists to keep the game fresh.
A welcome change to the series is the re-invention of the killstreak reward. In previous games, a string of kills without dying earned you some type of bonus. Modern Warfare gave you a UAV radar sweep, an air strike to kill a group of enemies, or an attack helicopter to fly around shooting anything it saw. Modern Warfare 2 added a bazillion more rewards that you could pick and choose from, but still only rewarded people who could string together a bunch of kills. For new players and the death-prone player like myself that could be very frustrating, and it only rewarded players who went for kills rather than rewarding players who played for the benefit of the team. My favorite game modes are Domination and Headquarters, and a good Domination or Headquarters player is going to be jumping in there seizing objectives and dying at least every couple minutes. The MW3 teams recognized this and expanded the idea of kill streaks into a more broad set of Strike Packages. For the players who can rack up long killstreaks, the Assault package hands out the bevy of traditional death-dealing bonuses like the AC-130 and the Attack Helicopter. If you have trouble staying alive, you can opt for the Support package. The beauty of the Support package is it not only rewards you for kills, it rewards you for capturing Domination points or capturing flags. Even if you have zero kills in a match, you can still be a benefit to your team and feel like you are contributing. For the truly gifted player there is also the new Specialist package that grants you additional perks as you earn kills. While you won’t be helping your team with air support or intel, you will be making yourself more powerful and potentially able to rack up even more kills as you progress. This may be less useful for objective modes, but for Free-For-All or Team Deathmatch modes it may be very useful.
One interesting new addition to Modern Warfare 3 has little to do directly with its gameplay. The new Call of Duty Elite service is Activision’s attempt at expanding the Combat Record from Call of Duty: Black Ops into a more in-depth statistics and social networking platform that will span all future Call of Duty titles. It is a very ambitious project but sadly the best parts of the service are only available to subscribers at an incredibly high fee. The service will only appeal to true COD fans, and the price is only worth it if you invest some serious time into the game.
Modern Warfare 3 might be “more of the same”, but that is not entirely a bad thing as it is a copy of a great game. The MW3 team has delivered a satisfying conclusion to the story introduced with the first Modern Warfare game, brought some great additions to the game’s popular multiplayer and co-op modes – but the lack of innovation or real change means that the game is the least enjoyable game in the trilogy.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+ Awesome Spec Ops co-op gameplay
+ Consistently engaging CoD multiplayer experience
– Little innovation