Reviewed: November 9, 2011
Released: November 8, 2011
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has finally shipped, and millions of eager fans are already playing. By now you already know whether or not you are going to be getting this game, which makes this review rather pointless. What can I possibly say that you havenít already heard; what tidbit of exclusive information can I pass on that you already donít know. Itís not like Activision has been keeping this game a secret. With their own weekend XP Event, a worldwide tour, nonstop Facebook updates, blogs, tweets, and countless pre-release features and articles, the fanatical fan base has been devouring every last nugget of intel they can consume. I guess all thatís left for me to do is share my personal experience with the game, what the designers did right, what they did wrong, and let the chips falls where they may.|
There are so many Call of Duty installments out there itís hard to keep them straight when it comes to the story. Modern Warfare 3 is the direct sequel to Modern Warfare 2, which was the direct sequel to the original Modern Warfare, so in essence, this is the third installment in the trilogy. We have our familiar cast of characters, Soap, Price, and Nickolai, and new recruit, Yuri, the Russian member of your team who will be at the other end of your controls for most of the missions. Makarov is still up to his old tricks in his quest for global domination. After his failed attempt in Modern Warfare 2, Makarov has basically initiated WWIII with an assault on the USA as well as a massive simultaneous terrorist strike using bio-weapons.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 assaults you with its overpowering presentation, from the opening moment where your Humvee is taken out by an RPG in NYC and a building explodes and comes raining down on you until the bittersweet final boss encounter. Despite its aging graphics engine, the game maintains a fluid 60fps while pumping out graphics that are easily on par with Battlefield 3. Some scenes border on photorealistic, and when you set the entire thing in motion with sweeping cinematic camera moves things get real crazy real fast. The level of complexity in the level design and the amount of detail is staggering and surprisingly, especially in the multiplayer maps. While the PS3 version actually supports full 1080p, there are a few minor issues that keep this version from looking just quite as good as the 360. Graphics seem a bit washed out, textures less vibrant, and pop-up was more noticable.
The Dolby Digital sound mix is completely immersive with a stirring soundtrack that will fuel your adrenalin, great voice acting and in-game chatter, and some fantastic sound effects for all the weapons and explosions. The sampling rate has been boosted so these guns have never sounded better or more realistic, and there are plenty of shellshock and disorientation effects that will leave you breathless.
The game kicks off in New York City and thanks to E3 and other pre-release coverage, youíve probably already seen most of the first two chapters that has you destroying an enemy jamming tower then heading out into the harbor to cripple a Russian sub and launch its missiles on its own fleet. From there youíll need to rescue Soap from a safe house, then protect the Russian president and his daughter in one of my favorite levels that had me feeling like Harrison Ford in Air Force One. Then itís off to Sierra Leone, London, Somali, Paris, and Berlin as you try to foil Makarovís plans for world supremacy.
Without a doubt, this is the best story in the trilogy, with each mission feeding into the next or at least having some parallel story thread. There are no missions stuck in there just because they are ďcoolĒ, but every mission is extremely cool, a Hollywood set piece worthy of a Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer joint venture. The pacing is frantic, the energy and action nonstop, and yet they manage to work in moments of butt-clenching suspense when you are sneaking through enemy territory and one false move or loud noise can end your mission.
And when you do die (and you will), the reloads are nearly instant and the checkpoints frequent enough that you wonít be replaying huge portions of the level. The game has dynamic checkpoints, so if it detects you are having difficulty it will actually save your progress a bit farther than the normal checkpoint. While there are a few areas with infinite spawning enemies, itís not nearly as bad as previous games. Itís designed to keep you advancing, so if your squad seems stuck, try moving ahead of them and chances are they will all rush forward behind you and the spawning will end.
The 15-part story, divided into three acts, will take you about 8 hours to complete on Normal and about 10 on Hard, and VeteranÖwell, I have yet to tackle that insanity. Most of the trophies are divided up into the story, completing each chapter, completing the game on the various difficulty levels, and there are even a few skill challenges that are mission specific and quite fun to tackle. Of course, the hidden intel are back; 46 in all and some are quite diabolical. I have mixed emotions on these egg hunts, since it really takes you out of story to have your men yelling for you to advance and youíre scouring every nook and cranny for a blue monitor.
Modern Warfare 3 brings back Spec Ops, a great co-op experience you can share online or local split-screen playing Survival mode or Mission mode. Survival mode basically puts you into levels and throws endless waves of enemies at you until you die, so your score and rank is based on how long you can stay alive. Things get downright evil when they start throwing combos like Juggernauts, Dogs, Choppers, and Bomb Squads at you.
Mission mode is my favorite and takes levels and events from the campaign and retells them from a unique perspective, so for instance, in Milehigh Jack, you get to play as Makarovís men trying to take over the Russian presidentís plane that you were defending in Turbulence. All of the Spec Ops missions reward you with stars based on the attempted difficulty, and the Mission mode has estimated completion times youíll want to match or beat.
But for most of the world, Modern Warfare 3 is all going to boil down to the competitive multiplayer and frankly, it doesnít get any better than this. There are 16 maps and ten modes including fan favorites like Team DM, Sabotage, Domination, HQ, CTF, and Search and Destroy, but the game gets exponentially better once you play the new modes like Team Defender and Kill Confirmed. Team Defenders is basically CTF but you have no place to return the flag. There is only one flag and you merely run around with the flag while your team tries to protect you. The team who can carry the flag to the target limit win.
But nothing can prepare you for the awesomeness that is Kill Confirmed; a concept so refreshingly simply itís a wonder it hasnít been done before. In fact, it shouldnít even be a mode; it should be an all-encompassing rule for all multiplayer modes. In Kill Confirmed you only get half the XP for killing your enemy. To get the other half, and credit for the kill you have to collect their dog tags. This totally negates snipers who like to camp a half-mile away and pick people off. Unless they are working directly with a teammate who is collecting tags, sniper kills donít count. All sorts of new tactics are born from this mode since kills can be denied by collecting your fallen teammateís tags before the enemy. You can actually leave tags out in the open as bait to rack up more kills.
Sledgehammer has taken the franchise back to its roots, or at least as far back as Call of Duty 4; the original Modern Warfare. Gone are all the unrealistic gameplay devices like Nukes and the Commando perk. Modern Warfare 3 is making the game more personal with a focus on close-quarters combat. Sniper rifles have been retuned, and air-support has been downsized. Modern Warfare 3 is all about teamwork and getting back to the good old days of Team DM; statistically, the most played multiplayer mode in Call of Duty.
Modern Warfare 3 changes things up dramatically with the new Points Streak Rewards system; a reimagined way to earn rewards by other means than simply killing your enemy. Now, instead of just stringing together kills youíll earn points by other actions like assists, planting or defusing a bomb, or capturing a flag or domination objective, and all of these points contribute to your rewards that are now separated into three classifications called Strike Packages.
You pick a Strike Package for each of your character loadouts, choosing from Assault, Support, or Specialist, each with their own rewards, and each catering to your specific style of gaming. The Assault and Support packages are fairly self-explanatory with traditional Killstreak rewards. One new enhancement for those choosing the Support Package; your point streak doesnít reset when you die. This allows both inexperience and veteran players the same chance to reach those higher Killstreak rewards and support their teammates. Assault Package players will still need to rack up their points while staying alive to reach the higher rewards.
The Specialist Strike Package is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting new additions to the Call of Duty franchise and will test the mettle of any player. This package is designed for gamers who like to operate on their own, and there are all sorts of additional Perks to accommodate this style. Additionally, if you can rack up 8 points you will instantly unlock all 14 available perks in the Specialist Package, but only until your next death at which point everything resets.
The Perks system itself hasnít changed all that much. You still choose three then complete the various challenges to earn the Pro version. What has changed, for the better in my opinion, are the perks themselves. They just seem to make more sense now, and they all contribute to a more balanced and team-focused gameplay experience. Unrealistic perks like Commando, OMA, Last Stand, and the game-ending Tactical Nuke are now only a bad memory.
Modern Warfare 3 is going to offer all your favorite weapons and nothing much has changed when it comes to selection or balance. New for Modern Warfare 3 is the ability to rank up your weapons through continued use, so the more you use a gun, the better you get with it.
Death Streaks, first seen in MW2, are back and there are even more this time, much to the chagrin of veteran players. Of course you have to die at least four times in a row to even start earning these, and if you suck that bad you probably wonít be playing with the people who hate this concept.
Modern Warfare 3 also improves upon the existing Prestige system. After you reach the end of the 80th level and hit the Prestige button you get taken to the new ďPrestige ShopĒ where you can choose from eleven different rewards. With each prestige you get a ďPrestige TokenĒ to spend in the Prestige Shop on whatever you wish as well as your complimentary Prestige Icon.
And finally, we come to Call of Duty Elite, the new integrated social service that will take Modern Warfare 3 to the next level for veterans and even casual players. While nothing is being taken out of the core game, those who choose to pay the $49.99 yearly subscription free will now be in line to receive all future map packs ($60 value) as well as monthly DLC drops, expanded storage space for recording your favorite replays and moments from the game, as well as EliteTV; a digital network wholly dedicated to Call of Duty, with great shows like NoobTube, hosted by Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, and Friday Night Fights, created by Tony and Ridley Scott. And if you purchase Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 - Hardened Edition, your Elite membership is already included.
Itís hard to believe Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has finally arrived let alone lived up to all the hype surrounding it. Without starting a console war, the PS3 version lacks a bit of overall graphical polish, the load times were a bit longer, the squishy DualShock 3 triggers aren't as responsive, and the online community just doesn't seem to match up to what I've seen on the Xbox 360. But if the PS3 is your chosen system then by all means, GET THIS GAME! Modern Warfare 3 is perfection when it comes to story and gameplay, and itís only going to get better as more DLC arrives and the game is refined and balanced as the designers analyze real-time data from all the matches being played. There is no fan base more loyal than Call of Duty, and this game is guaranteed to delight all who play now and in the years to come.