Friday, December 9, 2011

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 review


At this point, most gamers know what to expect from a series like Modern Warfare; a competitive, multiplayer-driven experience with an explosive, albeit meteoric single-player campaign tied in. This formula hasn't changed with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, what would a holiday season be like without another Call of Duty game? I couldn't fathom it either.

Following the fallout between Infinity Ward's lead designers and Activision, many thought that the departure of most of the studio would bring about the demise of the Modern Warfare brand. Well, there's no need to worry because the game you know and love remains intact, immensely intact. In fact that's my one issue with a series that touts the "Best Selling Game of All-Time" tag; being afraid of change. How so? Well my good friends, let's begin with the story. 

A word of warning: if you haven't played the previous Modern Warfare games you'll more than likely have absolutely no idea of what's going on (then again, even if you have you might fall into the same category). Following the events that transpired in Modern Warfare 2, the Russians have invaded America and continue to rain destruction down on the eastern shore. Makarov, the man behind the whole destroying the world thing, is still at large and you need to kill him so the U.S.A. and Russia can make peace. There it is.

Yo, yo, yo! Check out this sentry turret man! 

Being candid, the campaign for MW3 is as cinematic as it is disappointing in almost every category. Without giving away major plot points, this game follows the exact same formula that was given to us with the original Modern Warfare four years ago. Controversial issue arises, a main character dies, scene of extreme violence appears and then you eliminate the main threat (or a notable one). This makes the story extremely predictable and shallow, especially during the cut-scenes where the white boards, post-it notes and other information is basically flung at you from seemingly nowhere. These moments honestly remind me of a standard CSI episode where the team has come to a dead end and then, miraculously, someone finds something and the case is busted wide open. Of course when it comes down to it, all you need to know is that you need to shoot people. A lot of people. 

There's few things that aren't blowing up while you're climbing your way to the objective in the campaign. Missiles flying overhead, buildings collapsing around you, ordnance being detonated nearby, I can't deny the adrenaline rush MW3 offers. A quote I recently heard describes it best, "If MW3 was a movie, Michael Bay would have to retire." Sure, in some ways that's great use of action and it definitely stirs excitement, but Activision and Infinity Ward have been pulling the same strings for a while now. I understand they're trying to recreate the same feeling the original MW had on the masses, but by literally utilizing the same story-arc again and again, that's lazy design. It'd be one thing is the story was at the very least interesting, but sadly this just isn't the case.

You are the Juggernaut. 

Multiplayer, on the other hand, is a much better experience than its predecessor was. While MW2 gave us the superior co-operative Spec Ops mode along with a slew of new perks, equipment, kill-streaks, etc, MW3 refines all of it into a nicer overall package. As far as I'm concerned, Spec Ops is once again the star of the show. If you've never played it, Spec Ops is a two-man set of challenges that earn you stars for the difficulty you complete them on. Some missions may be completed alone, but if you're dead set on getting all 48 stars you're going to need a partner in crime. There's also a new Surivival mode, which pits you against waves of enemies ala Horde in Gears of War. If co-oping isn't your thing, well, you know what's coming next. 

The original MW was where I sunk my teeth deep into the competitive multiplayer. MW2 felt bigger, but it was ruined for me by exploiters, terrible spawns and overpowered weapon sets. MW3 feels better to me purely for the fact that you're rewarded for staying loyal to certain weapons. What I mean is that you can actually level up your individual weapons, unlocking additional attachments and bonuses. For instance, leveling up the Riot Shield will give you the option to make it melee quicker or to give you a speed boost.

Only novices shoot rockets. I think. 

My favorite new additions to the multiplayer though remain with the playlists and new kill-streak mechanics. MW3 offers the biggest selection of playlists the series has seen yet including an all new mode called Kill Confirmed. Kill Confirmed is awesome because killing people doesn't automatically net your team points. That's right, upon death that person will drop a dog tag and if claimed you'll grab your team points. The cool thing about this mode is that you can grab your own teammate's dog tag, denying them the point. As far as kill-streaks go, they can still be fully customized but now can be set to either Assault or Support streaks. Assault is your typical streak system which will end if you're killed prematurely. Support, though, allows your streak to persist through death. They aren't quite as devastating as the Assault ones are but it's still a rather nifty change that makes constant death less frustrating. 

After that though, MW3 devolves back into its typical shoot everything, everywhere standard. It wouldn't be such a bad thing if MW3 had better spawns, but alas it does not. Couple that with an unbalanced matchmaking system and you've got a real issue. My first game I played online matched me up with 4 people who were level 80, all on the opposing team. About midway into the game, I was killed six times in a row without taking more than four steps from my spawn location. Fun. 

MW3 isn't a bad game, but it's lack of imagination and derivative nature will drive away gamers who want just a little bit more. It's nonsensical story doesn't help matters, but at least Spec Ops and a familiar competitive multiplayer element provide enough to keep coming back to. Saying that, this title is nothing more than average, but if you're a COD head and shooting dudes is the name of your game go ahead and add two to the score. You know, because you need to.

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