It’s without a doubt that the biggest selling and most popular franchise of this generation is the Call of Duty franchise, more specifically, the Modern Warfare iterations of it. Now onto the third and final chapter that tells the story of the world’s battle against a psychopathic Russian terrorist named Markov, Modern Warfare 3 is bigger and better than ever.
Like anyone at the top, its easy to try to pick apart Modern Warfare 3’s flaws to try to chisel it down from the throne. The campaign in Modern Warfare 3 is still a mostly linear affair, and you’ll still have to accomplish things by the way the folks at Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games designed. Cheap game play mechanics like artificial triggers in a firefight which cause you to fiight off seemingly endless waves of enemies are definitely still here, but it’s also not as apparent. The graphics also begin to show their age, and while the character models look really good, the world is filled with plenty of polygons and poor textures that don’t hide the aging engine. But we’re nitpicking, because when you stand back and look at Modern Warfare 3 it truly does what it knows how to do best - intensity.
From the very first mission on the ground in NYC fighting your way downtown to the New York Stock Exchange to a battle on a bridge in Paris underneath the Eiffel tower, the pure adrenaline rush the game gives never lets up. Modern Warfare 3 has gone from having the battle in your home town to having the battle in every one's favorite town making it decidedly more epic. And while the graphics engine might be showing its age at certain times, several scenes like that from the New York harbor are simply jaw dropping in its scale and beauty. You WILL feel like you are part of a larger war on the ground, despite playing as one of four different, often superhuman, characters.
The Modern Warfare games are known for their slick weapons and Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t disappoint here either - whether it’s a gun that has a variable scope, a remote controlled turret tank, or taking control of the guns of a helicopter from miles away - the game never lets you down with cool toys to play with. When you combine this with all the aforementioned locales and insane scenarios like an assault with an impending sand storm, I can only describe the game as War Porn, if such a thing were to exist.
Of course single player is only a small piece of the puzzle and it ended for me after six and a half hours. As the credits wrap up you are greeted with a new message - “Continue on to Spec-Ops,” the game’s cooperative mode. There’s a renewed focus here on the co-op which features sixteen missions to play with a co-op partner either locally or online. On top of the sixteen missions, half of which need to be unlocked by earning stars in the previous missions, you also have a survival mode which can be played on 16 maps which are based on versus maps.
There’s a lot to like here in the Spec-Ops missions, which are clearly designed with replayability and perfectionism in mind. While a perfect playthrough of a mission might only take 3 minutes end to end, it’s getting to that perfect playthrough that’s the challenge. You and your co-op partner will be tasked with kidnapping the Russian President in an airplane, strapping on bomb suits and disarming chemical weapons, or simply taking out everything that moves. Where Spec-Ops clearly separates itself are the missions designed for players to work together in separate ways.
One such mission has a player on the ground hacking laptops found throughout a warehouse district. Each successful hack allows the other player to control a camera and turret to cover the player attempting to hack. A mission like this becomes thrilling because of the level design; the player on the ground has limited visibility thanks to tight corridors and dark areas. This means the other player needs to communicate enemy positions and movement to the player on the ground.
Completing these missions earns you experience and unlocks for the Spec-Ops missions - while these aren’t used in the standard scenario based missions they carry over to the game’s survival mode. These unlocks consist of access to better weapons, different perks, as well as special support abilities. The survival mode reminds me a bit of a love child between Counter-Strike and Horde mode in Gears of War. Enemies come at you in waves, with each successive wave of enemy being more and more difficult. After each wave you have a half a minute or so to find different shop points throughout the map to buy weapons, ammo, and other gadgets to help you survive. Then it’s back to the action.
While initially the waves start off pretty harmless, things ramp up quickly as enemies come strapped with dynamite, chemical weapons, or even in support helicopters. Of course the king enemy is the juggernaut - who drops into battle armed in in a bomb disposal suit made of heavy armor making him a tough cookie to crack. As the waves progress the enemies being to gain more hitpoints and come in greater numbers - so those items you’ve unlocked from your previous play throughs and mission play throughs become crucial. Turrets, air support, predator missiles and more are all at your disposal - using cash earned from the previous waves to beef up your arsenal. Things ramp up quickly and stay fairly intense all the way through. All in all I found Modern Warfare 3’s take on the survival co-op modes strangely addictive.
Of course the biggest draw for most people in Call of Duty games are the multiplayer versus modes and while there’s a handful of new ones at play, my personal favorite being Kill Confirmed, I just can’t get interested in it. If you like Call of Duty style multiplayer, you are bound to like Modern Warfare 3’s offering. Add in the new Call of Duty Elite website and service and you’ll be playing MW3 for months to come.
Sometimes it’s tough to be at the top for so long, everyone is always looking at you to fail. I’ve even read that the developers felt as if they were the underdogs this time around, and I think because of this philosophy they’ve delivered the best Call of Duty game to date. Both the campaign and Spec-Ops are incredibly satisfying first person shooter experiences. Now the only problem the series has on its hands is - how does it top itself next year?
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.