Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review

Oh Modern Warfare, how you’ve shaken up the video game industry so. Starting its reign over the first-person shooter market back in 2007, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare brought us a new, addictive take on multiplayer that would since be imitated, and in this case, iterated upon. Modern Warfare 2 achieved nothing short of overcoming the hurdle that was surpassing its predecessor in 2009. And now, Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games have co-developed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 in an attempt to take fans on one last ride, and put an end to this trilogy-long story arc.

It’s important to remember, however, that Sledgehammer Games had just as big of a hand in the development of Modern Warfare 3 as Infinity Ward did. After the falling out with Vince Zampella and Jason West, two of the founders of Infinity Ward, Activision brought on Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey, whom are both responsible for the critically acclaimed Dead Space and are co-founders of Sledgehammer. After much speculation about the future of the franchise after Infinity Ward lost about half of the Modern Warfare 2 team, I’m happy to report that not only is the franchise in good hands, it may be in the best hands it’s ever been in.

The single-player campaign in Modern Warfare 3 opens up just moments after the end of Modern Warfare 2, with protagonist Soap bleeding out due to a gunshot wound to the gut. Being dragged to safety by Captain Price, Soap winds up surviving and being an essential part of the campaign you are sent on. In traditional Modern Warfare fashion, you’ll alternate between playing as multiple characters throughout the game, like Soap, Yuri, Frost, and even a surprise character or two. In an attempt to keep this review spoiler-free, I won’t divulge specific plot points, just some of the scenarios.

Modern Warfare 3 will at times be very reminiscent of the previous game, just as Modern Ware 2 was to the original. You’ll end up doing a lot of what you’ve done in the previous two games, but it somehow manages to still feel fresh. Sure, you’ll be the gunner of an AC-130 again, switching from the birds-eye-view of the battlefield, to your squad of special operatives on ground level, awaiting orders to proceed or hang back. If you’ve played any other Call of Duty before this, then you know exactly how Modern Warfare 3 plays from beginning to end. But it’s hard to dispute that the production values and attention to detail have never been higher.

There are certain moments in Modern Warfare 3 that are just as jaw-dropping, disturbing, and awe-inspiring, as the infamous airport scene from Modern Warfare 2. Upon initial boot, the game even asks you if you’d like to have said content appear in your campaign playthrough, just like Modern Warfare 2 did when asking about the airport scene.

As advertised, MW3 is in fact a look at World War 3, or what it would be like for actual modern warfare across the world’s nations. Watching a structure as iconic as the Eiffel Tower come crumbling down to the ground was just as breathtaking as seeing the Whitehouse overrun in Modern Warfare 2.

Sure, the story is every bit as balls-to-the-walls as previous Modern Warfare entries, and the campaign only lasts for about six hours, but all that should be expected by now. Whether or not you’re on board with the over-the-top action and set pieces in the recent Call of Duty games, Modern Warfare 3 houses multiple memorable moments that can at times seem familiar, but fun to play nonetheless.

Graphically, Modern Warfare 3 is pretty stale, and looks pretty close to what Modern Warfare 2 looked like. However, at a healthy constant rate of 60 FPS, the game looks good in motion. You won’t stop moving and take in any gorgeous scenery, or examine anything particular, which is a little disappointing. There is enough going on at all times to stimulate you visually, but it could look better.

Along with the review copy, Activision also provided a 5.1 surround sound system for the single-player campaign portion of the game. The new MW3 engine does incorporate better directional audio, so if you have the luxury of a 5.1/7.1 surround sound system/headset, you may find the close quarters segments of the game a little more enjoyable. However, there’s always so much going on in big action set pieces that directional audio is often worthless in single player, but it does work well in multiplayer. The sound design does work well when your character is wearing some sort of headgear, or say, some sort of suit, as sounds and voices are muffled appropriately.

Voice acting is still as strong as ever, with some Hollywood names returning to voice some of the main characters. Tobey Maguire voices Grinch, a fellow operative, as Roman Varshavsky reprises his sick and twisted role as Makarov.

By the end of the single-player campaign I was a little winded. I felt like I had experienced all that Call of Duty had to offer, with the game on the edge of making me feel like “I’ve done this before” in previous Modern Warfare titles too often. Although, I have to admit, after having traversed multiple iconic locations throughout the course of the game like New York, Moscow, Prague, London and Paris, the climactic ending is memorable, and fulfilling. You feel as though your three-game journey was worth the ride.

Multiplayer is where Modern Warfare 3 justifies its purchase for me, and for what will probably be millions of other gamers. You can jump into the new multiplayer modes and maps, and be just as efficient as you were in Modern Warfare 2’s online component, as the game plays almost exactly the same – but with some key adjustments. Now, playing the same way is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, most people probably want something familiar since Modern Warfare 2 is still heavily played online to this day. However, those key adjustments I mentioned are probably the crux of my reasoning for why this is best Call of Duty multiplayer.

Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer have ripped out some aspects of that core multiplayer experience that we know from Modern Warfare 2. Kill Streaks no longer dominate the game. There’s no more nuke, for example, which means your online sessions will never end abruptly when some beast on the other team is taking over. Even some perks have been removed in order to re-balance the weapons and tactics used online.

Killstreaks, as we know them, have changed. As Activision has time and time again shown the public, killstreaks have been redesigned to offer players with different styles of play and skill levels a fighting chance with Strike Packages. Broken down into three categories, Strike Packages will cater to the all-out offensive player, the team player, and the lone wolf, with Assault Strike Packages, Support Strike Packages, and Specialist Strike Packages, respectively. And now, completing game mode objectives will add to your pointstreaks.

You also upgrade weapons, and weapon attachments differently in MW3, with the new weapon ranking system. Simply using your weapon of choice enough in battle will see you progress in Weapon Level, which will net you new attachments, reticles, and camos, along with the new weapon proficiencies. Weapon proficiencies give special abilities, which are unlocked by advancing weapon levels. There’s Kick, which will reduce recoil when firing, Attachments, which will allow you to outfit your primary weapon with two attachments, and many more.

It’s all about customization in Modern Warfare 3’s new multiplayer, and that shines through more than ever. With new perks, new maps, new game modes, and even customizable private game modes (such as Gun Game, Drop Zone, One in the Chamber, etc), you have enough game in the multiplayer to warrant a purchase. The level cap goes up to 80, with 10 prestige ranks. Sure, like I said, it’s familiar, but it’s as addictive as it’s ever been.

Lastly, to complete the trifecta of different sections of Modern Warfare 3, Special Ops (the cooperative game mode from MW2) makes a return, and it’s better than ever. Just in terms of content, you’ve got 16 maps in the new Survival Mode, wherein you and a partner take on hordes of enemies in an attempt to reach the highest round possible. There are also 16 maps in the traditional mission mode, where you and your partner team up to take on scripted missions designed for co-op.

Survival proved to be a worthy addition, but Spec Ops wouldn’t be the same without the new Mission Mode. With some of the co-op levels taking place from a different point of view of certain parties in the campaign mode, you end up getting to do things you wouldn’t even see in the campaign mode of MW3. Controlling multiple turret-mounted security cameras that you can switch from at any time as your ally is progressing from building to building was just as fun a co-op experience as some games that are built solely for co-operative play. Being mounted on a rooftop with a sniper rifle while your ally in on ground level sounds basic, but is actually really fun when mixed in with Modern Warfare’s top-notch action, and enemy A.I.

Modern Warfare 3 is, at the end of the day, more of the same. But from my point of view, given the amount, and caliber, of the content you’ll be getting in one package, Modern Warfare 3 earns its place as one of the best games this year, and probably the best overall Call of Duty experience yet. Whether you choose Special Ops, Campaign, or Multiplayer from the main menu, you have enough quality content to keep you satisfied for weeks – maybe months.



The Final Word

Modern Warfare 3 doesn't reinvent the wheel by any means, but there's no denying it's a damn good action-packed blockbuster, and maybe the best Call of Duty to date.