Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
At some level, I am happy that Modern Warfare 3 has released simply so people will stop talking about it so much. The game’s development has had too much highly-publicized, overblown nonsense surrounding it, but I guess that’s the price you pay when you’re top dog. With a large chunk of the Infinity Ward team leaving the project, a leak of footage and game details before the official reveal, and the nonsense that was Battlefield 3 vs. Modern Warfare 3, I was simply tired of it all. Toss in the (as of writing) maligned Call of Duty Elite and the admittedly entertaining Call of Duty XP spectacle, and war fatigue is bound to set in for even the most hardened soldiers.
But mercifully, we’re finally here. Modern Warfare 3 is the culmination of everything Infinity Ward has put forward with the series. There’s not a flat moment in the campaign – you’ll be underwater dodging mines one minute and dangling over a diamond mine in the next. You’ll operate all sorts of advanced military technology and you’ll wield dozens of weapons from assault rifles, pistols, sniper rifles and shotguns along the way to the trilogy’s exciting culmination. Everything is in place – the slow-motion cutscenes, the destroyed national landmarks, harrowing moments of bravery and sacrifice. If you’ve loved the series so far, Modern Warfare 3 comes very easily recommended.
Picking up where the previous entry left off, players assume the roles of various special operatives as they attempt to put a stop to World War III before it’s too late. Antagonist Vladimir Makarov has the world on the brink of ultimate destruction, with the US under siege, Europe blown to bits and the Russians coerced into a war even their president is powerless against. In order to track him down, players will visit the US, Europe, Africa and Asia in a globe-trotting adventure. In truth, Modern Warfare 3 skirts over a lot of the finer points of war-making: everything always comes together a bit too easily, but as far as big budget action spectacles go, Modern Warfare 3 easily stands alongside any Hollywood release.
Infinity Ward deftly wields their setpieces, constantly entertaining us as we move from one great big explosion to the next. There’s a moment early on, featured heavily in the early demos of the game, which sees the player (controlling Derek “Frost” Westbrook) emerging from the bowels of a scuttled submarine. Done in first person, we see Frost’s hands as he climbs the ladder toward a bright, blue sky. As he comes to the top, the camera pitches down toward the horizon, and we see New York City. It’s been battered by Russian forces. Once familiar buildings are pockmarked with fires and impact craters and the metal husks of a once proud fleet of ships are strewn in the harbor. You take it in for, oh, a second, and then you’re whisked away, thrown into a small rubber boat and racing for your life.
The game never lets up on the action, which keeps players constantly glued to the screen, but at the expense of character development. I’ve spent thirty hours with these people – Soap, Frost, Price and all the others – but I’ve never felt like I’ve known them in any meaningful way. I could maybe recognize a few of them, but I couldn’t provide any personal details, even which outfits they are involved with. I suppose the lack of character development could be seen as both purposeful and deliberate: this is war, and there isn’t time to chat. But after seeing where the Treyarch team went last year with Black Ops, emphasizing a single character and telling a story that spanned multiple years, I can’t subscribe to the idea that we can’t have both.
For me, Call of Duty has always been about the singleplayer experience, but I find myself more interested in the multiplayer options of Modern Warfare 3 than I have been with any other entry into the series. The formula is familiar and comfortable, offering the fast-paced, pick-up-and-play style that has made Call of Duty an empire. As in past titles, players unlock new weapons, items and abilities to use in battle as they progress, always dangling a carrot in front of players to keep them in just one more latenight match.
Where I’ve spent most of my time so far is in the game’s Spec Ops co-op mode, particularly the Survival variant. The mode strands players without hope of rescue in a sea of hostile enemies attacking in waves. Players earn cash that can be spent on support equipment, which runs the gamut from ammo upgrades to being able to call in squads of AI support troops for a little extra firepower. I really liked the rhythm of the mode and the teamwork that it forced. As someone who’s relatively new to the Modern Warfare multiplayer experience, I also found this mode instructive as well. I was able to watch how other players took on maps and enemies, letting me learn from their experience, without having to worry about them headshotting me.
I’ve also been dabbling so far in the Kill Confirmed. Infusing elements of Capture the Flag into team deathmatch, the mode requires players to collect dog tags of fallen foes in order to score points for their team, and alternately recover the tags of teammates to prevent points for the enemy. The mode is extremely engaging and does well at breaking the stereotype that Call of Duty favors the lone wolves over teamwork. The best matches I’ve found feature players working together to hold key choke points, with players providing cover while others collect tags from both foes and teammates.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 isn’t necessarily a huge leap forward for the franchise or even the genre, but that’s not what fans were looking for. It delivers everything that you expect from a Call of Duty release, and it does that very well. The campaign strikes a perfect chord and there’s not a single dull mission in the bunch, every minute filled with bravado and bravery as it steadily rises toward a thoroughly satisfying conclusion. In terms of multiplayer, the game expands and balances itself quite well, giving players more of the same while straying far enough with new modes to add some interesting and worthwhile depth and elements of teamplay. Despite development drama and nearly impossible to meet hype, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 fully delivers.