It is the Holiday Season once again, which can mean only one thing: another installment in the Call of Duty series. This year brings us back to Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare series with Modern Warfare 3 (MW3). It’s been 2 years since we left off on the story of Task Force 141 and their mission to take down Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Makarov. This time around developer Infinity Ward has teamed up with Sledgehammer Games to bring the story arc of Soap, Price, and World War III to a close.
If you have played either of the previous Modern Warfare games, then you pretty much know what to expect in this package. If you are expecting anything more, then you will be sadly disappointed. MW3 brings together three distinct modes for the experience. A brief, albeit action-packed, campaign mode, the traditional and overly robust Call of Duty multiplayer offering, and the return of MW2‘s cooperative Spec Ops mode. None of these individual modes really break new ground in their respective genres but rather prove to be refinements of the series’ previous offerings. Considering how much the gaming world seemed to love the previous games, is that necessarily a bad thing?
The campaign portion of the game picks up right where Modern Warfare 2 left off, literally. Just hours after Soap and Price took out General Shepherd, Nikolai has taken them to a safe house in India so that Soap can receive the medical attention that he so direly needs. Meanwhile, the third World War is in full effect and the Russian forces are invading New York City. As you would expect, the adventure will have you jet-setting across the world visiting numerous iconic locales on a variety of missions and exploits.
As expected, each of the missions is set up like the go-home sequence of a summer Hollywood blockbuster; the action is non stop and the pacing is relentless. You will start off the game dodging the falling debris from collapsing skyscrapers on Wall Street and finish by tearing a lush hotel in the Arabian Peninsula down to its core. There are enough huge explosions and catastrophic events in the campaign to make Michael Bay jealous. Unfortunately though, all of the tricks and premises are things that you have seen before. The tricks of the trade are starting to show their age and aren’t nearly as effective as they once were and I am not sure that they will hold up for future games.
This doesn’t mean that the formula doesn’t work this time around. Despite being a familiar experience, it is an exciting and enjoyable one. The game looks and plays as good as any in the series; their expertise with the engine driving the game shows through in every aspect of the game. Experienced players will be able to drive through the campaign experience in about 4 to 5 hours and it is enjoyable enough to warrant subsequent play-throughs on higher difficulty levels. The only real “extra” included this time around is the perennial “intel collection” that is present in most Call of Duty games. There are a variety of laptops and documents hidden throughout the various stages and “completionists” will be spending plenty of extra time tracking each and every one of them down.
Let’s be honest though, this is a Call of Duty game are we aren’t really here for the campaign mode. Multiplayer is where the true fun is to be had in the franchise and that is no different with MW3. You have two options in this game, the standard, full-scale multiplayer option which we will be discussing shortly, and the returning Spec Ops mode(s) which debuted in MW2. The Spec Ops mode allows you and a friend to venture through a variety of missions-based on set pieces from the game’s campaign or to partake in the all new survival mode. You can play through most of the missions by yourself but the true fun is had when you bring in a partner either locally or online to partake in the fun.
Each mission will award you stars for completing them, depending on your difficulty level of choice. Taking them on using the hardest setting will net you the max value of 3 stars while completing them on normal earns you only 1. The more stars that you accumulate, the more missions that you open up for play. While nearly all of the missions will take place on familiar ground if you have completed the campaign, the development team has done a nice job in mixing up the gameplay to keep them from being complete rehashes of the game’s story. For example, during the campaign of the game one mission has you defending the Russian President aboard his private plane as a member of his security team during a hijacking; in the Spec Ops version, you will take on the role of the hijackers and launch an assault on the plane and take the President hostage. It is pretty entertaining to see things from the other side of the tale and keeps things fresh even though the same source material is being used.
The Survival mode, while nothing new to the shooter genre, is a lot of fun and can provide endless entertainment for you and a friend. You can think of it as Infinity Ward’s answer to either Gears of War’s Horde mode or perhaps the Black Ops zombie mode. Players are placed in the middle of a map and subjected to wave after wave of enemy attacks. The variation in the enemies is mixed up as you go along in order to keep things fresh as theoretically this mode is never-ending. You will start off facing simple packs of pistol-packing thugs and eventually face onslaughts from suited Juggernauts, tactical insurgents, and even airstrikes and attack helicopters. Plus, when you think that you have seen enough of all of those things on their own, you will start getting combinations of them simultaneously.
There is an added element of strategy involved too as you will gain access to up to three computers which you can use to purchase upgrades using money you earn from your performance in each round. Money is gained not only from killing enemies, but by performing feats such as rapid-kill-streaks and speed bonuses for completing the round. You start off with a simple pistol and whatever rifles your opponents drop; after the first wave is completed the first PC opens up which gives you access to ammunition refills and various firearms. After that, a PC is earned with explosive options such as grenades and C4 as well as defensive offerings like armor upgrades and sentry guns.
The final PC that you will unlock gives you the ability to purchase various airstrikes and support offerings to be used during battle. Each PC is placed in a different location on the map and it becomes a balancing game in order to strategically move your self around the map within the brief break times between rounds. There is little time to purchase upgrades during the heat of battle so you will need to make the best out of the few seconds you have between waves in order to purchase what you need.
My only complaint about the Spec Ops mode, Survival in particular, is that you are limited to only 2 players for cooperative play. It would have really strengthened the experience if you could play with at least 4, especially considering that is the amount of players supported in the zombie modes of other Call of Duty titles. It isn’t an option though and what is here is super-entertaining, it just could have been so much more.
Last, but certainly not least, is the competitive multiplayer suite that each Call of Duty title brings. The offerings of MW3 may be the most robust and refined yet in the entire franchise. All of the expected modes are back: deathmatch, team deathmatch, and domination, as well as a few new variations. The most notable new addition is a mode entitled “Kill Confirmed” . This team based variation of team deathmatch sees downed players dropping a pair of dog tags onto the map when they die. The kill itself doesn’t register for a team though until those dog tags are collected. This gives players a chance to collect the dog tags of their fallen comrades and deny points for kills earned by the other team. Kill Confirmed is a fun variation on the standard deathmatch formula and one that will likely become very popular with MW3.
Another new mode is called Team Defender and provides a variation on the typical capture the flag formula. In this mode, teams are awarded points for capturing and holding onto a flag planted in the middle of the map. There is only one flag though and you don’t return it to your base to earn points; instead, points rack up the longer that your team manages to maintain possession of the flag. When your team has possession of the flag, kills are worth twice the amount of points as the team who doesn’t have the flag. Once a gain, this is a nice variation on a multiplayer staple (mode) that could easily become a standard in the series.
Infinity Ward has gone to great lengths to refine the killstreak and leveling system of the game which makes for a re-freshened multiplayer experience. Gone on the days when the person who can rack up the most kill sis the only player awarded with bonuses and power ups. Killstreaks in general are a thing of the past and the new concept used in the game is referred to as the point-streak. Point streaks can be earned in a variety of ways, including but not limited to killing opponents. Now, you earn points and subsequent bonus streaks for things such as accumulated assists, flag captures, and even planting the bomb in the Search and Destroy mode. Depending on the streak classification that you have chosen for a given class, the rewards will range vary in their type. There are 3 classes of reward streaks, which are referred to as Strike Packages, that you can select: Assault, Support, and Specialist.
The Assault package is pretty much the same killstreak style package that players will recognize from previous games. You will be given offensive rewards for racking up consecutive kills during a game. These include things such as UAV drones, airstrikes, and attack choppers. These are accumulated up until you are killed and will reset with each respawn that you incur. The Support package on the other hand accumulates over the course of the entire match and isn’t reset upon your death. You can earn points in this category for not just killing opponents, but completing the various actions listed above such as assists and flag captures. The final package is the Specialist grouping which awards you player perks for every 2 kills that you accumulate consecutively. If you can manage to rack up 8 consecutive kills without dying, you will be equipped with every perk in the game.
The new streak system makes the game more enjoyable for players such as myself who aren’t always at the top of the leaderboard within multiplayer matches. It is beneficial for newer and less-experienced players to set their strike package to Support in order to get their selves a tactical advantage during the matches and help them keep up with the competition. There is nothing worse than never getting the edge in a heated multiplayer match while your opponents are nailing you with airstrike after airstrike and predator missile after predator missile. Thanks to the varied options now available, you can help ensure that doesn’t happen and stengthen your gameplay abilities over time to the point where you too can earn repeated airstrikes and missiles.
The leveling system of the game has gone back to the Modern Warfare standard of weapon unlocks coming from simply achieving new levels. Those who became fond of the Black Ops system of currency and the purchasing of unlocks are going to be saddened as that entire system is gone. Players are awarded new weapons at each new level earned within the multiplayer mode. You are also given a new option in terms of leveling your individual weapons as well which is how you will gain access to things such as sights and weapon perks. It is a nice feature to be rewarded for increasing your proficiency with a specific weapon and it really helps to encourage players to focus on the guns that they like. It used to be that you could simply bank a ton of money and completely “deck out” a powerful weapon and gain an advantage on the battlefield, but now you have to not only earn the right to use a weapon, but prove that you can use it before you are given a chance to power it up.
The final big addition is the new Prestige Shop, since many players like to prestige over and over in the game. When you prestige your character in MW3, you will earn tokens which can be spent in the in-game shop on things such as extra custom classes and double XP timers. These are a nice little addition which makes the decision to prestige a little more attractive than it has been in past games.
All things considered, I am very happy with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The game doesn’t break any new ground, which will upset some people, but it does prove as a near perfect refinement of the Modern Warfare formula and shows that Infinity Ward knows how to make a Call of Duty game. They made the best World War II era shooters and now they make the best modern era shooters. Perhaps it is time that they set their sites on another era for their next game though. The truth is, you know what you are going to get in this package before you even buy it and it you liked the previous offerings, you are sure to like this one as well.