It’s still incredibly shocking how big the Modern Warfare series has become. What began as a subtitle of the Call of Duty series has become a label of fandom, a mark of fame for a series that has grown to colossal proportions. Modern Warfare’s introduction of experience systems and customizable weapon combinations was carried over to sequels, including the immensely popular Modern Warfare 2. But now Infinity Ward has returned with the third Modern Warfare game, resulting in an enormous video game launch. It’s almost too familiar for its own good, but Modern Warfare 3 is a solid military shooter with a captivating presentation and plenty of addictive online goodness for newbies and veterans alike.
Picking up immediately after the events of Modern Warfare 2, infamous terrorist Vladimir Makarov remains at large. Modern Warfare mainstays Captain Price and Nikolai join forces with a soldier named Yuri, who has his own reasons to enter the fight. Meanwhile, the massive World War III begins to burst across the globe, with a group of soldiers called “Metal 0-1” experiencing the bitter taste of war in multiple regions across the world. Players follow the paths of Yuri and Metal 0-1 leader Frost, while terrorists continue to push against the combating forces.
[pullquote_right]Great presentation and an addictive multiplayer component, but it does very little to move forward from its predecessors.[/pullquote_right]The storyline is definitely controversial, and not just with the ideologically sensitive cinematic sequences. Though dramatic, the narrative is told very poorly throughout the course of the single-player campaign. The pre-mission briefings are convoluted and ultimately forgettable, while the actual missions lack any sense of purpose. While it’s not any worse than Modern Warfare 2, the storyline doesn’t develop any character for the cast (aside from Captain Price, who makes a pretty big mark by the story’s end). The biggest problem with the story in Modern Warfare 3 is the lack of any serious emotive power towards war. You truly feel like you’re playing through mindless missions without any sense of importance. Collapsing monuments and plenty of explosions have some strength behind them, but trying to connect these disjointed moments is so tedious that you might as well skip every cinematic just to get to the gunplay.
The single-player campaign in Modern Warfare 3 follows Yuri and Frost throughout battles taking place all over the world, each one having specific weapons and abilities to use. In one battle, you might be sneaking under docks to avoid detection by enemies; in another, you might be providing air support with missiles and bombs. Many of the missions do have some tense and exciting moments, but the design ultimately comes down to moving from Point A to Point B, shooting enemies down along the way. While the actual shooting is decent, the auto-aim system makes taking out multiple enemies too easy. It’s possible to take out an entire squad without getting hit once, thanks to the immense assistance in the aiming. Regenerating health and enemies that rarely surprise in tactics contribute to the campaign’s straightforward design. It’s when you’re not shooting guards that the game is able to show its best guns. Using lock-on rockets to take out tanks or remotely controlling combat vehicles are fantastic, but the game doesn’t revel in these moments. Right when you really get into these missions, it’s back to the mindless shooting-gallery objectives. Diversity is the spice of life, and while it finds some room to grow in Modern Warfare 3’s campaign, you’ll surely wish there was more to go around.
In addition to the single-player, a few cooperative modes make appearances. Special Ops makes a return from Modern Warfare 2, allowing two players to tackle cooperative missions, earning ratings on their skills. Even better is the inclusion of a Survival Mode, Modern Warfare 3’s take on Horde from Gears of War or Firefight from Halo. Increasingly challenging enemies will appear; take them out to earn currency to spend on better weapons to defeat more enemies are progress. The frantic nature of the Survival Mode is a welcome, though unserious inclusion to the cooperative modes. It’s challenging for sure and is bound to keep you and a friend in the fray for a good while.
As expected, Modern Warfare 3’s guts lay in the expansive multiplayer suite. Since the original Modern Warfare, the experience system and customizable loadouts have been a major part of the franchise, and Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t skip on any of the options. Players are initially introduced to the weapons, perks, and expansions at Level 1, with the customizable loadouts becoming available after the player has associated themselves with the multiplayer. Taking out enemies, completing objectives and ranking high in games earn players experience to gain levels, which allows for more weapons and abilities. Modern Warfare 3’s collection of weapons and skills remains great, as it allows players to compete within their own specialties. Whether you like close-range combat with pistols or long-range combat with fast reload speed, you’ll find the experience system to get you playing your own way quickly.
New to multiplayer is a refined Killstreak reward system (now called Pointstreaks) which divides the rewards into categories, which can then be unlocked by players’ choices. Also, weapons gradually gain experience alongside players and multiple scope abilities can be equipped at once. These inclusions are fine compliments to the Modern Warfare formula, but Modern Warfare 3 constantly feels like it’s playing it safe instead of expanding upon its multiplayer system. Modern Warfare 2 suffered from similar issues, but as the third in the trilogy, Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t do much to make its multiplayer feel new or revolutionary. Though it’s a blast to play online, Modern Warfare 3 feels too similar to its second-in-line predecessor and the incremental inclusions to the multiplayer never seem to make a serious difference to the overall gameplay.
Modern Warfare 3’s presentation is technically impressive, with bombastic setpieces and an action-movie-esque flow. Aside from the absolutely boring briefings before missions, Modern Warfare 3 is a fantastic-looking military shooter. Seeing familiar locals like Paris or New York City rushed with soldiers and colossal vehicles is inventive and just seeing a massive structure fall to pieces is awe-inspiring. Though destructible environments aren’t the name of the game, the actual firefights flow well, despite their shooting-gallery-like designs. The sound design is equally astounding; the zip of bullets flying and the hoarse breathing of your character nearing death are presented convincingly well. The voice acting is good, but nothing special. The characters themselves provide a few too many one-liners and the dialogue feels forced and corny at times. Though technical hitches appear on occasion and the voice acting is cheesy, Modern Warfare 3 is presented with serious gusto, offering setpieces with intensity and sound effects that capture the moments of war without many compromises.
Modern Warfare 3 is a military shooter with a great presentation and an addictive multiplayer component, but it does very little to move forward from its predecessors. The dull single-player is a major misstep, thanks to its repetitive firefights and tedious storyline. Though its cooperative modes are fun and the ability-driven experience system remains an engaging way to play, the multiplayer feels cut-and-paste. You can’t help but feel a bit ripped-off if you’ve already played past Modern Warfare titles, only to have Modern Warfare 3 reuse many ideas from said titles. Still, finding that perfect combination of guns, equipment, and skills that suits your preference is absolutely rewarding and well worth playing online or with friends. A slick presentation with some intense moments helps round out a solid military shooter. Modern Warfare 3 does feel a bit more familiar that many would’ve preferred, but with such massive setpieces and addictive multiplayer, it’s tough to argue with its strengths. Let’s just hope next year’s title pushes the envelope a bit more.
Very little that's new to the series | Poor storyline | Single-player emphasizes shooting-gallery firefights
It began with a hand-me-down Sega Genesis from his cousin and since then, he's been fascinated with video games. He enjoys the blissful platforming of the 16-bit era and the rich adventures of the 64-bit era. Favorite games include Metroid Prime, Banjo-Tooie, and practically every 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog title.
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