Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review

Our Rating
out of 5.0

This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.

The eastern seaboard is in ruins and crawling with Russians.  England is under siege.  The world is at war, and Task Force 141 has been disavowed and is on the run from friendlies and enemies alike.  All hope seems lost and it’s your job to pull the world back from the brink – because that’s what the Special Forces do.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is a first-person shooter developed by Infinity Ward with the help of Sledgehammer Studios and Raven Software.  After the fallout resulting from the firing of Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella left IF depleted of manpower, there was a major concern that MW3 would simply not live up to the expectations set by its predecessors.  So does third CoD game rise to the occasion?  Let’s take a look.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 takes place shortly after the events of Modern Warfare 2.  Captain John “Soap” McTavish has been critically wounded by Lieutenant General Shepard just before Soap and SAS Captain Price overpowered and killed him.  Price and the Russian informant, Nikolai, seek refuge to take care of Soap’s wounds, while elsewhere in the world, the mastermind behind engineering this war, Vladimir Makarov, consolidates his power and prepares to siege the United Kingdom while the US is still burning.

The single player campaign, like its predecessors, has you take on the roles of different characters as events unfold from each of their personal perspectives.  While the action feels very much the same as previous installments, this game takes a darker tone, even bringing in the civilian perspective.  In one instance, a family is on a trip to London, England.  You play the role of the father as he is videotaping his wife and daughter as they approach Big Ben.  As they reach the corner, a van pulls up and explodes – instantly killing the wife and daughter. You, the father, are left lying on the ground as a green gas makes its way across the ground and the screen ominously fades into blackness.

Scenes like this show the gravity of the unfolding situation.  The world is at war, and civilians are being killed.  It really brings a sense of reality to the whole story as we watch cities that we’re familiar with – not some faraway land – being torn apart by combat.  And while you fought in US towns and suburbs in Modern Warfare 2, MW3’s narrative definitely carries a lot more weight than its precursor.

As far as the gameplay is concerned, Modern Warfare 3 isn’t very different in the campaign from the previous games.  A few tweaks have improved gunplay, such as the ability to magnify your sight on the ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight) scope by flipping the left D-pad button.  Other than that, you’ll find the control scheme to be familiar as it really hasn’t changed.

The graphics have received some upgrades from Modern Warfare 2; most notably with the use of effects on player vision.  As you tear through the New York harbor on the back of a Zodiac, water will splash on your screen as though it flew up directly in your face.  However, seeing as how your character doesn’t appear to be wearing glasses or a mask during the second half of this game, this new feature feels more like a “graphics bling”; as though they just wanted to say “Look!  We have a new special effect!  Do you like the new special effect!?  You’re not wearing a diving mask anymore, but we’re going to show you more of that new special effect!”

We got the message.  Thank you.

However, the overall campaign is simply fantastic to behold.  Infinity Ward and crew have managed to maintain the rich, involving story that we’ve grown accustomed to.  Yet the question everyone is asking, “How is the multiplayer?”

Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer mode feels very much like previous installments; however, upon closer examination, you’ll find some new game types and some tweaks to the perks system.  The first thing you’ll notice is that there isn’t any type of level balancing going on for matchmaking.  Be it Trueskill on Xbox 360 or something else for PS3, it’s just not there.  This does make for a brutal learning curve in the game as your significantly higher level opponents will easily be outgunning you.  While I would normally say that the best path to take in this case would be to cut your teeth on the Hardcore game types (as it leaves a more level playing field), you can’t actually access that until you hit level 19.  So if you’re a casual FPS player, you’ll be having a rough time working your way up the ladder.

The leveling system for weapons and perks compounds the beginner curve issue.  Better weapons outside of the built-in load-outs require fairly high levels to achieve, which means that there is a lot of grinding required before you start to see a decent amount of rewards.  However, once you pass level 12 or so, the rewards do get to be pretty nice.  New, higher grade weapons will be unlocked along with attachments such as scopes, handles, silencers, and more.

Weapons now have their own separate leveling system.  Essentially, the more you use a specific weapon, the higher rank you obtain with it.  As you progress, new attachmentsand camouflage skins become available for you to put on your weapon.  In addition, new perks, called Weapon Proficiencies, are available to be added to your weapons as well.  Depending on the Proficiency you plug in, they can allow you to reduce the amount of kick that your weapon has (so it doesn’t wander while firing), increase the impact (for more damage), and more.  You can also select different reticules as you increase your weapon level.  This gives you the ability to add a bit of a personal touch with some additional functionality, as different people prefer diverse reticules to fit their style.

Perks have received a number of changes as well, including the re-introduction of the Overkill perk which allows you to carry two primary weapons instead of a primary and a secondary.  New introductions include (but are not limited to) Recon, which paints enemy targets on the HUD map when they take explosive damage, and Blind Eye, which makes you invisible to automatic gun sentries and air support.

Most map designs are well balanced with both close quarters and distance fighting in mind.  Infinity Ward and crew have really worked hard to make sure that no map really caters to a single type of player.  This forces players to adapt quickly and adjust their load-outs accordingly; the better the balance you have in your load-outs, the more successful you’ll be in matchmaking.

Modern Warfare 3 brings a couple of new game types to the table as well: Kill Confirmed and Team Defender.  Kill Confirmed is similar to the traditional Team Deathmatch.  When someone is killed, they leave a set of dog tags behind; yellow dog tags are left behind by an opponent and red ones by a teammate.  Picking up the yellow tags will add to your team’s score, while picking up the red ones keeps the opposing team from adding a kill to their tally.  The first team to collect 65 dog tags wins the match.  On top of being exceptionally fun, Kill Confirmed is an excellent way to gain a large chunk of experience points to rapidly level-up your soldier.

Fans of Capture the Flag will enjoy Team Defender.  In this game type, you or a member of your team retrieves and holds on to a flag while the rest of the group defends them from the opposition for as long as possible.  The team protecting the flag receives double experience points for as long as they hold on to it.  This matchmaking selection is a good team-building scenario, as the defending team is left with one man out while they’re holding the flag.  Coordination is key here if you’re going to come out ahead.

Survival Mode has also been reintroduced to MW3 in the Special Ops section of the game.  Survival Mode is similar to any other Horde Mode, with the exception that only two players can enter a match.  Waves of random enemy types will attack the players while they defend their position.  Each round will be more difficult than the prior round, with occasional “boss” levels between sets.  In-game currency is earned for kills and completing the round, which you can then use to purchase upgraded weapons and attachments, explosives or support equipment (such as predator missiles and air strike packages).  While the game mode is entertaining, it seems somewhat odd that it only allows two players instead of the traditional four.  More of a challenge?  Perhaps.  But it feels more like Custer’s Last Stand rather than digging in for the long haul against overwhelming odds.  I probably would have saved my last two bullets for my partner and I, had team killing not been disabled.

Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Studios, and Raven Software have pulled together to make a solid shooter in the same amount of time that it usually takes multiple studios to start working together as a cohesive unit, let alone make a game.  Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is a strongly appealing game with good story elements and great graphics. However, you can’t help but feel that the multiplayer leveling system took a page or two from the World of Warcraft codices. Although  the leveling system flowed well with the gameplay and added to the overall enjoyment in Modern Warfare 2, MW3, especially for newcomers, feels like a long, sadistic grind to the top.  But once you make that grueling climb out of the Valley of the Shadow of FNG, you will know no greater reward, until you deliver your first shotgun to the face.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 receives a 4.25/5.0.

Our Rating
out of 5.0

About This Post

November 11, 2011 - 9:45 am