Review by yeah_93

"It's not too late for Call of Duty fun."

Introduction

Call of Duty inspires hate today. Some of it is justified, but the rest of it is completely nonsensical… From the heavy contrast of 89 out of 100 averages of critic reviews to 30 out of 100 average for user reviews; that situation tells you something.

The only thing you need to know is that Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 delivers almost the same it's been delivering for 4 years. And although you may not be surprised by how similar it is to its predecessors, you may be surprised by how fun the game actually is. The campaign is by far the most intense the series have had. Impressive set pieces and locations fueled not only by scripted sequences but by the over the top shooting that takes place during all the levels. But enough talking, let's get to the issue at hand.

Setting and Gameplay: Part 1: Multiplayer

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 uses the exact same gameplay as its predecessors. A FPS in the whole sense of the word, in Modern Warfare 3, you can aim down your sights, sprint, crouch go prone, use a knife, hold your breath for a steady aim with a sniper rifle, and every other things you've seen and probably experienced in the past games. Needless to say that although Modern Warfare 3 doesn't bring anything new to the table in gameplay, the controls are as slick as ever, almost flawless, Call of Duty's main reason of success. Although if one analyzes properly, that will probably be the reason of its own downfall. You see, Call of Duty's gameplay, while not innovative even in 2007 with the first Modern Warfare, is very accessible and easy to get a grasp on it, as I've stated in my previous review of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The control scheme is excellent as it is, and aiming is fairly easy, far easier that in other shooters. And that flawless concept stands even today, but sadly the very reason of why the franchise is successful, the gameplay, id the main reason holding it back from innovating. There is nothing wrong with it, but after years of the same gameplay, more explosions is not going to make it different. And I suspect, as the majority of you do, that Call of Duty is doomed if it doesn't innovate. Come on Infinity Ward, why not put destructible environments? I don't mean that you can bring down a building with a rocket launcher, but walls being torn apart by explosions are more realistic. By now, it's ridiculous that most of the objects in the map are not only indestructible, but you can't also move them. It would be nice if you could, you know, turn a table to take cover. Introducing a cover feature would be great, because Call of Duty is all go in a Rambo-like esque to kill everyone in the map. It's not my job to come with new ideas for the game, but features like this would be seriously appreciated.

Multiplayer in Modern Warfare 3 is very improved from what we've seen in previous games. Although someone could tell you: ‘Modern Warfare 3 is just Modern Warfare 2 with new killstreaks (and they are somewhat right from a negative point of view)', truth is that the progression system has been revamped. The first thing you'll notice in the game, the menu and the lobby, is that you now join matches way faster, because the game searches quickly for them. You now can vote to choose from 2 preset maps, which one do you want to play, in, and this feature is great, much better than voting to skip a map. In Modern Warfare 3 as in the previous games, you play matches in several maps, with up to 18 players (12 in normal Team Deathmatch) and playing in specific game modes, the ones you choose. You gain experience point by killing enemies, completing objectives, and doing challenges. Once you gather enough experience, you level up. As you progress through the levels, you'll gain new items: Be it weapons, equipment, killstreaks… quite the same as the previous games, however something has changed. In previous games, when you wanted to unlock a weapon's attachments, you did it by completing certain challenges. Now, the weapons level up as you do. Killing enemies with the weapon grants it experience, and as you may guess, the more experience with the weapon, the higher the level. Unlike the previous games, you won't have to do kills with certain attachment to unlock another one. Now simply you earn them through the levels, and there are 31 levels for each weapon. I prefer this system myself over the previous one, and I think it would be a drawback not to keep it like it is for the next installments. The game features a wide array of weapons, from the loved M4A1 Carbine, to the new CM901 (which is a favorite of mine). The weapons' damages have been rebalanced; now, submachine guns deal much less damage at longer distance, while killing someone at point blank range has never been easier. Shotguns are no longer part of your secondary weapon slot, but machine pistols remain in that category. And the infamous Akimbo ability (dual wield weapons) make the machine pistols extremely unbalanced, as players with said weapons are nearly impossible to kill when at close to mid range, mostly because they are relatively accurate. I'd like to see a rebalancing in this area.
The game modes make a return in this game as usual. From Team Deathmatch to Headquarters, Core and Hardcore game modes, you'll find the same ones as the previous Call of Duty games. A new one's been introduced, however, in this installment, and it's called Kill Confirmed. Kill Confirmed is an interesting game mode, which revolves in picking glowing tags out of recently killed players. When you kill an enemy, you'll have to pick up the glowing tag in order that your kill can be confirmed and grant your team points. Beware though, your allies can pick up these tags, virtually ‘stealing' your kill, but I'd say it increases teamwork. And if one of your allies is killed and the enemy somehow fails to pick up the tag, you can do it, therefore denying the enemies' kill. It's an interesting game mode, but it's about one of the few changes for the sequel and it's not a substantial one. Good but not great.

Call of Duty's gameplay is not perfect whatsoever in multiplayer.

What I've been telling you is how the controls work, how wonderful is shooting and all that. However while the multiplayer is by far the most balanced in the franchise history, there are some features that by now, feel old. For example, the knife being a one hit kill is a major problem by now. If knifing a guy from behind is a one hit kill is okay, knifing and kill a guy who is shooting you and has already landed three bullets in you doesn't look very good. And some killstreaks are still unbalanced, but not by the power they have, but by how easily they can be eliminated. What good is spending 9 kills without dying to get a helicopter, when an enemy who just died can easily grab a launcher from a preset class and instantly blow the crap out of your chopper? Or when you need to go prone, but the game doesn't let you because you are in a position where the game can't put you in a prone position? Or the fact that you cannot pick up ammo if it's not from the exact same weapon you are using (Example if you are using a M4A1 Carbine, you can't pick up ammo from a Silenced M4A1)? Those are minor nuisances but by far the most annoying one is the Quickscoping. When Infinity Ward announced that quickscoping would make a return in MW3 I felt my eyes burning. Such cheapness was the tactic Infinity Ward employed with that move. Let me enlighten you, Quickscoping is the process of shooting during the process of aiming the sniper rifle but before the scope takes the screen. While you are aiming, the crosshairs grow smaller until they get small enough (for those who do not know, the crosshairs of the sniper rifles in Call of Duty are very open, rendering the weapon's accuracy very poor if not aiming through the scope) to get a precise shot before the scope takes the screen. The tactic is cheap, and while it takes skill to master, makes the user a ridiculously powerful machine, and not in a good way. You can see people running through the map with a sniper rifle; pulling quickscopes to everyone they cross. And they are deadly, mainly because sniper rifles are designed to be one hit kill weapons in most situations. So how realistic is a game where you can run through the map with a sniper rifle, pulling cheap shots and killing everyone faster than they can kill you with the submachine gun? I realize I'm being a little hypocrite now, since these games are not very realistic; however this feature is by far the most broken I've been in the franchise. Its return was a cheap move made by Infinity Ward, to lure even more people who liked it in Modern Warfare 2 and were annoyed how it was taken out in Black Ops. These are issues that by now need fixing not because they let the developers in a bad position, but because they are annoyances that I simply can't tolerate more.
Rest assured however, that the people who use cheap tactics in the game level in this game has reduced way significantly. In my 55 hours playing multiplayer, I've only been killed 5 times with a grenade launcher, and even the quickscopers and campers are a rare sight.

The map design in Modern Warfare 3 is a mixed bag. In my personal opinion, the map design here is a step back of the previous entries of the series. Maybe it's just me but I certainly feel that several of the maps have terrible design, nearly half of them, unlike the previous games where just a couple of them were bad. The first reason that they are not good is that the levels are more open this time around, leaving few places for cover and more places where you can get killed. This does not sit well with Call of Duty's relatively small maps, as the players can easily overwhelm you from several positions. Don't get me wrong, this is great for maps like Bakaara, which are big and provide excellent places for diverse tactics and situations. But for small maps, especially Dome, it can make the game a complete mess.
Worse than this however, is the broken respawn system, which in my years of experience with Call of Duty multiplayer I hadn't seen. Why would I want the enemy to respawn just behind me? Why would I want to respawn where an enemy is aiming? There is no respawn camping, but because there is no need to, the game does the job for you. Yesterday, I spawned just where an enemy, nanoseconds before, had fired a missile. It seriously sucks, especially in small maps.

If that sounded like a whole negativity, don't get me wrong: As usual, there's plenty to enjoy in Modern Warfare 3's multiplayer, and while those dated gameplay features, unbalancing and respawn problems may turn down some players, the game offers dozen's of hours of fun in multiplayer. I'm telling you this because if these problems (which I won't let to go easy in these review), aren't fixed for the next installments, I'm not going to forgive them. And I'm a man of my word. So far, I've focused the review in multiplayer, but mainly because it's the primary feature the gamers use in Call of Duty. Now, let's head to the campaign.

Setting and Gameplay: Part 2: Singleplayer

Modern Warfare 3's campaign is easily the most intense campaign in the series, though I won't name it the best. First of all, it's a blast to play through, but it doesn't feature as close as many memorable levels as I would have liked. I've forgot many of them, and I've beaten the Campaign three times. The campaign is, as usually, broken into several levels and chapters, and it has 4 difficulty levels. While the easiest difficulty you can blast through almost all the levels without dying, the hardest one, ‘Veteran' difficulty will test your patience, because it's mostly unfair. The enemies' accuracy in this difficulty is highly unrealistic, as enemies can kill you while moving with 7.62x39mm bullets of an AK-47 from a building across a full square, when you can barely see them through the scope of a sniper rifle. It also seems like 90% of the enemies shoot at you while ignoring your allies, (and your allies are especially dumb when it comes to take down enemies), and it's like they can see you through the walls and know when you will come out to shoot you. The AI of the game, as of now certainly feels dated and needs a revamping completely.

The action scenes and set pieces are filled with explosions and it feels like you are playing a game directed by Michael Bay. I'd pick Call of Duty 4's less explosive campaign before this, as the action makes more sense. In Modern Warfare 3 literally everything explodes and it doesn't get much quieter than that. But I recognize it's great, specially the level ‘Iron Lady'. And the final level, ‘Dust to Dust' is a better final level than Modern Warfare'2 ‘Endgame'. Too bad the story suffers in the game. Normally, you'd expect than when a great movie writer and director such as Paul Haggis is hired in a game, you'd expect a great story and writing. But sadly this isn't the case, as the story, while nearly not as incomprehensible as Modern Warfare 2 (‘Loose Ends', anyone?) it is certainly the weakest part of the game. It doesn't nearly take into advantage that the game takes place in World War III, and instead puts the protagonists Captain John Price and ‘Soap' Mactavish, along with the newcomer ‘Yuri' (The playable character through most of the game) into a wild goose chase of the villain Vladimir Makarov through the globe. Only a few levels, with other characters; the Marines ‘Sandman', ‘Truck', ‘Grinch' and the playable character ‘Frost' take full advantage of the World War III condition and they spend too much time doing sort of-spec ops in the campaign. Not only that, but the aforementioned characters are weak, partly because of the writing. In past games, I could sense quite well the personalities of characters like Captain Price, Gaz, Ghost, Soap, but the newcomer's have blank personalities, or maybe they have, but they are completely buried beneath the action and scarce dialogues. Early in the game you arrive a section in a level where friendly soldiers appear and Sandman says: ‘Watch out for friendlies'. Truck proceeds to tell Grinch: ‘That means don't shoot them Grinch'. To which Grinch responds: ‘No ****'. Wait, am I supposed to infer that Grinch is stupid? Or that he has performed friendly fire before? Maybe Truck just doesn't like Grinch; maybe he's just teasing him. Either way, I'll never know, because apart of some generic battlefield-related dialogs they say in the rest of the game, I never get a sense of them. I don't care that their personalities aren't developed, because characters are not what Call of Duty is about, but at least let me get a sense of who are my allies, please. The story and characters are ultimately forgettable, and if not for the closure it provides, would certainly mean little to me. The campaign ends with a blast; ‘Dust to Dust' is one of the most insane levels I've seen in recent memory, but sadly the rest of the campaign is not up to the level.

Special Ops make a return to this game from Modern Warfare 2, except that this time, they are much less fun than in the previous game. Special Ops are missions that use the context of the campaign that have specific objectives and have different styles of play. For example, while one mission is the usual kill everything you encounter until you reach a destination, another one requires pure stealth. Some of them have time limits, the majority don't. These Spec Ops have difficulties like the campaign, and a higher difficulty grants you more stars in a Mission. Needless to say that you can play each mission with a friend, be it Split Screen or online, and this adds to replayabilty. Each mission has a reward of 3 stars, and the Spec Ops in general have 48 stars to collect. This game features fewer Spec Ops missions than Modern Warfare 2, 16 to the MW2's 23. This would be a disappointment if it were not for the fact that these Spec Ops missions aren't nearly as fun as they were in Modern Warfare 2. Maybe it's just me, but I didn't feel them nearly as strong, therefore, not memorable save for a few exceptions. The other reason the small number of mission isn't a disappointment is because of the game's new mode: Survival Mode.

Survival Mode is Modern Warfare 3's killer mode. Insanely fun, the concept is fairly simple: Survive countless waves of enemies as they progressively become stronger. Probably the best part of this mode is that unlike its counterpart, Black Ops and World at War's Zombie mode, you can play survival in all 16 multiplayer maps, not just 1 or 2. This is certainly a strong part because it adds up much to replayabilty. Didn't do well in a map? Try in another one. The difficulty of the maps is separated by tiers: four maps are Easy, four are Moderate, four others are Hard, and the last four are Insane. The catch is very simple: play alone or with a friend (split screen or online) in the map you like. You start with a pistol, or another firearm and some equipment (no equipment in maps with high difficulty). You can pick up the weapons of fallen enemies, and pick up ammo, though this ammo is usually very little. There are 3 boxes spread in the map, and you can buy certain things in these boxes. In one box you can buy weapons, ammo, and the weapons' attachments; in the second one you can buy support equipment such as grenades; and in the third one you can buy killstreaks. As you progress through the waves each one of these boxes will become essential for survival. When you beat a certain number of waves, more difficult enemies will begin to spawn, with the most difficult ones being very hard to kill, you'll probably spend half a magazine in just one enemy. When you are close to beat a wave, the number of enemies remaining will appear on screen, and when you defeat all enemies, the wave is cleared. Between waves there is a 30 second wait time, allowing you to recover and buy the necessary items. Enemies are not just limited to normal soldiers, dogs will appear too, and certain types of soldiers like claymore experts and ones that place gas bombs will appear. Every now and then, some waves have enemy helicopters and Juggernauts, which are extremely though to defeat. Higher level waver will have more Juggernauts and choppers, to the point where every wave they spawn, like the game was trying to say, ‘okay you are good, now die already'.

Although the difficulty level itself of all the maps in survival mode is the easiest one (Recruit, where you can take a lot of bullets before dying), don't let that fool you: Each wave is more difficult than the last, especially in higher tiered maps. In Spec Ops and Survival mode, you can level up like in multiplayer, as killing enemies give experience. With new levels, you can unlock weapons and equipment for purchase in Survival Mode. This is quite great and means you'll probably spend more time playing in these modes than you normally would. The only negative aspect I find in Survival Mode is the lack of 4 players Coop. It feels as such a wasted opportunity that I hope Sledgehammer fixes later with a patch.

Presentation

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 is well presented, better than the previous games. From the menus to the lobbies, everything seems perfectly good. You join matches faster, you can now play split screen online, and the game keeps track of your progress and hours playing each section of the game in the main menu. Sadly, it doesn't track your progress as good as Modern Warfare 2 did, like the number of Intel you had collected, your progress in each difficulty, or your best time in the Spec Ops missions. It's a little step backwards and I'm not sure why it was done. Sadly, Modern Warfare 3 feels too much like a “Been there, done that” that plagues the series. The lack of any changes at all in the gameplay by now is completely absurd. The most surprising thing of this matter is that the game is surprisingly fun, but I can't give the game a higher score. And I sense that the new Call of Duty for 2012 won't have the same good reviews as its predecessors if it doesn't change the gameplay.

The graphics, though dated are still great. They bear too much resemblance sadly to the previous games, and certainly feel like they hadn't been changed at all, despite the fact that, the new engine is basically the previous one with just some upgraded textures. Don't get me wrong, they look great, but after years of seeing the same graphics, a new engine would be welcomed, especially since we know the game could look much better. As usual, it uses a native resolution of 600p upscaled to the resolution you use, so the aliasing is noticeable in the game. Organic environments, mainly used in the Jungle settings, do not look nearly as good as the urban settings. They didn't look very good in Black Ops and they don't look good here either. However everything looks as good as before. Shadows and physics are still amazing, but the game can look better overall.

The sound; sadly is a mixed bag. It's not as strong as the previous Modern Warfare games, though it's certainly better than Treyarch's games. I've constantly criticized World at War and Black Ops because of the weak weapon sounds. Modern Warfare 3's weapons certainly sound strong, but not nearly as good as they sounded in Modern Warfare 2, and especially in the first Modern Warfare. I've stated before that the sound is very important in a shooter because it gives depth and makes the experience feel powerful. The score is also a very important, but sadly, Bryan Tyler's score isn't match to Harry Gregorson Williams (Call of Duty 4) and Hans Zimmer (Modern Warfare 2) epics. I didn't find a single track to be memorable, and while Call of Duty has never been about music, it feels like a wasted opportunity and a great disappointment.

Last but not least, the longevity of this title varies. The campaign is extremely short, I beat it in 5 hours in Regular difficulty (took me 7 to beat it in Veteran), and Spec Ops are short too. However, the game's true appeal resides in Survival mode and Multiplayer, which you can easily sink dozens of hours without tiring. If you are a Singleplayer gamer strictly, Modern Warfare's 3 campaign is short but sweet. Maybe too short, so I hope you enjoy Survival Mode. Me? I've played120 hours of the game, and I've acquired the Platinum trophy, not worth mentioning that I've beaten it 100%. I think I'll give it a rest for now. I deserve it and I think the franchise deserves a rest too, but sadly, it won't happen.

Conclusion

If you are a hater, I don't know why you bother buying the game. If you truly want something different from previous games, then buy another game. However if you are new to the series (unlikely) or you want the same action filled and fast paced experience from past games, Modern Warfare 3 delivers. Too bad the game's lacks of substantial changes from previous entries other than guns and settings prevent it from a higher score, but it's still surprisingly fun.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/02/12

Game Release: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (US, 11/08/11)


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