Genre: First Person Shooter Developer: Publisher: Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 8th Nov 2011 Platforms:XBOX360
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While the previous Modern Warfare games were definitely aimed at a mature audience, it's hard to imagine anyone describing them as "mature". The staccato way they flitted from one thought to the next spoke as much to the small attention span of its audience as it did about it.
The storyline across the games was less an attempt to convey an idea and more an excuse to push the player from one high-octane set-piece to the next - all the while making sure the action increased exponentially until six-ish hours later you finished the game, exhausted.
What happened at the beginning? What happened in the middle? ****, what happened at the end? The games skip through so many ideas it's tough to recall - all you remember is you had fun. It's all part of the illusion the master magicians have created - the idea is that you never have a chance to stop to think about anything.
Modern Warfare 3 isn't quite like that - but it's different in a positive way. It's mature. It still jumps perspectives, characters and locations constantly, but it's paced in a way which allows you a chance to breathe - a chance you rarely got in previous games.
The epic set pieces aren't always about bigger and better explosions this time, either. Some - including one fantastic level on a plane - are less about sprinting to the next 'marker' and are more about appreciating the level design.
The game started with a warning about one of the levels containing graphic content - as did Modern Warfare 2 before the now famous "No Russian" level - and I'm happy to say that even here there is evidence of an increased maturity. It's still a bit shocking, but there's an element of restraint which adds to the legitimacy of the event.
The story begins in the shoes of US Delta Force Staff Sergeant Derek "Frost" Westbrook as he fights through the streets of New York - the inadvertent poignancy of the occupation of Wall Street paid no mind - but quickly drags things to Africa so we can reacquaint ourselves with Task Force 141.
You might remember 'Soap' being mortally wounded at the end of Modern Warfare 2 - apparently it wasn't yet his time to die, but instead of seeing through his eyes again you become Yuri Petrenko as they track Makarov's actions through Africa.
In Europe, SAS Officer Sergeant Marcus Burns is leading the charge as he tries to track down details of an apparent terrorist plot and he immediately finds himself involved in a high octane chase with an ending reminiscent of Die Hard: With a Vengeance.
There are other playable characters I won't reveal to save from spoiling the game for you, but with these three characters you'll find yourself travelling across the world - well, across Europe, North America and Africa at least.
Like I said, the story is remarkably well paced this time - when it ends you'll still feel exhausted, but you'll remember every bit. It's the best Call of Duty single player yet, and it's ultimately an extremely satisfying ending to the Modern Warfare series.
At 6-ish hours long though, Modern Warfare 3's singleplayer is just a drop in the ocean - as in previous games in the series, the multiplayer is where the bulk of MW3's entertainment is at - and I can say without any doubt - it is the best multiplayer shooter on console today.
Let's talk cooperative multiplayer first, because this year's effort is both significant and important. Infinity Ward still won't create a 'zombies' mode - that's still Treyarch's baby - but they made a concession with the addition of Spec Ops Survival mode.
Like an amalgam of Zombies and Gears of War's Horde mode, it pits the player (and his coop friend) against wave after wave of enemies. The maps used are the maps you'll use in multiplayer, but the items available to you are ones you've unlocked in Spec Ops only. This means you'll start out relatively boned - you've got bugger all weapons, killstreaks or explosives, so you wind up very aware of the losing battle you and a friend are fighting.
As you work through the levels in Survival mode though, you slowly unlock more weapons and items - eventually unlocking things like turrets and the ability to call in Delta Force AI - and you begin to feel a little invincible. It's around this time that the game really starts to throw everything it's got at you.
I can very clearly remember the way my heart was thumping when three Juggernauts (guys with Light Machine Guns in basically Bomb Disposal armour) arrived on the scene. They downed my colleague, so i had to lure them away from him and sprint to his body and revive him before he 'died'. I made it with literally seconds to spare, and they'd returned just as I finished getting him back on his feet. We sprinted away and called in an air strike - all three died in an explosion from a Michael Bay film, and we carried on to the next round.
The normal Spec Ops missions are still in the game - offering in many cases an alternate version of scenes from the single player campaign. The great thing is you still increase your Spec Ops Survival level in this mode, further incentivising you and a friend to try it out.
As much fun as I had playing Spec Ops, you know where the bulk of MW3's multiplayer is - the competitive game modes. This year Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games have taken significant steps to give the game more of a team-focus, and once again it's a testament to the maturity on display with MW3.
Take the game modes, for example. TDM and FFA still exist, but the introduction of modes like Team Defender and Kill Confirmed - specifically designed to refocus the individualism of TDM and FFA - paints a clear picture of the thinking at work at IW.
Also reshaping how players work together are the new streak rewards. The typical killstreak system is still in place, essentially designed to make the (frag) rich richer as good players gradually unlock bigger and better assists (like Helicopter gunships or being the gunner in an AC-130).
The Specialist streak gives you more perks - which means in addition to your current set up you might find yourself running faster, or invisible to UAVs, or that your bullets do more damage - but to be honest I didn't see it have a great utility to me or my team.
The biggest new addition is the Support streak. The first thing to note is that the Support streak doesn't reset when you die - which means as long as you can get 18 frags in a match, you'll make it to the best possible reward. The Support streak rewards are all primarily team focused - you're able to call in UAVs, care packages and even a Juggernaut suit of armour, replete with a riot shield (amazing when you've got the flag in Team Defender).
The focus is on getting players to make their team win - not just on winning themselves - and it actually really works.
There are other changes to the game's make-up as well - especially in how your weapons work. As well as your account levelling up, your weapons now level up through use, replacing the challenge system from previous games. As you use a weapon you unlock more perks and attachments for it - forcing you to make a tough decision when you unlock something different.
Weapons is actually one area wherein Modern Warfare 3 makes a serious misstep, in my opinion. While playing it quickly became apparent that the single most important stat for any weapon was Rate of Fire. The weapon with the highest rate of fire would typically win any one-on-one encounter - and in the right hands it can win most other encounters as well.
This means that the best weapon for almost any situation is the PP-90M1 with the Rapid Fire attachment. An SMG trumps every Assault Rifle, every LMG and... everything, really. My primary class build was based around the Overkill perk (equip two primary weapons), a PP-90M1 and a UMP, both with Rapid Fire. If you throw Sleight of Hand (reload and switch weapons quicker) and Steady Aim (increased accuracy when firing from the hip), you're basically a one man army.
Weapon imbalance aside though, everything else about MW3's competitive multiplayer screams quality at a level other games simply cannot match. There's an attention to detail apparent here most other titles can't compete with, because Infinity Ward has had the time to whittle away almost anything which doesn't work.
The menu system, the create-a-class system - everything you do before you actually start playing adds up to a flawless experience. Once in-game, the maps are all carefully balanced for each game mode, with multiple routes to all areas and major firefight zones always clear.
This sort of painstaking detail and refinement has come at the cost of the game's graphics though - despite some fantastic lighting it's difficult to hide the aging Call of Duty engine, especially compared to other games coming out around it.
Still, I've never been hung-up on graphics - good enough is good enough where I'm concerned. It's always been about the atmosphere where I'm concerned - how the graphics, story-telling, sound and voice acting combine to put the player in the moment.
Modern Warfare 3 is no slouch in that department. The likes of Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther), Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood) and William Fichtner (Prison Break) join the team from the previous games to totally sell you on the story, and the sound of your environment - while not the best out there - still delivers on a spectacular level.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 really is the best multiplayer shooter on console right now. It's not changing the landscape of shooters - it's honing it to its sharpest point. It's a no-brainer purchase for console gamers, and there's very little to complain about regarding it.
Overall, MW3 exhibits remarkable maturity, and it will deliver it to an audience renowned for its immaturity. There's a chance it might even be a good thing for video games culture. Whether it is or not doesn't matter though - it's a great ride and a fantastic ending to the series.
Disclosure - GameArena attended a review event in Los Angeles to make sure our review came out on time.
Overall most people will get exactly what they expect from the latest COD, however there are no big surprises or changes that will generate much interest with the hardcore fans.
Unfortunately these days people have this great sense of entitlement or level of expectation due to the high quality and huge levels of success of previous COD games.
This puts a damper on many peoples excitement levels and after all the hype they come out feeling let down or disappointed.
On its own, this game is brilliant and for those who play this as their first COD experience it will be a VERY enjoyable one.
When you compare it to other versions of COD some people are always going to have over inflated expectations and of course be let down if something is not as good in this iteration. (Subjective)
Seeing people who have never played or seldom play shooters pick up a control and have fun from the get-go is a testament to the winning formula that is COD.
In the end the game delivers on the most important front, its a hell of a lot of FUN. And that's what games are all about right?
I have to say, I really liked the campaign - while it lasted, 5 hrs? try harder lads! The story (or lack there of) was somewhat compelling in the few brief moments I had a vague clue about what the f#ck was happening.
If you want realism, play BF3. If you want blow-****-up-'cause-you're-American fun, rent - RENT - this game.
Well, no prize for guessing who paid for the reviewers ticket to LA. I have stuck with The Call of Duty franchise since the beginning but it has been passed by BF3. Better graphics and sound and a better engine.
Building destruction, realistic human movement useable tanks, aircraft and helicopters etc. Massive maps, true teamwork using different specialization and the ability to spawn with your squad mates. The ability to select local servers only...
The list goes on and on.
Sorry guys, expectations were high from MW3 and you have not delivered.
I am still playing it because my clan mates do but BF3 comes out at every opportunity.
Finally to the reviewer, go back to journalism school, you seem to have missed a lesson.