It's been two years since the last Modern Warfare experience, so are you ready for the next?
You better be because the stakes have been raised.
Story matters more than you think...
The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare story continues in the latest edition of the game. Makarov is leading the charge against the free world in hopes of taking down all that oppose him. He brings the battle to New York City, Paris and London. Returning soldiers John Price, Soap MacTavish and new man Yuri have joined up with worldwide forces to try to stop Makarov before it's too late.
While the single-player campaign isn't as long in the tooth as the multiplayer campaign, the intensity and the storyline behind it is as strong as ever. Plenty of moments in the campaign where your hands will literally get sweaty and moments that will test your nerves. For example, the first thing you will run into during the SP campaign is a rooftop fight on the stock exchange in New York. You'll be asked to take down a Russian helicopter, Russian troops on various rooftops and then climb onto a helicopter to fight your way to safety. The SP campaign in MW3 simply doesn't let you rest. Picture a good Michael Bay film (I'm sure there is one out there) that has no downtime and you can picture the SP campaign in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. It certainly gets the game off to a great start.
As you're making your way through the campaign, you'll find a whole lot of 'new' waiting for you. First, you'll notice that the visuals in the game have been dramatically improved. Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Games has implemented their IW 5.0 Engine in MW3. It focuses in on texture details, strong lighting and shading, and handling a lot more depth than the previous 4.0 and 3.0 of the engine. New York City is a visual masterpiece, as it truly feels like you're inside of NYC trying to fight your way through it. No pop-ups in the background, no load times, just a enormously detailed city with large structures. On top of that, the environments are very much alive visually. You'll find flags dynamically wavering in the wind, paper and debris flying all around you, and just a good sense of destruction. All of this is possible thanks to Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Games's new engine, and it brings a lot to the atmosphere of the game.
On top of really beautiful environments, the game also showcases better character models. For example, Price no longer looks like a bulldog. In MW and MW2, his cheeks bulged and his jaw/lips moved in a robotic fashion. This time around, Price looks like a human would look like when you're staring at him in the face. His lips move appropriately and his jaw and facial structure look anatomically correct. To boot, the movement of the men in the game doesn't look like they have to pee when they run (bow-legged in the previous two versions). They move, turn, kneel and whatnot like someone would in real life. Again, credit IW 5.0 for this improvement and the good folks at Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Games in wanting to visually improve upon their masterpiece.
As for the actual gameplay design it is pretty much the same as it always has been. You get a very linear trail to follow, which is what the game uses to create that intensity. If you fall of track in the game then you're pretty much dead. For example, around the third or fourth mission in MW3, you're sent out with Soap and Price to take down an arms shipment that Makarov is filtering through North Africa. If you have ever been to Africa then you know their structures/villages are pretty much put together in a rough fashion (I've been to Africa, I know). It's easy to get lost in the structure and even easier when you lose track of Price and Soap when you're suppose to follow them. There were several times in this stage where I would turn around to look at something and turn back around to find that my leads were nowhere to be found. Most of the time this happened during the heat of battle, which stinks because 90% of the time i would be taken out by the angry militia that inhabited the village. In a sense, this is a bit of a knock on the game because you really have no other choice but to go forward and stay on track. I know that it keeps with the story and the action when you're on that linear path, but it would be nice to have the ability to wander off and flank someone once in a while.
Shifting gears just slightly, one of the bigger improvements in the game is the A.I. While I can't even express any sort of sane words on how I felt about Black Ops when it came to A.I., I am happy to report that MW3 makes with the goods on both the friendly and enemy side of things. If you're in a bind in the midst of a firefight and you need to depend on support from your NPC teammates then you're going to find plenty of help. For example, when I needed support on the NYC mission after dozens of Russian troops were storming to the front and pinning me down, my boys came through. This wasn't the case on MW2 or on Black Ops, but it's the case in MW3.
On the flip side to that coin, the A.I. on the enemy side isn't horrendous. For example, in one of many invasions in the game where the U.S. was storming against the Russians, I found myself pinned down behind a concrete road block. One of the enemies ran up to the block and held cover and then proceeded to jump over it so he could take me out. I'm not sure I remember such braveness out of an enemy before in Call of Duty, but it was welcomed. That act alone meant a lot to me in terms of game design. It meant that Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Games wanted to improve upon what it had already built with the Modern Warfare franchise, and this one moment showed signs that it was. No one wants to fly through a single-player campaign untouched; the game should present a challenge, as well as help, and I'm happy to report that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 does just that. It still might be a cakewalk, but it's a tough cakewalk.
As for the rest of the gameplay for the single-player campaign, it's pretty good. You get some nice controls in the game, which include a lovely 'prone' position (sorry, having horrible flashbacks of Medal of Honor, which has made me appreciate and mention the 'prone' position when I can). You also get the same super-intense slow motion scenes that ask for your agility with the controls to take out enemies before they take out innocents or you. Modern Warfare has always been known for those types of scenes and you can expect them again in this game.
Overall, the single-player campaign will make you remember how much you love the intensity that Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Games brings to the table. Though the experience doesn't last nearly as long, it does fit beautifully into the overall story scheme that the series has set up. Basically, you'll be controlling a movie, and that's fine.
Why the majority of you bought this title....
Let's talk about the multiplayer aspect of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
Hardcore fans of the series understand how important is to make a solid MP mode in Call of Duty. While Call of Duty: Black Ops did a great job on maps when it came out, the Modern Warfare series has always excelled on other things to make it great. The inclusion of perks, unlockables and streaks always helped the series out when it came to dominating online. Players thrived on that and always expected it. As I reported in September, Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Games had gone back to the drawing board to see what could be changed, excluded and added to make the MP experience even better for the gamer.
For the most part they did a great job.
They cut out perks like One Man Army, Commando and Last Stand. They also removed killstreaks like the Nuke killstreak, which provided somewhat of an unfair advantage. By nixing these things, the unbalanced gameplay that existed in MW2 and Black Ops (though I know it's not related) was pretty much balanced out. How did they balance it? Well, the focus of the game is now more on point streaks, which demand more teamwork. For example, in games like Team Defender, you gain more points by protecting the flag holder and less points for going Rambo on people. That was one of the things that separated CoD from games like Medal of Honor, it never had that 'team atmosphere' about it as the EA title did. Most people online with CoD wanted to rank up quickly and damn the game, and their team, in the process. The focus on point streaks now brings that team play back into being important. For an online war game the essence of teamwork makes the experience that much better. Again, Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Games accomplished this beautifully.
Now, with that said, let's talk about the different types of matches:
Team Deathmatch: This is your standard team vs. team match that people prefer before anything else. Regretfully, the last three days I have had three sessions of this, which isn't nearly enough to give you a good view of it. It's not because of my laziness, rather it's because the servers keep kicking me off. My connection is strong enough (17mb up, 9mb down), so I know it's not me. I will update my opinion of this when I can get on it to play it. Until then, just know the three times I got to play it was fun.
Kill Confirmed: When I played this in September I had a lot of hope for it. It was something new, intriguing and just darn fun. The point of this game is to take out your enemy and then still their dog tags. You get 50+ points for taking their tags, but you have to be careful because if you're killed then someone else can take your tags. What's neat about the game is that you can kill an enemy and use their tags as bait. If an enemy picks up their fallen teammates dog tags then you get no points. Leaving the dog tag hanging out there lures other enemies to it and makes them easy targets. The concept is brilliant the gameplay is fast and furious. Like other matches, the game encourages teamwork.
Mercenary: It's both team deathmatch and kill confirmed, but no parties are allowed in the game. You can play up to 12 people at a time in the match, and it's just good old fashion shooting fun.
Free-for-All: Well, Activision had to please the selfish sons of bitches of the world. This mode does just that. Best of the best survive in this one.
Domination: The point of this mode is to fight for the control of three flags on the level. It's a constant roundtable of flag collection where the more flags you obtain the better the points. It's neat, it's fast and it's intense. I'm not a huge fan of Capture the Flag, so this was a nice adjustment to the idea.
Ground War: Just what it sounds like. Huge teams going against each other. You can have 18 people playing at a time, which makes for a chaotic point mess of epic proportions. If you have a solid team for this one then you're going to love how it plays out.
Team Defender: i really liked playing this at XP this year. You basically grab and hold onto a flag. The team with the flag earns bonus points for every kill they make. It's a really good game that preaches teamwork. The longer you can hold your flag and protect your flag holder, the better you're going to do in the game. Again, this is probably one of my favorite games in MP.
Demolition: You get a limited amount of time to take out two bomb sites. Of course, the opposing team will do everything in their power to make sure that doesn't happen. You've seen this type of play before and it works well. Again, very team oriented.
Sabotage: Going along the same lines as Demolition, you have to get a neutral bomb and plant it on an enemy's bomb site. It's more intense because the first team to detonate their bomb wins the match. It's very fast gameplay.
Headquarters Pro: Capture and defend. The more hardcore fans out there will appreciate it.
Search and Destroy: Defend and destroy the object. You can have up to 12 players at a time and there is one caveat to this game... there is no respawning. All those Rambo fans out there you better start preparing yourself for this one.
Capture the Flag: This is one of the other modes I played at XP. It's your standard capture the flag game where you run and grab your enemies flag, and return it to your base for points. Fast and furious as usual.
Outside of new games for MP, you also get new perks and a wonderful thing called Strike Packages. Starting with the perks, you get a variety of new ways to play in MW3. You can gain perks like Blind Eye, Quick Draw and marksman that help you customize particular classes to perform in certain situations. Blind Eye gives you the ability to be undetectable from air support and sentries (you'll want this). Quickdraw allows for fast, not better, aiming. Marksman helps you to identify enemies from a longer range, which is going to make snipers of CoD happy, happy, happy. Having the ability to add and subtract perks and customize your soldier for certain maps and situations is invaluable.
As for Strike Packages, they come in a variety of choices:
Assault -- Pointstreaks within this package chain. Designed for more damage (I.E. Predator, helicopter, etc).
Support -- Pointstreaks that don't chain. This one is more 'support' oriented and involves UAV, Counter UAV, and SAM turret. Does not reset on death.
Specialist -- Pointstreaks that eventually equal out to additional perks. Lasts until death.
Each strike package has its own advantages and disadvantages, but like perks they fit into certain maps and situations better than other packages. Completely customizable and fun as hell.
Now, let's talk briefly about maps you're going to find in the game. There are a wide variety of maps that range from Paris, London, Mall and even a wonderfully confusing African village. Each brings its own advantages and disadvantages to certain types of classes, so you have to get to know these maps before you jump right into them. For example, the Mall map is one that is mostly a tightly packed area with three levels to run up and down in. There is a balcony at the front of the map that is completely ideal for the sniper on your team. You can see everyone entering and exiting the complex, so it's perfect for racking up points. Also, it's really good for UAV support, as you can get to people quickly and usually in bunches. It's very diverse on what can be done within it. All the maps give you a different edge and variety of ways to make your MP experience successful. If you choose the wrong class for a particular map then you're going to know it immediately. For example, if you want to be a sniper in the London map then you're going to be really out of luck. There aren't a lot of places to go prone and wait. There are multiple entrances and exits all over the place and it's sure to cause a nightmare for the sniper peeps. It's simply not built for that class. The devs did a great job with setting this up, as it forces you to try different custom classes, which is always a good thing.
Having said all this, I did have a problem with the maps. The majority of maps, outside of the Mall, seem flat and spread out. I enjoy the size of them, but I want more multiple levels in the maps. For example, there is a construction site map that has huge structures attached to it. You can't go into those structures and up those structures, and I want to so damn badly. The most you can go up/down in all the maps is three levels. Those levels aren't incredibly deep either. While I will address this in a few paragraphs, the one big draw for me personally in regards to Battlefield 3 is how the game uses its structures. If you can see a structure on the map that you want to get on then more than likely you can get on that structure. It provides an unfair advantage, but the fact that it's doable is a huge plus; this isn't the case with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. If you're going to make insanely huge maps with giant structures then please make them accessible. If you don't then what that does is make this nothing more than a 'grab your gun and run' type of multiplayer experience. I appreciate that experience, but I want more than just that experience. Anyway, this leads me into an argument that many of you have gone through with friends (or ex-friends) over the last month -- which is better Battlefield 3 or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3?
*gets on soapbox, clears throat*
Neither is better, as they can indeed co-exist.
Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg suggested that both games can thrive together in the video game market. While competition is good, these games can't be any more different, therefore they can co-exist. If you want a more military experience that brings down perks, strike packages and offers more methodical strategies then Battlefield 3 is your game. Like Medal of Honor, it doesn't come with all the sweet things that make the game intense, but it does carry an air of military authenticity with it.
Having said that, if you like quick action and insanely intense moments in your gaming experience then look no further than Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. It brings Michael Bay like action and an infinite amount of customization to keep the game interesting until the next release in the series. It's fast and furious, not to keep overusing that phrase (but it is).
So, don't kill yourself wondering if you should go with one or the other; honestly consider both.
*hops off soapbox*
Getting back to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, you're going to find plenty of bang for your buck with this one. I could literally spend 100+ hours playing online without blinking an eye. It's more addictive than MW2 and Black Ops, and I haven't even scratched the surface with unlockables and customizations yet. There's plenty to be had with this game and you won't regret spending your hard earned cash on it. Of course, it's easy for me to tell you to spend your money since Activision provided me with a free copy of the game, but take my word that if I didn't get it for free then i would have bought it on my own.