Review by LeQuack147
I've come to expect more from this series
Up until now, I'd say the Modern Warfare series has been excellent. The games have always had a few problems, it is true, but the managed to stay enjoyable in spite of them. This is the first game in the series where my frustration trumped my enjoyment. The basic mechanics remain the same and are still quite fun, but recurring problems and issues with some of newer features make this a weaker game than it's predecessors.
Story- Can we kill Makarov yet? Please?
The story continues with the survivors of Task Force 141 hunting down Makarov, as the world reacts to Russia's assault on the United States. It was good to see the story concluded, but the series just feels tired at this point. The writing team is starting to resemble a one-trick pony. Killing off major characters without warning was a stunning move back in CoD4, but it lacks punch here. The set pieces don't have the same jaw-dropping magnificence of, say, the EMP in Modern Warfare 2. Even the "ooh look, controversial!" section was weak, to the point that I wondered why they even included it. The tricks that amazed players back at the start of the series seem old and worn-out now. I just couldn't get attached to any of the new characters, knowing the game would probably kill them off in some half-hearted attempt at upping the stakes. I think the biggest surprise was when your Delta Force soldier is in a helicopter, and the ride DOESN'T end with the it exploding or crashing. That's the level of cruelty I've come to expect from this series.
Gameplay- Sometimes fun, sometimes just frustrating.
The Campaign mode is no different from earlier games. Sprint down this hallway, kill that guy, sneak through this area, ride this chopper. Nothing new here. There's not much to look forward to except the conclusion of the story we've been playing since CoD4. They tried to mix it up, they really did. But the sequences of driving an assault drone or walking through a base in juggernaut armor are so short-lived that you'll have little time to appreciate the change of pace. The Spec Ops mode has been expanded. As before, there are a number of short missions to play alone or with a friend. They are nicely varied, a refreshing change from the standard story mode. I also think it was a good move to make the spec ops missions relevant to the main storyline. Granted, you may end up spoiling particular events if you play Spec Ops first, but most of the details revealed are minor or occur early in the main story.
In addition to the usual 1-shot missions, they added a new "Survival" mode. In this new game-type, one or two players will fight increasingly more difficult waves of enemy troops. In between waves, there is a short period of peace, allowing the purchase of weapons, air support, and other helpful power-ups. Imagine the Zombies mode from Black Ops, except the zombies shoot back now. I personally found it much more enjoyable, as the fact that you are fighting actual soldiers means no more ammo shortages, and it is possible to purchase your weapon of choice, rather than hoping the mystery box will work in your favor. The time between rounds is also a welcome addition. The Survival mode takes place on actual multi-player mode maps, and this works well. The guns and support purchased in this mode are unlocked by a leveling system similar to the multi-player mode. This was another good decision, as this leveling system is what makes the multi-player so addictive, and the little "+100" that pops up when scoring a kill makes Spec Ops all the more satisfying.
Now to the Multi-Player mode, which is the main draw of this game.
As with the Campaign, the basics haven't changed much. Scoring kills and completing objectives (such as capturing an area) give the player experience points. As the player levels up through these points, new weapons, perks, and equipment are available. The weapons now have their own experience bars as well, unlocking attachments and proficiencies as the weapon is used. Some attachments are straight-forward upgrades, such as extended magazines or grip, while others tweak the play-style of the weapon, such as the suppressor and rapid fire attachment. The under-slung weapons return as well. The only new addition here in the hybrid sight, which allows players to switch between a long and short-range optics at a moment's notice. Proficiencies improve the weapon's performance in more subtle ways, such as granting a longer effective range or less idle sway. Equipment includes special grenades and other devices for assisting your character, such as an emplacement that blocks explosives. Finally, the perks are used to tweak a class towards a certain play-style, such as using the extended sprinting perk with the improved hip-fire perk for a "run and gun" class. The frustrating challenges for the more unusual attachments have been removed, a definite improvement. Additionally, unlocking the advanced version of a perk no longer requires playing a specific game-mode, as in Black Ops.
Another big change is to the killstreak system. It was simple in MW2- the more kills you score without dying, the better support you can call in. That system is mostly intact under the "Assault" Package. The new "Support" streak grants less offensive support, but is not reset by the death of the player. "Specialist" rewards players with additional perks for not dying. On top of this, shooting down air support and completing objectives now count towards these streaks, as an effort to keep players from being side-tracked by the killstreaks in objective-based games. Now even the players at the bottom of the score-board can contribute to their team's efforts.
For all the improvements over previous games, MW3 still stumbles in some areas. The pistols are anemic, the shotguns lack punch, machine guns have lost one of their few redeeming features, and most weapon classes are dominated by a couple guns. The spawn system is flawed because it works on line of sight, putting opposed players in close proximity to each other without warning. The flash-bangs and semtex grenades are now the obviously superior choices in their respective categories, leading them being used almost exclusively. Additionally, the new killstreak system allows a competent team to have continuous radar coverage and EMP's every match, mandating the use of stealth perks. The maps aren't designed for sniping and are frustratingly cluttered. I'd argue your enjoyment of this game will largely depend on how much these problems affect you.
Now, to give credit where it is due, Infinity Ward is working to correct many of these issues. Their response is a little sloppy thus far, but they are listening to the community. Still, with this being their 3rd game, you can't help but wonder why the series still has rough spots. They also plan to address the map issues by releasing new ones, but I shouldn't have to spend another $10 because they didn't have the forethought to accommodate snipers and other long-range weapons in their original game.
Graphics- Explosions, the game.
The environments are varied, as usual, but with a much larger emphasis on urban areas. As I mentioned before, this makes sniping a little more difficult, as very few areas have the sight lines for it, especially in multi-player. I'm also not a fan of the dark corners in many of the maps, they are a little too tempting for players to hide in, which can slow the pace down considerably. A number of weapons and vehicles look exactly the same as they did MW2. You may appreciate this consistency between games, or see it as laziness. Another noticeable difference in the maps is how height rarely comes into play. Maps from earlier games were smaller horizontally, but had multiple height levels to keep things interesting. As a side-effect, the "no falling damage" perk ability is much less useful, as there are only a few situations where fall damage is a threat. Also, why must every vehicle explode? The maps are brimming with cars and barrels that will obliterate any player who is caught near them at a bad time. This also applies to the Campaign and Spec Ops missions. You'd think there would be more practical ways to disable one, such as shooting out the driver, but the best way is usually just to blow it up. The basic explosions haven't changed since the last game, and if anything, the repetition makes them less impressive.
The weapons are quite detailed, as always. Considering they could have populated the game exclusively with ones they used in MW1 and 2, it's nice to see the developers still introducing new weapons. It's easy to distinguish one gun from another, which does give the game more variety. Though, it feels like they gave some guns terrible iron sights just because they couldn't find another way to balance them.
Sound- Wasted potential is a terrible thing.
I'll be straight to the point, I didn't find anything memorable in the music. This is a step down from MW2, where the music pushed the playing experience from good to great. A good example, the run to the top of the White House in the Rangers Arc: You've got dozens of Russian soldiers waiting in ambush, a timer that stops you from slowing down, and minimal cover. But then you heard the Ranger's Theme kick in, and you were psyched. You felt like you could take the entire army with a sidearm. That's what music is capable of, and I don't see any of that potential here. The music isn't bad enough to hurt the game, but it could have been so much better. The sound effects are functional, if nothing else. The guns sound different from their previous incarnations, but not objectively worse. The audio still has useful cues for the wary, such as the roar of an incoming stealth bomber, or the crunch of a player jumping from a high point. This helps to keep the silencer as a useful attachment, as it is more difficult to pinpoint the source of suppressed gunfire. It definitely sounds like a war going on, between the explosions, the gunfire, and the radio messages informing you of an enemy helicopter on the horizon. I just wish the music complemented the game as well as the sound did.
Replayability- Most of this is in the Multi-Player, but as stated prior, that area could do with some polishing. While they were trying for some unique campaign moments, I didn't find any of them interesting enough to go back and play again. Spec Ops is decent fun, but once you've beaten all the challenges on Veteran, there's not much reason to go back. The Survival mode will last you a while, at least.
Final Recommendation- If you've stayed with the CoD series thus far, you already tolerate many of the flaws I've listed here in exchange for fast-paced gameplay and and an impressive class-building system. However, new players may have difficulty seeing past these issues, and may want to rent it before committing $60.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (US, 11/08/11)
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