Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review (Xbox 360)

Game Review: Modern Warfare 3
Release: November 8th, 2011
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: n-Space, Inc, Neversoft Entertainment, Treyarch, Raven Software, Sledgehammer Games, Infinity Ward
Available Platforms: X360, PS3, Wii, PC and Nintendo DS
Players: 16 online
MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: 18

The world is being plunged into war. Russian terrorists are throwing a military coup, but this time with the support of a modernized army – allowing them to level a good part of the world. In Modern Warfare 3, you will travel from the US to Africa, Paris, Germany, and other parts of the world – all while witnessing beautiful cities being leveled.

The inter-continental mission will put you in control of a variety of Special Forces troops, from an American Delta Force soldier, to British Spec Ops, to Russian Secret Service.  You will infiltrate terrorist operations, assassinate powerful leaders, and gun down hundreds of Russian soldiers while trying to save the world.

Modern Warfare 3 ups its antics from the pervious entries. New York City – London – Berlin – all will be visited in the name of incredible action; and controversial scenes – like the airport massacre from MW2 – will leave you shocked.

The teammate on the right is rocking the new Jason Mask Perk, +15% damage to innocent campers

As high action as the games levels are there is absolutely no depth – what you see is what you get. There are no mechanics that will create unique experiences or quirky AI or world behaviors that will cause unexpected results.  Modern Warfare 3 is a rollercoaster – one with an endless stream of loops, barrel rolls, and straight-down-180-degree-drops.  It’s the perfected linear game – but that’s
like perfecting the typewriter just as the computer is becoming mainstream.

With games like Far Cry 2, Mass Effect, and Elder Scrolls, it’s hard to play a game like Modern Warfare 3. In many other games you are given freedom of choice and branching quests; Modern Warfare 3 on the other hand, couldn’t be more linear. Not only is the level design linear but the play style is completely dictated to the player. You don’t get to decide if you want to go in silently or guns blazing – the game tells you what you are going to do.

Accuracy be damned - these pistols look awesome!

The single-player just stretches on – it doesn’t look as good as CGI in movies and doesn’t play as well as other shooters do. The campaign even recycles the same scenes from previous games – just in different settings. By the 3rd hour I’d already breached a dozen doors and taken out twice as many helicopters.  It’s like following a paint-by-numbers system – and all too often I feel like I’m just going through the motions of playing, blasting away with an endless number of bullets to kill an endless number of enemies.

But for me the Call of Duty games have never been about single-player, it’s the multi-player that I get excited about. Modern Warfare’s popularity is easily observable – at any given time there are hundreds of thousands of players online – and they are there for a reason. With over 5 modern Call of Duty games Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games have had a lot of practice perfecting the system.  A new refreshment of weapons and perks keeps the constant drive to level-up going, and even after the yearly sequels there are still some new features that have been thought up.

Most notable are the new modes and pointstreak system. The classic killstreaks have been revamped to pointstreaks – which no longer give credit exclusively for kills but also for completing objectives like capturing a flag or planting a bomb.  The assault line gives offensive based rewards like chopper gunner, the support line is focused more on rewards that benefit your team like the UAV and supply drops, and the new addition, Specialist, unlocks additional perks for your current life, further augmenting your killing ability.

Black Friday Lines Have Been Eliminated Sir...

A new mode titled Kill Confirmed offers a fresh take on deathmatch gameplay – requiring you to pick up dogtags left where enemies die to get credit for the kills. If teammates are able to retrieve the tags they deny the kill, saving your team costly points.

Among those changes are new perks, attachments, and a Proficiency upgrade tree, which rewards you with weapon-specific upgrades like Kick (which reduces gun kickback when firing) and Two Attachments (which replaces Warlord/Bling, allowing two gun attachments for your weapon). The game has also moved back to a linear unlock system of weapons and attachments (from the budget-based one used in Black Ops).

The changes aren’t just skin deep – technical improvements have been made to perfect the action. The engine has been optimized and locked at 60fps – twice that of EA’s Battlefield 3.  Digital Foundry has found that the increased FPS rendering and overall engine streamlining has allowed for response times that are more than twice as fast as Battlefield 3 and Killzone 3. This streamlining makes Modern Warfare 3 feel like a modern era Quake – designed in everyway to be as pure as possible for deathmatch. In fact, the engine used in modern Call of Duty games was originally derived from the id Tech 3 engine, which was used to power Quake III

There are certainly tradeoffs that have been made to achieve this efficiency, and that’s noticeable in the graphics. They aren’t just bad, they are plain ugly. While Modern Warfare 3 may run twice as fast as Battlefield 3, it also looks half as good. There are no destructible buildings, not many dynamic light sources, and shadows look more like TV static than anything else. Its easily one of the ugliest games I have played in a while on the console – and when compared to PC games Modern Warfare 3 looks like something from last generation.

I don’t think that this engine can last much longer, compared to almost every other modern engine it offers far less in terms of visual effects and I cant see it being visually-competitive for any future releases. On top of the bad graphics is the games poor art design. The Call of Duty series has never been a big innovator in visual design – usually sticking to a nice palette of brown and grey – but in the same ways that Modern Warfare 3 is the pinnacle of all fast-paced shooters, its also the pinnacle in hideous design.

The screen is at all times filled with grimy and blurry shadows, explosions, and debris. Almost everything is covered in some sort of camo pattern, and each character is covered in tactical gear from head to toe creating just about the busiest and generic look I’ve seen yet even in the Modern Warfare genre.

But I don’t play Modern Warfare 3 for its visual design either – it’s a multi-player deathfest first and foremost and in that arena its perfect.  The inevitable map-pack releases will continue to add new reasons to play and the 70+ levels don’t hurt either. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 is a great online FPS. Many of the balance problems that plagued past titles – and all online FPS games like “Dolphin Diving” (allowing players to go from stand to prone instantly, giving a quick accuracy boost and making them hard to hit) – have been fixed, and genuinely interesting new additions also help ease the repetitive nature. However if you have been buying up all the previous Call of Duty games and their map packs you will probably find it a bit stale.  The single-player though just cant hold my interest when I look at what else there is available – Modern Warfare 3 may have a excellent linear campaign but I don’t care how good it is, as long as its one step above pressing “Play” on a DVD I will be skipping it.

+ Amazing multiplayer that still manages to add new features after many iterations
+  PP90M1
– Horribly boring single-player and equally horrible graphics

Score: 7 out of 10

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