Here we go again. It's the fall so that means another version of Call of Duty is out. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 concludes the story set in motion a few games ago with the final events of World War 3.
Modern Warfare 3 is separated into three different modes. You have the single player campaign, the return of the co-op Spec Ops mode, and the feature rich multiplayer mode. Let's look at each of these a little bit closer.
Written by Paul Haggis of such movies as Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, and Crash, the single player campaign starts out right after you, as Soap, took down General Shepherd who was one of the people responsible for starting the current war with Russia. Soap's hurt pretty badly and Captain Price, who's a staple in the Infinity Ward Call of Duty games, is looking to get Soap medical attention. As you progress through the story, you'll partake in the war as various soldiers in different parts of the world. Finally, you'll partake in the hunt and elimination of Marakov, terrorist extraordinaire from the second game. The formula is pretty much the same as usual; follow someone, shoot the bad guys, and watch a few in-game cut scenes. I will say the presentation is top notch for the times when you are waiting for the level to load and the developers have really mastered the way to present information in a fun and exciting format.
I don't know if it's because I'm a veteran of all the Infinity Ward Call of Duty games, but a lot of what made the first Modern Warfare game so fun, engrossing, and shocking, seems pretty mundane here. Death caused by the character you play, large scale destruction, being rendered helpless and having blurry vision for a little bit; all things that have been done many times before and they have lost a lot of the effect on me in Modern Warfare 3. I still did enjoy some of the large set pieces and the Hollywood like action scenes that happen during your time through the single player campaign, but it just didn't have as big of an impact on me now as it once did. Perhaps it's because Infinity Ward did such a good job in previous games, or maybe it's been overused in this and other games, or perhaps a combination of both; I just didn't get the same sense of awe and emotion that should go with playing the events presented by the game.
The single player campaign is relatively short but on par with the previous games. It took me 4 hours and 42 minutes to finish it on normal difficulty so if you have played plenty of FPS games, you'll want to push the difficulty up a little in order to be challenged a little. The end also seems to be a little anti-climactic, but it does close the trilogy out well enough that I don't think we'll need to revisit this scenario again. Although I do expect Captain Price to show up in future Call of Duty titles no matter what.
Moving onto the Spec Ops mode, the co-op experience returns in a few different flavors. The normal completion of mission specs are back and the obstacle course that was prominent in the other two Modern Warfare games is placed here rather than leading off the single player campaign.
One of the better additions to the series is the new Survival mode. In this, you’ll be facing rounds of enemy waves with a twist. You start out with a pistol and as you survive the first few waves, computers open up that let you purchase guns, explosives, or air support. You earn money by eliminating the enemies, racking up kill streaks, and surviving each wave. What makes the situation unique is that the three computers are scattered about the level with each specializing in certain purchasable upgrades. At any time during the round or in between rounds, you can go to a computer and upgrade or restock. You’ll have to strategize in eliminating the enemies in an area and then rush to the computer that you need. In between rounds, you’ll barely have enough time to get to two of the three computers so there’s always a scramble as to which are the most important purchases you want to make before the round begins and how to reach the ones you need during the round.
The waves of enemies are different as well so you won’t just face increasing amounts of enemies each round. Some rounds will net you a Juggernaut coming after you; another round might have helicopters on your tail. It’s nice that the rounds can change up who or what you face so you’re not stuck with the same group of enemies over and over again.
Like the regular multiplayer mode, you’ll be able to level up your spec ops profile that encompasses both the survival and mission modes (which I will talk to in a second) and earn new unlocks. Things such as riot squads, new weapons, sentry guns, and perks will be available for you to purchase as you level up giving you plenty of incentive to play besides just getting high scores.
With the way Survival mode is designed, it adds some nice tension and action to being able to keep yourself supplied with computer access and to eliminate the opposition. For those wanting to experience something a little bit different from the multitude of online action against other people, Survival mode is a nice diversion if you have a friend to play with. It’s too bad only one other person can join you at a time.
Mission spec ops mode returns and they are still pretty fun with a partner. Some you can play by yourself, but a few will require two players. I’ve always enjoyed trying to complete scenarios with a partner and Modern Warfare 3 brings this feature back with some fun missions to play through.
Modern Warfare and the subsequent Call of Duty games have really gone and pushed the emphasis for online multiplayer action. I thought Treyarch did a great job at balancing the gameplay and improving on the issues present in past multiplayer games with Black Ops. I had high hopes for the multiplayer gameplay in Modern Warfare 3 as I hoped the development team took note on what worked well with Black Ops and incorporate that and add their own improvements with Modern Warfare 3. They have done just that.
The big aspects of previous Call of Duty multiplayer games were killstreaks. Well, they’re gone now, replaced with point streaks. While you can still get streaks with kills, doing other things such as completing objectives or assisting in kills will add to your point streak too. This is a great way to earn things without relying just on kills.
Now, Modern Warfare 3 goes a little further into customizations of streaks with the ability to customize what category your point streak will count towards. They are called Strike Packages and are separated into three groups: Assault, Specialist, and Support. Most people will be familiar with the Assault Package where you get the usual AC130, mortar strikes, care packages, and other offensive items. When you die, it gets reset so you’ll have to start from the beginning just like before.
With the Support Package, you’ll get access to items like the sentry gun, EMP, and vests for your friends. What’s nice about this set is that if you die your progression through the package items don’t reset. Here you’ll get a better chance are going through your list of items and it provides a less frustrating experience if you do want to be able to deploy these items.
Finally, the Specialist package lets you earn perks that can stack on top of each other. You get two per kill and you’ll be able to use every perk at once after you get eight straight kills.
Unlike Black Ops, you are going to earn specific guns as you level up rather than purchasing them. Some people like the Black Ops method, some like the Modern Warfare method of unlocks. I’m not partial to either but I do enjoy aspects of both. A nice addition is that you can get better with a weapon the more you use it. So those that primarily use a few weapons in multiplayer can see their characters swaying less and having less of a kickback the more they level up with that weapon. This is also the way to unlock attachments. It’s a nice reward for those that concentrate on a few weapons in the game.
I’m a big Ground Warfare player and one of the new game modes added to the rotation is Kill Confirm. What happens is when someone is killed, dog tags appear above the body. Grabbing the dog tags scores a point for your team. Grabbing dog tags from a fallen comrade will deny the other team those same kill points. The first to 80 points win so you’re going to have more kills than points in most rounds and it’s just another aspect for a team to win without having to be totally dominate in kills.
The action’s still the same and those familiar with Modern Warfare 2 will be on familiar ground here. It still emphasizes quick kills and I do find myself dying from fewer gunshots when compared to Black Ops. This can get frustrating for newer players or players with lesser skill sets on the team. I found myself out of practice and having really bad scores for a while before I finally started to get back into the swing of things and got higher and more respectable scores. Once in the groove, I really enjoyed the quick action combined with all the features present in multiplayer. As a person who’s played a ton of multiplayer Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2, I find myself being drawn to it when I want to play some quick rounds without having to invest a ton of time into it.
New to the series is the Prestige Shop, which lets you purchase such things as extra custom classes, double XP, and so forth. You use tokens that are acquired by prestiging as well as earning some from older games, which is a nice little touch for those that have played plenty of older Call of Duty games. Unfortunately, the PC version doesn’t give you tokens for past games, which is a shame. Still, the option for the shop is there and it’s another nice little reward for those that play plenty of Modern Warfare 3.
For the graphics, the game hasn't changed too much from the previous Modern Warfare game. The characters look similar, the guns seem familiar, and everything has that familiar Modern Warfare look. Now, it does seem like the texture quality has been upped a bit and the models do look like they've been improved a little bit as you would expect from game to game when a completely new engine isn't involved. The game's still running on a DirectX 9 engine so until we get a complete engine overhaul, don't expect anything too new with the series in terms of details.
The engine has been improved to allow for larger areas in the game so you'll partake in fights where there's a ton of ground to cover as well as massive overheard areas to look at. With the levels involving a city setting, the engine does a great job at providing plenty of eye candy with things such as falling debris and the massive height that the buildings extend into the sky you look around.
Because it's using an "older" engine, the game just flies on my PC. My configuration consists of an i7-2600K with a P67 MSI motherboard paired with 4GB of RAM and running Windows 7 64-bit. To power it all, I have a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580, which is a beast of a card today. It had no trouble with every graphic detail turned on and running at over 100fps at a resolution of 1920x1080. The game ran like a dream with all the options turned up and while the engine has shown its age, the developers did a good job in pushing the current engine a little further than the previous games.
I tried using 3D Vision and playing the game in 3D and I had mostly a good experience on it when the levels weren't dark. There are a few levels where there were a great deal of dark and muted colors, and that made using the glasses a little frustrating since the darkening nature of 3D Vision made it hard to see. I don't have NVIDIA's newest 3D Vision 2 tech, but perhaps it'll work better with the improved brightness with the new glasses and monitor.
A few bugs did pop up when I was playing the game. During a level where I had to follow Captain Price, there were a few times he’d just stop and I’d have to wait few a minutes before he’d start running again. No enemies were around and there was nothing I could do but sit there. Another one that I’ve documented here was when the enemies would get stuck somewhere in their death animation. I have to say, there were some pretty funny poses, but it was weird to see me shoot the enemy and not see them go down. The game didn’t crash on me, however, so that’s good. None of the bugs I ran into were detrimental to the experience as they only lasted a level or so.
Call of Duty Elite is something that Activision’s really pushing, but it looks like PC players are getting the shaft here in terms of getting access to the premium features. It’s not ready yet and there’s talk that it’ll be next year sometime before PC folks can get access to the stats and theater mode and it is unfortunate because we are left out of earning prizes. I can understand it a little as the PC group is rampant with hacks and cheats so it would be hard to keep everything fair, but it’s still disappointing nevertheless. Let’s at least hope the stats and theater mode get up and running on the PC side sometime in the near future.
So after it all, fans of the Call of Duty series should have some fun with Modern Warfare 3. The single player story is an improvement over Modern Warfare 2. The multiplayer experience is tweaked, but can still be pretty frustrating at times. I really enjoyed Survival mode though and I’d love to see more maps in that area or perhaps a patch to let a few others join in. The graphics are tweaked over the previous game, but nothing really new. The game ran really well on my PC and I would guess if you could run Black Ops decently, the experience will probably be the same for Modern Warfare 3. Unfortunately, the Call of Duty experience seems to be getting a little dated so the folks working on the next Call of Duty game will have to think up of new ways to innovate the series. Still, it’s fun at times and does offer a good set of multiplayer features.