Call of Duty (CoD) is back with another addition to Activision's yearly action franchise, and this time not only is it personal, but also global. Lock and load for for a globetrotting adventure of scripted action at it's finest. Fight through the streets of Paris, the London Tube system, villages of Sierra Leone and even the cramped quarters of a Russian submarine as it threatens to wipe the entire eastern seaboard clean off the map. Aside from the great single-player experience, Modern Warfare 3 (MW3) also features a robust yet slightly stagnant multiplayer mode, and the surprisingly compelling Special Ops mode which is where the game stretches its cooperative legs. It's a solid package the most people can get behind, but as other shooters continue to push the envelope in the realm of multiplayer, it's possible that MW3's multiplayer might just get left in the dust.
To paraphrase the words of the great American satirist Kurt Vonnegut, the excrement has really hit the air conditioning as we begin the single-player campaign of MW3. What began as a simple invasion of the US by Russian forces in Modern Warfare 2 has now become a global conflict in MW3, involving the likes of Germany, France, England, and other NATO allied countries. It's World War III, and you're along for the ride. Call of Duty's split narrative is back, which means you'll be playing as a few different soldiers throughout the game. The main story centers around the now disavowed members of Task Force 141 as they continue to hunt for Russian ultranationalist and seriously evil dude Vladimir Makarov, who still has a few cards to play in this high stakes poker game. Additionally you will also spend a good deal of time playing as Delta Force operative Sgt. Derek “Frost” Westbrook. There are also a few missions as other characters to help punctuate the action and tie the entire story together.
Almost everything about the single-player campaign has been improved since Modern Warfare 2. The scripting is exceptionally well done; you never know what might happen until it's almost too late. The story is well paced and a lot more focused this time around. I found that Modern Warfare 2's narrative jumped around too much which prevented me from really getting to know anyone. I am happy to say that I really didn't get this feeling from MW3. I got to spend enough time with each unit that I actually cared what happened to them, just like a real soldier. I can't really go into much more detail without spoiling the story, but I will say that not everyone makes it to see the world return to peace. MW3 also brings itself to a very satisfying conclusion, one that I felt was far better than any of the others I've seen in the Modern Warfare series.
To say that the multiplayer in MW3 is robust is getting old. I mean, CoD always has a robust and compelling multiplayer component. However, I feel that CoD's reward-driven multiplayer has gotten a bit stale. Every year a CoD game is released I spend an insane amount of time getting to know the maps and unlocking all the weapons, but this year I got sick of it a lot quicker than I have in before. MW3 features 16 new maps and a few new game modes, but still feels exactly the same as every other edition of the game. Every match plays almost identical to the previous. I do like how the map design has streamlined the flow of gameplay, but it's not enough to keep me playing. The maps are as varied as the game types, but everything still feels the same. The unlock, perk, and kill streak systems have been improved, but again don't really change much when it comes down to actually playing a match. If you're already a huge fan of CoD multiplayer then you might really enjoy MW3's offering, but as someone who has played a whole lot of CoD multiplayer over the years I seem to have just gotten bored with it. I hope that the next CoD game really shakes things up and does something completely different with the multiplayer. That might get my interest back.
Speaking of interest, I really never cared about the Spec Ops mode when I was playing Modern Warfare 2. This may be due to the fact that I normally play these types of games by myself, so co-op isn't really high on my priority list. But for the sake of this review I decided to delve into MW3's Special Ops mode ,and I was pleasantly surprised. There are two types of missions: the first kind are just little mini-missions that reference events from the main storyline. Players are evaluated and rewarded for their performance and completion time. These missions are a great way to challenge yourself to be the most efficient and deadly soldier you can be. The other type of mission found in Special Ops is the survival mode, which is very similar to CoD: World at War's Nazi Zombies mode, except without the zombies. Instead of fighting the supernatural undead, you must face down wave after wave of soldiers, attack dogs, helicopters and a myriad of other hostile forces. But like in zombies, you have to upgrade and refill your weapons before the next wave of enemies spawn. It plays just like Nazi Zombies, except that this time they shoot back. I really enjoyed this mode in particular because it was so different from everything else, and is great fun when played with a friend. Survival mode might just bee the sleeper hit in this already bursting package.
Overall, it's good to see that Call of Duty is still at the top of it's game as far as a solid and compelling single-player campaign is concerned. I was a little disappointed in the multiplayer portion of the game not because of it's content or execution but rather it's inability to change enough to keep a grizzled combat veteran like myself interested. I was pleasantly surprised by the Special Ops mode and feel that it is where I might just be spending most of my play time. I could also go back and play that fancy single-player campaign I liked so much on a higher difficulty. This game has some seriously strong legs, and will most likely keep people playing well past the holiday season if you're into it or perhaps this is your first Modern Warfare game. However, if you're anything like me, you may find yourself longing for the expansive and dynamic combat that can be found in other shooters.
Note: A copy of this game was given to the reviewer by Activision to facilitate this review.