Game Review: ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’ for XBox 360

A game that racks up sales of three quarters of a billion dollars in just five days of release is something anyone should take notice of. With the records Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has been smashing, the video game industry has been in near upheaval. Is it Call of Duty vs. Battlefield?

Is the game a cheap cash in for what should be just an expansion? Are services like Elite necessary for players? Regardless of what controversies may arise or what questions you may ask, the answer is really quite simple: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is the definitive military shooter of 2011.

Gameplay:

There is a reason that Call of Duty has been at the forefront of military shooters since the inception of the series. The control is crisp and tight. Players move and react as close to they should in actual combat (with the exception of regenerative health of course).

Explosions put a ringing in your ear and a concussive blast knows players to the edge of the abyss. Aiming is precise but doesn’t hold your hand through combat. Cover exists but isn’t the end all be all of a firefight like it can be in other games. Players must deal with relatively competent enemy AI to advance through large, diverse levels.

As with previous Call of Duty titles, Modern Warfare 3 sprinkles in level variations instead of solely being a pure fast paced FPS. There are stealth missions, sniping missions and the fan favorite AC-130 helicopter missions for players to fight through.

Multiplayer remains the showpiece of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 with the previous modes all intact, though weapons and Strike Packages have received balancing tweaks. New to the Multiplayer mode list is the new Kill Confirmed game type. In Kill Confirmed, teams don’t score points for just killing enemies. They must actually walk over to the fallen opponent and get the dog tag off the body. This creates an awesome game of cat and mouse.
Though a player may be a proficient sniper and earning experience for himself picking off opponents, he will not be a valuable asset to the team as he would be in standard Team Deathmatch without a teammate to assist in picking up dog tags. Players can earn experience for themselves by getting tags off their fallen compatriots which prevents the other team from earning points towards the match. This mode is a fantastic addition as it creates an entirely new multiplayer dynamic for people to deal with.

Also new to the game’s Spec Ops mode is the Survival feature. Survival is a variation of the now standard inclusion of a Horde mode across the variety of FPS and TPS games out there. Players survive waves of enemies that increase in difficulty and upgrade themselves in between these waves. Different from most games is that Spec Ops Survival is limited to two players, calling for required teamwork and communication from both players.
There will also be the additional reinforcements that can be called in in the form of NPC troops. Players can buy new weapons, explosives and perks that they’d normally need to get kill streaks for in multiplayer mode. There is a level system for this mode which allows players who have spent more time in the game to purchase better weapons. Levels go up quickly though. During a first play of survival mode, our character jumped right up to level 8 by the end of the match.

Story and Presentation:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 closes the story that began two games ago in the original Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare that brought upon the third world war. Events are all tied together which help give meaning to what seemed at times like insignificant missions in the grand scheme of things. Players are given more and more context around them for certain characters both on camera and those who were behind the scenes as well. As per usual, players jump between different characters in the game to give different perspectives of the continuing story.

There is actually a moment (don’t worry, we won’t spoil it) that players will have the option to skip watching (like they did with the “No Russian” level in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2) that does something that to the best of my recollection hasn’t been seen on a game screen before. Out of context, it can be horribly misinterpreted as being there just for shock value but within the confines of the game world, it makes the ongoing conflict feel that much more horrible like the real wars going on that it comments upon. While the story of the game somewhat resembles a summer blockbuster movie, it still tries to say something while being respectful but engrossing at the same time.

New to the presentation of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is Call of Duty Elite. A two tiered service, players can go online or over XBox Live or PlayStation network to explore in detail accounts of their statistics as well as participate as a community through clans and Facebook integration. Elite also features a theater mode where players can post videos up to 60 seconds long in full HD quality. Players can opt to pay an additional $49.99 (or have purchased the Hardened Edition of the game which Activision was nice enough to send us) which will enable the automatic downloads of the upcoming DLC packs for the game, ongoing competitions with both in game and real life rewards and other features to the service.
While some may criticize the concept, the execution is very well done. Most importantly, there is a monetary benefit for the most hardcore of players. Regardless of any of the content outside of the DLC, the most hardcore fans will be purchasing all four expansions as they release which would put the price tag on DLC at about $60. By purchasing Elite, they receive a $10 discount off the bat and have access to other services as an added bonus.

Graphics and Sound:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is a beautiful game. Still on the same engine as the four previous Call of Duty titles, it continues to build vibrant and diverse levels for players to make their way through. The only real complaint of the levels now is the lack of destructible environments. If this could be addressed with cover that can be destroyed and walls that behave realistically both visually and in terms of gameplay, the Call of Duty series could prove itself to be the best FPS franchise ever both critically and in terms of sales (which it has obviously already conquered). Character animations look like they have improved as well whether it is a scripted event like seeing an NPC get executed or watching opponents crumble as you light them up with your AK47.

The voice actors from previous iterations of the franchise have returned to take up their mantles for the final time. It is going to be strange moving forward and not hearing Captain Price ordering players around the battle field anymore. The most impressive part though of the game’s sound design comes from the weapons featured in it. Each has its own distinct feel and impact as you hear it go off. Whether it’s the ping of a sniper rifle or cackle of a machine gun, players can adjust their play just from the auditory cues going off around them.

Overall:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 just does everything right. While it isn’t the perfect gaming experience, it damn well is on its way to being there. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t compete with any other franchise because it doesn’t have to. Much like World of Warcraft, it doesn’t have to target other games and set out to do what others have. It gets to do what the team behind it WANTS to do instead of playing catch up and following in someone else’s footsteps.

Regardless of the backlash of certain fanboys online, no one who appreciates shooter gameplay and has actually put time into Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 can say they can’t find fun in it. Whether it is the single player campaign, the classic mulitplayer juggernaut or the ongoing improvement to Spec Ops with the addition of Survival mode, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is one of the must play games of the year and holds its place in the annuls of video game lore as it continues to shatter entertainment records. Simply put, anyone mature enough to handle the content of this game should be playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

XBox 360 (Also available on PlayStation 3, PC and Nintendo Wii)

Developers: Sledgehammer Games, Infinity Ward, Treyarch

Publisher: Activision

Price: $59.99 (Hardened Edition available for $99.99)

Score: 9.0

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