Over the past few months it's been very interesting to see public opinion on Activision's 'Modern Warfare 3', the third game in the 'Modern Warfare' Call of Duty series since 2007. I don't think there's ever been a game that has been as aggressively critiqued, even by publishers of other gamers.
The competition has been fierce, and although I'm a Call of Duty "COD" gamer, I've taken most of the negativity on board to try and genuinely look at the same from a 'haters' perspective. That didn't change my view of the game -- or the COD series -- in any capacity: I still think its unadulterated arcade fun.
After having played through the campaign and a few hours with multiplayer, I can confidently say that Modern Warfare 3 is the best first-person shooter of the year. Yes, even better than Battlefield 3.
I think the best thing Modern Warfare 3, and most COD games before it, is that it knows exactly what it is. It doesn't try to reinvent the wheel, and doesn't try to appease calls for a completely new experience. It seems to be a lose-lose situation for Activision and the series developers, because whenever you change a videogame series that works, fans will beat down on the creators. Meanwhile, the pretentious gamer and critics folk -- or, the people that care more about apparently "sexist" EB Games ads than the actual games that the retailer is selling -- call for "change" in a game that is already perfectly refined at the request of the only group that matters: the Call of Duty community.
I blasted through the campaign -- all six hours of it -- on my way to completing an entertaining, albeit quick, single-player campaign. I'm not so sure that including a 10+ hours campaign would be especially beneficial in a game that is build around a multiplayer component. Why would the developer want to blanket the very aspect it spends a vast majority of time on during development?
The Call of Duty series has up to this point provided some explosive and memorable campaigns: Call of Duty 2's campaign still sticks with me, as does COD4's. I think that Modern Warfare 3's campaign makes up for its predecessor's campaign, as its set pieces, missions, story and pacing all see more compacted and suited to the COD experience. Put simply, MW3 is to mindless gaming action as Michael Bay's Transformers is to mindless big-screen explosions. This isn't a game with deep characters, elaborate storytelling or coherent plot points. No, it's just a game that wants you to enjoy yourself while blowing crap up and shooting enemy forces.
I can't think of a COD game with as many memorable moments. The big standout is a gravity defying slow-motion mid-air shootout on the Russian president's plane. It's such a stupid set piece, but oh so ridiculously awesome. It's mindless, and it's supposed to be. You're supposed to be blown away by how utterly ridiculous it is. And that's why I love it.
My concerns from previous COD campaigns still remain, though: while I don't expect a 10-hour game, 6-hours does seem short, although the higher difficulties will certainly take longer (I played it on Normal). There are also some pretty generic and dull mission objectives, aspects of the experience I'm sure could be mixed up slightly. While I think the dull moments are countered well by some downright craziness, it doesn't excuse the same level of mission dryness that has plagued the series for years.
As for multiplayer, I am absolutely loving Kill Confirmed. This new mode has you running around collecting dogtags of fallen enemies. No tagtag means no kill, no matter how dead the enemy might appear to be.
The Packages system is interesting because it contributes to a refined killstreak system. The 'Support' package is a fascinating inclusion, as it rewards you for kills and completing objectives (like capturing a flag). Your streak doesn't reset if you die, but your killstreaks are limited to rather defense-minded ones, such as the UAV and Escort Airdrop. I think this Package can definitely contribute to a team, but I wonder if anyone will actually be willing to use the Package often.
I'm hoping to spend more time with Survival and Spec Ops, two modes that offer engaging and explosive co-op action. The Survival mode is like your typical Hoard mode -- stay alive while you tackle a never-ending wave of enemy forces -- while Spec Ops pits you a mate in hostile territory with set objectives.
You can read my hands-on experience with 'Survival' here.
After having spent quite a bit of time in such a short period with Modern Warfare 3, I feel that I like the series more now than I ever have. I'm glad that the developer hasn't appeased the haters that continuously call for change, and the inclusion of the Packages, as well as a new killstreaks system, help put more of an emphasis on teamwork, and less of a focus on getting the good kill-to-death ratio. I don't think that those who dislike the series will change their minds with MW3, but this is a game that appeases the fans, and is an experience I know I'll be playing for well over a year. Just as I did MW2.
Star tuned for my review in the coming days!
By Gaetano Prestia
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