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Review - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Xbox version tested)
War is hell. Hella fun more like – the most popular multiplayer game of modern times is back, in its updated form for 2011. This is the eighth Call of Duty game and the third in the Modern Warfare series – it is now arguably the most popular franchise there is in gaming. Also, Battlefield 3 was released mere days before – which one is the best...?
Evolution, not revolution is the order of the day here. Nothing radical is changed from MW1 or MW2 – but the recipe was so inherently right, that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Metacritic – the online review aggregating site – is divided on this game. The Critic Reviews are averaging out very well, but the User Reviews are far lower with many users complaining about the lack of innovation, or change in this game.
I guess it’s like going to see a James Bond movie. As Mike Meyers said, they all fit into a very tight formula. There’s a prologue bit of action, the title sequence, Bond is briefed by M, he then visits the legitimate side of the bad guy’s organisation… etc etc. That doesn’t stop me queuing up to see each of them at the cinema. I like them this way and don’t want the formula changed!
So there’s an explosive, adrenaline filled 7-8 hour campaign, a very competent little co-op mode (aka Spec Ops) and the best multiplayer experience around today. The campaign took me precisely 7 hours and 11 minutes to finish in one go. It was breathless, amazing stuff. The story is set after the outbreak of World War 3, with the US and Russia having been manipulated into warfare under false pretences by Makarov, a Russian ultra-nationalist villain. The action jumps one minute from the trading floor of the New Yokr Stock Exchange, to breaking into a Russian submarine in the River Hudson, to Canary Wharf and then Westminster (in two minutes – quickest Jubilee Line train ever), then Africa, Paris, and so on… So far, so Daniel Craig.
It is fun though, if a little ridiculous at times. There is one harrowing moment that the game will allow you to skip if you choose – it is set in London and… well I won’t spoil any more details about the plot. But there is one other moment in Paris that made me think I was watching Team America again… The action was that over the top, bless it.
It’s interesting to play the campaign so soon after Battlefield 3 as well. Battlefield’s took me slightly longer and had a more… plausible plot. It was gripping in the same way the TV series Generation Kill was, with no shortage of action. But this overshadows it in the number of guns, explosions, helicopters, tanks and more.
Comparing the graphics is interesting too – they each have their pros and cons. MW3’s graphics always move at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. By contrast BF3 could only manage 30 on the consoles. But BF3’s graphics just have a little more detail. And of course the environment in BF3 is destructible – there’s a lot of impressive maths going on with every structure in the game, calculating real time damage and deformation. So it’s a score draw there, for different reasons.
Spec Ops mode is a very enjoyable extra – a challenging and enduring co-op mode, either for friends or random players online. Here, players can complete missions and challenges together, as well as playing Survival Mode – a worthy rival to Horde Mode in Gears of War 3. BF3 too has a decent co-op mode – nothing really to separate them at this point.
It all comes down to multiplayer then. In MW3, it’s as slick and addictive as ever. There is a huge variety of game types to play, some old and some new – for example the new Kill Confirmed mode. It plays like regular Team Deathmatch except with every kill, a player drops a dog tag. The kill is not registered until someone – be it your team or not – picks it up and gets the points. There are a lot of familiar weapons to use and many new ones. As usual the trick is to major on the weapons that work for you and unlock the attachments, sights and abilities you want to really give you the edge in multiplayer.
It’s as competitive as always too in multiplayer. No quarter is given so don’t ask for it. The ranking system works very well. As you gain experience, you get a higher rank and the game matches you with players that are close to your rank. If I try hard then I can finish second or first. If I’m slack or I make mistakes, I get punished and come close to last. The balancing aspect of multiplayer seems to be dead on.
And this is where MW3 pulls out a lead over Battlefield 3 in my opinion. Even players of average ability (ie me) can gain a lot of enjoyment. In Battlefield there are only two types of players – elite players and dead players.
There’s only one other footnote I want to add – the new Call of Duty Elite service was also launched on the same day as this was released. This is a premium service provided by Activision – pay an annual fee and have access to all of the forthcoming DLC for the game (extra maps etc) and access to clan features and more. And it doesn’t work. At time of writing it is only possible to access the site via console or a web browser intermittently, it is not possible to register clans. Very disappointing. Activision have of course advised this is due to overwhelming demand and the service is being upgraded – of course they will get it up and running very soon. I look forward to that as a subscriber who paid up front on day one.
But – that is a separate product. It doesn’t have any bearing on what I think of the game – it’s terrific. This is a game that could easily provide a year or two of excellent gameplay in Multiplayer and Spec Ops modes. Although there aren’t many surprises or big changes – it’s an enjoyable update and gives more of what I love best in multiplayer gaming. In 007 terms then - it’s not a Moonraker, more of a Casino Royale – but I enjoyed it just as much (a hell of a lot).
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is out now for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC