When it comes to getting epic Hollywood action into modern warfare style shooters, the Call of Duty games from 4 onwards have been insanely epic and getting even crazier with each new iteration and set piece. Modern Warfare 3 takes the action to even bigger heights and establishes itself as the king of short but incredibly pulse-pounding single player action.
Fans of MW2 will not have to look far for answers, as 3 takes place not long after the end of 2. No spoilers here though, the story is just as nuts as 2 and takes the whole World War aspect to its adrenaline soaked conclusion with the return of Captain Price and Soap McTavish...
By now, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games should be second nature to many FPS fans. The controls haven't changed much and the formula for the gameplay has not really altered overly either. It has been refined here and there and for 3 it seems to be as smooth as it can get so far. Shooting is accurate, the weapons all have a good feel to them and the short vehicle sections are well implemented and fit with the main campaign theme. The feel of being led around by the nose remains however, since most of the time you're part of a unit and you're given orders by those around you. Even when playing a kick-ass central character, you still do the bidding of those in command.
It is easy to understand why they do it though, since it allows for the characters around you to progress your player through the story, pointing them in the right direction and giving the player a sense of purpose without confining them to the role of battlefield commander, where they would most likely have to give orders and so on. Instead you can concentrate on delivering interesting action pieces and great moments by the bucket-load; this game has that base covered completely.
There are some really stand-out moments in the 6 hour single player story and the whole thing is as smooth as silk to play. The best gameplay controls and implementation in the whole series so far. Checkpoint saves are present and the return of the various difficulty modes ensures there is a significant challenge for those brave enough to play the game on the hardest difficulty. It's best in that case to let your AI buddies soak up the bad guys and play the campaign slow and precisely.
Modern Warfare 3 runs at 60fps and delivers nice quality visuals as well. It's a great looking game and the various locations are all put together with a superb attention to detail. There are some great set piece effects and a whole sandstorm level later on in the story that makes for some tense and varied gameplay. The use of lighting in this iteration is excellent and the textures and model design are extremely well done. It never even dips a single frame when things get supremely hectic (and there are dozens of things going on at once, with bad guys, explosions and madness all around) remaining rock-solid throughout.
Not quite in the same league as the new animation system for Battlefield 3, the MW3 animation system still has a bit of a clunky feel to it. The soldiers adopt a fairly realistic movement but the kinetics of their motion comes up a little short, which gives them an unrealistic floating movement at times. It is a minor niggle in a very highly polished game though and the rest of the animations from vehicles, to weapon use and reloading are all superbly implemented.
Bullet impact physics, explosive knockback and a low level of destructibility are all implemented here. The various set pieces let the level designers trigger the physics as and when they want, so there is no player driven destruction scenarios in the game. What you do get is a highly polished physics system that flows nicely with the on-screen action and delivers some great Hollywood ragdoll moments to the player.
The AI seems to be getting better and better, there are fewer allies that stray into your field of fire in this iteration and the enemy seem to be far better using various tactics. The enemy AI is also good at throwing grenades back from where they came too. So watch out for that.
The sounds of gunfire, the boom of a tank gun, the screams of the dying and the whirr of rotor blades are the sounds that mark this theatre of war. The sound effects in the game are spot on and produced to a high fidelity, there are no audio glitches and the whole thing remains solid throughout the game. There are some nice spot effects here and there and in some of the more stealthy sections of the game, sound is used as an effective cue for player driven actions.
By now Modern Warfare has been driven by a pretty up-beat soundtrack, with some really nice blood-pumping set pieces music to really drive home the action on screen. With MW3 the adrenaline music returns, but there are also subtler pieces that tell their own story and there are some truly heart-wrenching musical pieces in the game that stand well on their own in this iteration of the soundtrack.
One of the smoothest experiences out of the box, MW3 mp is a hybrid between CoD 4 and MW2 with some things that have altered since the 2nd game and a few improvements here and there. We played quite a few matches but were unable to sample CoD Elite for the review, which is Activision's stat-tracking, social network and prize offering service that looks as though it's pretty good.
Mostly things have remained the same for MW3 mp with elements of both CoD 4 and MW2 in terms of gameplay, matches and the like. There are more customisation options in terms of the character, how you set up perks for killstreaks (now called Pointstreaks which are split into different packages, Assault, Support and Specialist) and so on. Each one offers different rewards and the Specialist Package offers every perk in the game after 8 consecutive kills, resetting to none on player death. It might sound powerful but it's easy to lose if you're not careful.
The player ranking system has been completely revamped and now the weapon itself levels up (sound familiar) along with the player. Weapon proficiencies are the new big thing here, allowing you to customise your weapons to a certain extent and add things like kick, which reduces recoil and impact that lets your bullets tear through certain surfaces. There is also a massive collection of attachments to the weapons at hand, with ACOG sights, Hybrid sights, M203 Grenade Launchers and so on.
Game modes are varied with quite a few new modes on offer.
Kill Confirmed: This mode requires you to get a dog tag from a dead enemy in order to register the kill, opposing team members can collect the tag and deny the kill.
Team Defender: A flag is dropped by the first person to die in the match, and then the teams vie for that flag. The team with the flag gets double the amount of points per kill for holding onto it, the team without gets the normal amount.
There are Private matches where you can choose from a number of pre-configured game modes, such as One in the Chamber, where you get one pistol, three lives and one bullet. Kill other players to get more bullets. Or the Gun Game, where you have to get a kill with every gun in the game.
You can also create your own Private matches with various custom options.
Spec-Ops makes a welcome return, with online or split-screen play across a larger number of varied operations.
All in all the MP of MW3 is a lot better than the previous game yet it still feels like MW 2.5 rather than a massive change from 2. However if you're a big fan of CoD MP in general then you should really get on with the changes that Infinity Ward have delivered and you'll probably like the new modes, the new unlock system and player ranking.
It runs smoothly and there's no detectable lag.
One Last Time
This is a solid end to Price's story and it ties up many loose ends that began in CoD 4. A fitting way to end a particular storyline and answer questions from the previous 2 games.