Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review (PS3/360/Wii/PC)

Modern Warfare 3 is the highly anticipated follow up to 2009′s blockbuster title, Modern Warfare 2. Modern Warfare 3 was developed by Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games and published by Activision. However does Modern Warfare 3 live up to the heights and praise that the first two received or does it whimper in the shadows of previous greatness?

Story: 5/5

First off, let me state that this is a Call of Duty game and taking it a step further, it is the third title in this series while being the eighth title in the COD franchise. That being said, anybody who decides to pick up and play this game knows exactly the type of storytelling they are about to encounter. For good or bad, COD has crafted its own niche in the game storytelling department. This storyline is not a deep and thought provoking epic that challenges the mind, nor is it a throw away script that can be forgotten and sent straight to DVD. Throughout the series and franchise, the games have always been pages torn out of a Hollywood summer blockbuster, complete with amazing set pieces and action with some good dialogue to match. Modern Warfare 3 is no different here. Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games did not reinvent the wheel here. They simply took what was great about the first two installments and looked to expand to it. The game starts off right where MW2 ended with “Soap” MacTavish badly injured from the epic battle with the treacherous General Shepherd. Captain Price carries Soap off onto a chopper that leads them to safety for the moment. On the other side of the world, terrorist nationalist Vladimir Makarov is plotting and planning new acts of evil and destruction. Makarov’s famous deception “No Russian” level of MW2 has now led to World War III with the United States and Russia. Major battles are waging on all continents and countries around the world creating a modern day global conflict, alas World War 3. All while an international manhunt ensues for Makarov, the most dangerous terrorist in the world, the only two men in the world that can help bring Makarov to justice are being hunted themselves. Captain Price and Soap Mactavish are now United States fugitives.

New characters are introduced this time around and you will get to play as them as well. The first 20 minutes of the game will leave many at awe and unfortunately reminiscent of a not too distant past in reality. New York is under attack, with skyscrapers burning and crumbling in Manhattan, all while the streets are riddled with blood and bullets from the battles taking place. With the clock winding down to the end of civilization as we know it, both super powers Russia and the U.S. are gearing up for a nuclear showdown…unless this war can be stopped and the most dangerous man in the world, Vladimir Makarov, can be caught “Dead or Alive.”

Gameplay: 5/5

One of the crown jewels of Modern Warfare has always been its gameplay and fluidity. This third installment does not raise the bar leaps and bounds by any stretch of the imagination but rather takes what was perfect with the first two and fine tunes it. I must state that having played both the 360 and PS3 version of the game, there is almost absolutely no difference in visuals or gameplay. Sadly in 2011, that is still a rarity and I will say, along with my fellow staff, congratulations to Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games for dedicating time to not just the HD consoles, but also delivering a superb presentation on the Nintendo Wii version as well. Shooting mechanics have always been superb compared to any FPS out there and MW3 is no different. Running at a solid 60fps helps the gameplay seem so fluid and fast paced. The single player campaign is certainly filled with some of the best action set pieces in the trilogy. As with any MW, the guns are always a sight to behold and use. This time around you can switch between two different scopes on a large number of assault rifles. By pressing left on the d-pad, I can either use an ACOG scope or a red dot sight without having to drop the weapon and look for another rifle. Another enhancement has been the checkpoint system, which is terrific. When you do die, the restarts are nearly instant and the checkpoints are frequent enough that you won’t be replaying huge portions of the level like in the previous COD titles. Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games have now implemented a “smart system” that detects when you are having a rough time, it will actually save your progress a bit closer than the normal checkpoint. The enemy AI is also smart and complex, in which they do their best to try and flank you. Thanks to the auto targeting, in which a tap of the aim trigger snaps your weapon right onto the enemy you’re aiming at, players are given a definite advantage. Without giving any spoilers away, I must state that the end of MW3 contains one of the best and most satisfying ending sequences in a title this console generation. In my view, this was the perfect way to close this trilogy. I myself played and beat the single player campaign on Veteran difficulty for both the Xbox 360 and PS3. Clocking in at around 8 hours after completing the hardest difficulty was more than acceptable for a game that on Normal should take about 5 hours. I must say that I feel all players will be more than satisfied with the intense and fast paced gameplay in this title. From start to finish, this was the most fun I’ve had playing a game in a long while. FPS or not, the high level of addictiveness and fun was enormous and this was only the single player campaign.

After completing the campaign I knew I hadn’t even touched the meat of the game and that was the plethora of additional content loaded in this one disc. Spec Ops, the new “Survival Mode”, Multiplayer, Video Recording and Editing, Facebook connectivity and more, all come packed into this amazing package.

In MW3, multiplayer has seen some noticeable changes that must be stated. First off, characters run slower due to the different weight of the guns they are holding. No matter how anybody slices it, you can never run as fast as you did in the previous COD’s. Another major change is the selections for strike packages. Essentially, this replaces kill streaks or further enhances it depending on how you look at it. Your killstreak rewards can once again be unlocked as you level up.  The “Assault” package grants the player special attacks for the amount of people he or she killed in a row without dying. The next package you could unlock is “Support.” Support is a list of features that help all your fellow team mates out from UAV’s to ammo caches.   Amazingly, there is even a third option besides Assault and Support; this is unlocked after achieving a high certain level. The “Specialist” package unlocks more player perks with every two kills he or she gets, and you can even customize the order in which they are given.

Multiplayer, I am happy to say, has finally returned to its MW1 roots. Becoming more accommodating for all players of varied skills intern makes MW3 have a better multiplayer than MW2. A substantial 16 maps exist in MW3 at the start, giving it the largest map selection we have ever seen on day one for a COD game. The maps are a diversified and detailed experience that will fit every player’s needs and styles. Desert towns and cramped tenement hallways, to lush jungles all encompass the first maps of MW3. New modes also add to the extensive playlist, one in particular called “Kill Confirmed,” which is team deathmatch but with a nice twist. Players will now have to retrieve the fallen dog tags of dead enemies to help gain XP for the team and themselves. Also, when your fellow comrades have fallen, you will have to race to obtain their dog tags before their killers do, therefore not allowing the other side to get double the points of a kill and dog tag. Lastly, the new weapon ranking system is a true thrill and reminded me of Resistance 3. As you gain rank when playing, the weapons that you use will rank up as well. The higher your weapon goes, the more you’ll be able to unlock such as customized camo skins for the weapons and attachments. Weapons will also be able to receive abilities, which are basically perks tied to a specific weapon. Abilities can affect weapon-related attributes such as reduced recoil and movement. This is just some of the great tweaks and enhancements I have encountered in MW3’s competitive online.

Spec Ops

The highly praised Spec Ops returns, giving players the chance to place themselves in distinct and exciting moments without having the restrictions of fulfilling a story mode. Spec Ops has its own ranking and progression system, which means it’s completely separate from the competitive online multiplayer. And thankfully, the game will match you up with players who are around the same level as yourself. Spec Ops really did become a staple in the MW series much like the famed Zombie mode became in Treyarch’s iteration. This is for good reason because Spec Ops succeeds in creating an intense mini story for the player and he/she has the choice of bringing an online friend into that story with them or even a friend next to them thanks to split screen play. Trying to get 3 stars on all 16 missions will feel impossible and frustrating at time,s yet highly rewarding and fun which is a huge credit to the developers.

Spec Ops Survival “Horde”

Now, quite possibly my favorite part of MW3 besides the epic campaign would be the newest mode to the series called “Spec Ops Survival.” Essentially, this mode is a take on Gears of War’s famed horde mode and twisted into a beautifully, fine-tuned Modern Warfare experience. This mode does deserve every bit of praise and here’s why. A great feature in this survival mode is the ability to purchase firearms, explosives, and even air support! There will be stations scattered across the maps where you can obtain each of these features for a price. Even more fantastic is that all of these items purchased are uniquely linked with your “Spec Ops” leveling system so playing one mode and leveling up can greatly help you with the other. At level one or wave one, your options are basic and limited. However, over time your equipment grows and as you explore the map, you learn great spots to camp. Playing with a friend is the ultimate experience, especially when you and a friend are tactically working to defeat waves of harder enemies. Naturally the difficulty rises the longer you survive.

Graphics: 5/5

Right off the bat, most people including myself were bashing the graphics MW3 when it was first unveiled and not for the usual reasons either. Modern Warfare games always had astonishing visuals and lighting, but MW3 early on looked no different than MW2. There are still some scenes in the game where you think to yourself that this still isn’t much different then 2. After playing over 16 hours between the PS3 and 360 versions, I can easily say that Modern Warfare 3 is a sharper, more artistic and colorful game then the graphics we saw in 2007 and 2009. Thanks to technology and developers, the MW3 engine named “IW 4.0 Enhanced” is now able to stream faster compared to MW2. This lets the developers create bigger environments and larger action set pieces while all running in 60fps with a visual detail and photorealism that isn’t matched too often. MW3 assaults you from the beginning of the game with its overpowering visual presentation from the moment you crash land into the Manhattan streets and witness the destruction of lower Manhattan and the Pearl Harbor esque action sequence in the East river. It’s hard to believe that it is based on a four years old graphics engine that can accomplish all this, while pumping out graphics that are still easily in the top 10 of triple A title visuals. Photorealistic scenes emerge almost everywhere and when the entire game gets set in motion, an all-encompassing cinematic picture appears. The level of complexity in the level design and the amount of detail is astounding and astonishingly crafted, particularly in the multiplayer maps as well.

Isaac Clarke would've had no problem in this Zero-G sequence

Sound: 4/5

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the game was the audio and I’ll explain. Modern Warfare and Call of Duty in general have always been known for their orchestral soundtracks that help shape the campaign into a true epic. To me and my fellow staff, music is a massive contribution to the game and when you have a high caliber game such as Modern Warfare, you expect the music to be just as fast paced and acoustically pleasing. However, for about 50% of the campaign, the soundtrack is just a step above mediocrity, not reaching the cinematic heights the first two achieved. By today’s standards, the soundtrack would be great among other FPS titles where music is almost nonexistent or abysmal, but for fans of the series and in particular, audio fanatics, it just wasn’t up to the standards of the previous titles.

Overall Score: 19/20 = 9.5/10

Four years after the first Modern Warfare, which changed the face of gaming forever, a feeling of nostalgia resonates with me because of the heights this series has reached within that time. Infinity Ward has changed in those years too, but their standards haven’t thankfully by delivering a consistent 60fps, zero controller latency, explosive set-pieces, robust multiplayer and military characters you actually give a damn about. All in all, if Modern Warfare was just a single player campaign, I would say this is a worthy 8.5 or 9.0 package. However, when it is coupled with the enormous and renowned online and extra single player content, this package is easily a 9.5. Call of Duty’s can keep getting pumped out each year and many, including myself, might turn away but Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 3 closes the trilogy and stands as this generation’s defining FPS series. Modern Warfare 3 is emphatic, feature-packed and topped with a truly stunning final act.

PROs:
+ Top Visuals
+ Modern Warfare’s Perfected Gameplay returns and more tuned than ever before
+ Colossal, deep, engaging Multiplayer that will easy last for hundreds of hours if not thousands for the Prestige crowd

CONs:
– Story, while engaging and intense, isn’t as strong as the first two installments.
– The soundtrack just isn’t up to par with its previous two predecessors


SECOND OPINION
By: Glacier928

I’m not going to lie. I had zero interest in Modern Warfare 3 when it was unveiled. Being a fan of the COD games since COD4 and clocking in a good amount of time with them (getting the platinum trophy on both COD: World at War and Modern Warfare 2), I’ve surely had my fill with the formula. However, upon getting my hands on Modern Warfare 3 and completing the campaign, I’m glad I did. The story does come to a final resolution and an incredibly satisfying one at that. The set pieces in this game are extremely intense, providing some truly shocking, and occasionally disturbing, sequences as well. The final level really deserves some recognition as it reminded me of something out of Hitman or 24, two franchises that I’m a huge fan of. The competitive multiplayer has been tweaked to a great deal of balance, unlike MW2’s finnicky component. Spec Ops returns, which was one of the strongest components of MW2, but with more intense missions this time around. The new Spec Ops Survival mode is easily Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games’ answer to Treyarch’s Nazi Zombies and is incredibly addictive.

However, I wasn’t without my complaints on the game. To start, the main menu in this game was literally copied and pasted from MW2 with just a grey color as opposed to the tannish background color. Throughout my playthrough of the campaign, as engrossed as I was in it, I couldn’t shake the feeling of the “been there, done that” experience. This is now the sixth Call of Duty I’ve played this generation and while the formula is outstanding, it’s starting to get a bit stale. It is clear that Jason West and Vince Zampella, the creators of the Modern Warfare series, were not behind this installment (since they were fired) because their creative vision of the first two games seem to be missing here. The enhancements from the first to second game were clearly evident. This latest installment doesn’t give off that same vibe. Make no mistake, the creative vision from the developers is still quite impressive and they did an excellent job putting together this latest installment. The main problem here is that Activision feels the need to push out Call of Duty titles yearly as opposed to every two years. Had they been spacing it out a little more, then these games would still have that “fresh” feel to it.

I’m a massive soundtrack fanatic, to the point where if the soundtrack to a game is lacking, a great chunk of the experience is ruined for me. Modern Warfare 1 had a great soundtrack scored by Harry Gregson-Williams (Metal Gear Solid 2-4, Armageddon), while Modern Warfare 2 provided one of the most remarkable soundtracks this generation from Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight, Inception) and Lorne Balfe. This iteration brings Brian Tyler to the table, who’s well known for his Fast and the Furious movie scores. While what’s composed here is pretty good, it is nowhere near the previous installments soundtracks, especially MW2’s. It’s a shame because I like to walk away from a game (or movie) remembering a score and this one just wouldn’t stick with me. Don’t get me wrong, the soundtrack is still very good, but for those who were massive fans of the previous iterations soundtracks, this one may not be up to snuff. For many, this may be a minor issue but it’s something that needs to be mentioned for those who are expecting an equal soundtrack to MW2 or MW1.

Aside from these shortcomings, there’s no denying that Modern Warfare 3 is a great game. The campaign was an absolute blast, the ending was very well done, the multiplayer component is still addictive and Spec Ops provides more coop thrills than before. Completing the campaign on Veteran provided to be more fun than frustrating surprisingly (except for the level “Back on the Grid,” which was unnecessarily difficult for me) as well. Simply put, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 provides an incredibly robust package. However, I personally feel this should be the final installment to the Modern Warfare series and that Activision should end this trilogy on a high note.

SECOND OPINION SCORE: 8.5 

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  • Marchetto427

    I Couldn’t agree more with your review guys. I myself was giving the game a 9.2 or 9.3 but after reading your review I completely felt compelled to give it a 9.5 it truly deserves it for the content and quality it is delivering! My Ps3 hasn’t gone off in days and reading this review got me pumped to go play more MW. Great job guys, me and my buddies are really looking forward to your Skyrim review next after seeing how in depth you guys got with MW.

  • Hola,

    Muy bueno el post, guay