Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 review for PS3, Xbox 360

Platform: Xbox 360
Also on: PS3
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Medium: DVD-ROM
Players: 1 – 16
Online: Yes

So when we last left Soap and Price, things were looking pretty grim. Price took one to the eye, and Soap to the chest, and in general, things were going badly for our two heroes of the Modern Warfare franchise. Modern Warfare 3 doesn?t waste any time in picking up where we left off, and from the start to the end, it manages to sink its teeth into you and not let go. That?s not to say the campaign doesn?t suffer a bit, in fact, it?s probably the weakest of the three titles. But it certainly does a good job of wallowing in spectacle, and I can?t deny that I found myself hooked on the experience from beginning to end.

What doesn?t work well in regards to the campaign is that it doesn?t allow the player much freedom. Most of the modern Call of Duty titles, Modern Warfare or not, have been pretty straight forward affairs. Nobody will mistake them for Halo titles, for instance, but throughout Modern Warfare 3 I always felt I was stuck following closely behind the friendly AI. I?m sure you?ll recall how fresh and exciting the mission Ghillies in the Mist was for the original Modern Warfare. Now imagine a game that takes that concept and runs with it for fifty percent of the game. That?s about what Modern Warfare 3 feels like to me. I?m exaggerating, but there were definitely a number of missions that involved following closely behind your buddy, remaining silent and out of view, running between structures, and silently popping off headshots at distracted guards.

When you?re not trying to advance through stealth, then there?s a good chance you?ll be at the wheel or gunner seat of a vehicle. These sections are almost always fun in games, and I generally enjoy them, but again I feel like Modern Warfare 3 goes a little too far with how often they pop up. Yes, you?ll go back to the AC-130, which again was fun when Call of Duty 4 was the first game to do it, but now far more first person shooters seem to include an AC-130 like mission than just the CoD series. Thankfully that sequence is relatively short here, but you?ll still spend a lot of time manning a turret and indiscriminately wiping out swarms of enemy targets.

The game still shines when it comes to just the standard on foot sections though. Shooting feels tight and precise, you?ll find your aim appropriately jumping about as you take shots, and your character feels far from invincible. These gun battles that don?t involve all the extra perks, machinery, and auto fire turrets are the best of the bunch, and still manage to feel incredibly tense and nerve wracking. I wish that Modern Warfare 3 had reverted back to more sequences like this, instead of focusing in more on the tightly scripted sequences. I can?t deny that those sequences look awesome on screen, and really help to push the plot along and keep you invested in watching, so I suppose they work as intended.

One last thing to mention about the campaign is that it really puts a pretty great cap on the storyline of Modern Warfare. I?d be surprised to see the subtitle used again, as I think there?s a really fantastic exit point for the series in the end sequence, and it legitimately feels like a finished trilogy, which is rare in entertainment today. Of course, the name also makes a stupid amount of money, but I think they would be well advised to leave this world alone for a bit.

Of course, the first half of this review is probably wasted on a lot of folks who won?t even touch the campaign. For those of you that feel multiplayer is where the fun is at, well, you?ll be pretty happy with this title. It doesn?t blow the series up in relation to what has come before, but does build upon a very stable foundation to make the multiplayer that much more interesting. I think it?s one of the more accessible entries into the series, and is probably a good testing ground for players that haven?t touched a Call of Duty title before today.

Like the previous Modern Warfare titles, you?ll compete in a series of online modes against other players worldwide. There are a fair number of maps, a dozen plus modes, and a whole lot of stuff to unlock. Kills and wins earn you XP, along with other little activities like surviving long drops, using a certain Strike Package reward so many times, and so on. Levels come up pretty fast, and the game really does a great job of getting it?s hooks into the player early on, since pretty much every match you?re in will see you unlocking some type of new thing.

There?s the usual assortment of slightly futuristic weaponry, all of which sounds great when being fired, and has noticeably different effects in regards to damage and accuracy. You can still create custom loadouts, used for different map types. One change is that Kill Streaks are now found within something called Strike Package, which is divided up into three sections labeled Assault, Support, and Specialist. What?s interesting here is the Support section, which focuses on things like UAV?s, but doesn?t require the player to get all their kills within one life. If you die your kills won?t reset for Support, so you have a better opportunity to help out your team even if you?re not particularly great at the game.

Another interesting addition is weapon leveling. The more you use a weapon, the more it?ll level up, and unlock additional parts for the weapon like scopes and so on. The previous games generally required you to get a certain number of kills with a particular weapon type to earn the add-ons for that weapon, but that concept has been scrapped here for weapon leveling. This also leads into Weapon Proficiencies, which are essentially side perks for your weapons only. They effect things like reduced recoil or sway, or having two attachments on your primary weapon at once. Again, it?s nice to see the change, and I think it?s a pretty good improvement.

I?ve had a lot of fun with the multiplayer so far, and if that?s your primary reason for picking up the game, then you should absolutely do so. The new maps are better than Black Ops, which was pretty good in its own right, and these feel like the traditional Call of Duty 4 maps that I loved. There?s certainly less of an opportunity for camping and grenade spam from what I?ve seen, which is definitely nice. If you?re going into this for the campaign only, I?d hesitate to say that it?s worth paying full price for. It?s certainly an adventure ride, but like the previous titles it?s ridiculously short and certainly not the best FPS campaign out there. It is fun, but more so to watch than it is to play. Still, the focus is clearly on the multiplayer here, and I doubt you?re going to get a better FPS multiplayer experience from any other game this year.

Grade: B+