Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Available for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Players: 1-18
Genre: FPS
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward & Sledgehammer Games
Release Date: November 8, 2011
Xbox Live/PSN: Online Multiplayer

Parent Talk: Modern Warfare 3 is rated M for mature because of blood and gore, drug references, intense violence, and strong language.  This is a war game, simple as that.

Plays Like: Most FPS games since the first Modern Warfare hit the scene four years ago.

Review Basis: Activision sent us the Xbox 360 Hardened Edition.  It comes with the game and free year of Call of Duty Elite.  Experienced all the multiplayer maps, most of Spec Ops, and finished the campaign.

Modern Warfare 3 reminds us why Call of Duty remains the most lucrative franchise of the generation.  While instead of each iteration being an innovative departure, but a mere refinement, MW3 yet offers countless hours of fun with one of the tightest multiplayer experiences. Fans won’t be disappointed.

The Great:

The online multiplayer.  It’s been refined to the point of insanity.  It will be familiar to any CoD player, and may not innovate enough for some, but no one can deny it’s fun.  Loadout menu changes and Call of Duty Elite integration give more control to players. It goes as deep as you want it to.  You can view so much metadata, ranging from your k/d ratio, to your overall number of bullets fired…the list is overwhelming.

Kill Confirmed. This excellent addition forces you to pick up enemy dog tags in order for a kill to be official.  Other tweaks to kill streaks and weapon upgrades need to be digested, but are all for the better.

The competitive multiplayer is likely to devour your free time. We have staff who’ve done nothing but engage multiplayer since purchasing the game.  It’s addictive.

The Good:

+ A tight, explosive campaign. Picking up where MW2 left off, gamers travel the globe in search of Makarov.  Intense battles play out wherever you’re thrust, be it London or New York.

+ Finish the fight.  MW3 completes the Modern Warfare canon with a satisfying climax that should please long-time fans.

+ Impressive, large-scale environments.  There’s little like fighting through a city on the verge of collapse.  These out-of-control scenarios are awe-inspiring and a delight to experience.

+ 16 excellent Spec Ops missions. They’re a blast to conquer with a buddy, or all by your lonesome. The missions are loosely based on the campaign, but offer more variety (stealth, anarchy, etc.) They’re easily completed on lower difficulties, but purists will leap right in to Veteran.

+ Survival mode.  Wave after wave of increasingly-challenging enemies swarm the competitive multiplayer maps. Win by any means necessary with your friends.

+ Rewards for just playing. Spec Ops and Survival will improve your profile and help in the purchasing of weapons, attachments, and other toys. The never-ending progression is satisfying, no matter your skill level.

The So-So:

+/- Dwindling excitement.  The campaign presents many exhilarating moments, and some are a shock to experience. Veterans however will realize that it’s just more of the same.  MW has groomed us to expect the unexpected, thus most of the intended surprises don’t reach their full potential.

+/- A top-notch, but struggling-to-improve presentation. The same engine that powered MW2 is showing its age in some areas.

The Bad:

– Campaign often feels like an afterthought.  Given the vast multiplayer refinements, the campaign tends to be too familiar. It plays great and is extremely satisfying, but I think more could have been done.

– A convoluted plot. Don’t expect to fully grasp what’s going on.  I often didn’t know who I was, nor did I really care. The time devoted to the characters doesn’t allow much opportunity for personal attachment.

The Ugly:

Time to move on. I’ve said it before with yearly series; each new game makes it more difficult to spot innovations brought forward.  That’s now happening to CoD. Perhaps a third developer needs to be brought onboard so new entries can enjoy three years of work instead of two?

The Lowdown:

Modern Warfare 3 is another excellent FPS in the series that completely changed gaming.  If you enjoy competitive or co-operative online multiplayer, this one’s a no-brainer.  If you crave a deep solo campaign, disappointment may be looming. MW3 offers a more refined experience than an innovative one.

Average Score Scale: 8.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 8.5/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: Fun campaign. Excellent Spec Ops and Survival modes. One of the most refined competitive experiences for consoles.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: For those only interested in the campaign, odds are it won’t be enough.