If there’s anything that the Call of Duty, or its smaller but no less popular Modern Warfare offshoot, has taught gamers, it’s that war is brutal. But with a prolonged tour of duty comes fatigue - a feeling that what we're doing just isn’t as compelling as it used to be.
Now, with another annual Call of Duty release, Modern Warfare 3, hot off the presses, it brings inquisitive gamers out of the woodwork to ask that yearly question: has Activision drastically changed either the multiplayer or the single player? However, players expecting a massive overhaul have clearly missed the point of Call of Duty - and will miss the point of Modern Warfare 3.Modern Warfare 3’s story picks up right where the previous Infinity Ward-developed MW left off. The world is at war and elite Task Force 141 members Soap and Price are on the run. Players will embody a set of globetrotting characters whose mission locations range from Africa, to New York, to London. It’s exactly the type of storyline the Call of Duty and Modern Warfare series have been building up to — an all-out war — and they don’t pull any punches when delivering the action.
Jaw dropping sequences that hearken back to 'No Russian' do exist, but lofty expectations will somewhat deaden the impact. Nonetheless, there's some pretty spectacular sections in the game - with Soap and Price's quest to bring Makarov to justice coming to a satisfying conclusion. When it's all said and done the sheer variety of tasks placed before the player sets this iteration apart, and makes it feel like a complete journey - regardless of the fact more Call of Duty titles are assuredly on the way.
By sheer virtue alone, Modern Warfare 3 delivers some of the most intense segments seen in any Call of Duty game to date. Yes, some of them boil down to “on rails” sequences, or moments when the player is simply moving from point A to point B and picking off enemies as they go, but it just might be the most exciting iteration of that winning formula they will ever have experienced.
Not to mention, once that single player campaign (which might be the best the series has seen since the first Modern Warfare), there’s two more games waiting to be experienced. That second game, which segues right from the single player, is the return of Spec Ops - the cooperative series of missions that are less story-driven and more experience-driven.
Get together with a buddy or a new online friend and try your hand at a series of sequences that have the teams completing a variety of tasks, some of which might be different for each individual player. It's not a drastic change in formula from the prior entry, so players who experienced Spec Ops in Modern Warfare 2 will know what to expect. Spec Ops missions highlight teamwork in a way that the Call of Duty single player has never been able to. This is the answer to gamers calling out for a cooperative campaign - and while it’s not a fully immersive story experience, it is a worthy addition.
Spec Ops: Survival Mode, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. As Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games’ take on Treyarch’s zombie mode, Survival asks a pair of players to stay alive while wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies are thrown their way. A set of “equipment depots” allow players to spend their points on new weapons, artillery, and grenades in order to better protect themselves from those larger and more challenging enemies (like the juggernaut) and a leveling mechanic helps the experience mirror its multiplayer counterpart.
Survival is actually surprisingly more strategic than zombies and will give gamers who don’t care for online multiplayer something to play with a friend. The mode might go unnoticed by some, but for those who give it a chance — and are able to find a friend — it’s the best addition to the series yet.
Then, of course, there is the multiplayer - the proverbial bread and butter of the Call of Duty franchise. A lot of time could be devoted to listing the little touches that have been made to the experience, like the game’s new perks or strike packages, which allow players to better arrange their killstreaks to fit their play style, but that might convince gamers that a whole lot has changed in Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer, which isn’t true.
In fact, the multiplayer in Modern Warfare 3 is exactly what a COD fan would expect from the very second they start their first match. It may take some time to get a grasp on the new weapon leveling and progression, but, once the player gets dialed in, the experience is like riding a bike. New modes, like my personal favorite Kill Confirmed, help provide new ways to progress in the multiplayer, but this is still fundamentally the same experience we’ve been getting since Modern Warfare. However, is that so bad?
Call of Duty Elite, Beachhead Studio’s pet project that hopes to keep players diving deeper and deeper into the multiplayer, is probably the most exciting addition to the franchise, and promises to reward players for their loyalty. Unfortunately, at launch it’s too early, and frankly too problematic to chart any lasting impact. It does explore some interesting concepts, and the free segments of the service will be well received, so it’ll be interesting to see how the service grows and evolves over time.
A wide variety of maps, and more carrots on sticks than players could ever capture in just a couple of hours, are worth the price of multiplayer admission alone - even if some will look at the whole package as if it's nothing more than glorified Modern Warfare 2 DLC. However, this is Call of Duty multiplayer running on all cylinders, and with a few flashy new features thrown in. It just happens to handle similar to last year’s model.
Clearly, on the whole, Infinity Ward has tapped into something that gamers will flock to no matter if it has a flashy new engine or a completely revamped storyline. Modern Warfare 3 delivers exactly what gamers expect, and it does so with such bravado and frantic pace that there’s no time to dwell on the fact that the same beats are being hit.
One has to wonder whether or not that is what makes Call of Duty such a popular franchise - because it doesn’t step too far out of its wheelhouse. The multiplayer is similar, Spec Ops is similar, and the single player is similar, but fans are bound to love every moment spent with each mode. Maybe that means we're part of the problem or maybe that means Infinity Ward knows exactly what players want. Either way, Modern Warfare 3 is a wild ride - even if some of the twists and turns are a bit familiar.
Have you had a chance to check out Modern Warfare 3? How does it rank in the catalogue of Call of Duty games for you?
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is available now for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.