Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 review

Type: FPS Developer: Infinity Ward Release Date:  November 8th, 2011 (Steam) Official Website: Modern Warfare 3 is the 8th main entry in the Call of Duty series (technically the 13th if you count […]

Type: FPS
Developer: Infinity Ward
Release Date:  November 8th, 2011 (Steam)
Official Website:

Modern Warfare 3 is the 8th main entry in the Call of Duty series (technically the 13th if you count the many spin-offs the franchise has had, and that’s not even counting the DS or mobile games). It’s developed by a grand total of 5 development studios (following Call of Duty tradition, n-Space also created the DS version; although the other COD satellite studios, like Rebellion, Nerve Software, Spark Unlimited, and Pi Studios did not participate in MW3’s development at all), and it’s a lot like a Greatest Hits album.

It takes some of the best elements of the series, crams them together in one relatively short experience, remasters them a bit, packs in some extra stuff we’ve never seen before, throws in some other stuff that wasn’t all that good, and calls it a day.

The thing is that I don’t actually like Greatest Hits albums, and quite frankly, I’ve never understood why some people do. They’re redundant, they’re repetitive, and even at their best, the never-before-seen stuff was left unseen for a reason: it’s really not that good. And if you’re a fan, you already have all of this stuff. So… what’s the point, really?

But hey, this is a video game, not a music album, so maybe I’ve got it wrong and Modern Warfare 3 isn’t that bad. Maybe the franchise has somehow succeeded in redeeming itself. Well, there’s only one way to find out then!

Modern Warfare 3’s plot starts off mere minutes after the conclusion of MW2: Soap and Price fly off to India to join the Loyalist rebels that are in hiding. Am I the only one who thinks that this is… a bit strange? It brings a load of questions to mind. Where were the Loyalist rebels in MW2? Why did the Loyalists lose COD4’s Russian Civil War? And why would the Loyalist rebels choose India anyway? It’s on the other side of the continent from Russia. And it’s not like these guys are refugees – they’ve got an arms cache in the middle of town!

And why are Soap and Price so content with being hunted down by most of the civilized world? Even after General Shepherd’s death – a plot point which is NEVER actually mentioned in Modern Warfare 3?

The plot doesn’t get much better from there. None of the glaring plot holes from Modern Warfare 2 are patched up or even touched upon. Instead, MW3’s plot pushes on blindly, stepping on its own toes and speeding through events and plot points like they were mere road signs. And although the plot is a bit more comprehensible this time around, it’s still got a lot of issues and a lot of holes.

Most of the time, you don’t know who’s doing what, who’s in charge, why this is here, why that’s there, and so on, and so forth. The game randomly jumps months into the future at several points throughout the narrative, leaving your average player scratching his or her head in utter confusion. Frankly, it’s a 12-hour plot crammed into a 4-hour game.

As for the gameplay itself? Well… it’s surprisingly… good, really. Some missions featured larger and more flexible layouts, which reminded me of the non-linear levels in past Call of Duty titles. In addition, there’s just a lot more variety in the game – in fact, there’s even a new AC-130 mission, which is surprisingly innovative in its use of the iconic attack gunship. Trust me, it isn’t just a rehash of a 4-year old level.

The game’s pacing is pretty well done as well – unlike Black Ops, which quickly grew tiresome due to its repetitious, non-stop, idiotic run-and-gun sort of action, Modern Warfare 3’s singleplayer makes good use of interspersed stealth sequences. There’s loads of them, and they are generally quite restrictive, but they do a good job of keeping the game play somewhat fresh.

But what makes Call of Duty what it is are the Michael Bay-esque over-the-top scripted sequences and set-pieces. There’s plenty of them here, although the only vehicle sequence is a 30-second intermission where you drive the same exact boat from MW2 (except you can’t shoot and have to constantly drive where the game tells you — and that isn’t really a vehicle sequence).

There’s a pretty well-done scene where you participate in a car chase, switching seats in order to ward off your pursuers (which reminded me of the aerial assault levels in United Offensive and World at War), and there is a great scene where you’re caught in the middle of a massive sandstorm.  So, as previously mentioned, there’s a bit more variety this time.

And the soundtrack is also quite well done. It’s quite different from both most of the soundtracks we’ve heard in the series, but it’s really, really great. It gets all the emotions just right, and it almost always has a flawless  and fitting sound. It might even be the best soundtrack the series has had thus far — and trust me, that’s a lot coming from the same franchise that featured CoD4 and MW2’s excellent aural compositions.

In fact, I dare say that I think MW3 may be the best Call of Duty singleplayer campaign we’ve had since Call of Duty 4 in 2007. There’s just one problem: it’s unbelievably short. In fact, it may be the shortest campaign in the whole franchise: a tiny 4 hours on Medium difficulty — though I’ve heard that it’s possible to beat it in even less while on Medium.

We still have the hidden Intel terminals, but they don’t actually show up on your Campaign menu anymore, so the only reason people had to actually collect them no longer exists, since they are only tracked in the in-game pause menu, which you probably almost never look at.

Singleplayer and Spec Ops modes both make a return to this MW installment, while the latter adds 2 new wrinkles – actual leveling up and progression as well as an all-new Survival Mode. Though there are less Spec Ops missions than before, they’re a lot better executed — and level replay is encouraged through high scores, best times, and the progression system.

On the other hand, both the missions and Survival are still restricted to just 2 players, which is, quite frankly, stupid. Zombies (Treyarch’s coop game mode) does not return (THANK GOD), Campaign coop’s corpse is still strewn all over the cutting room floor, and Arcade Mode is somewhere in a ditch outside the city limits.

And then of course, there’s the multiplayer. What would Call of Duty be without its multiplayer? Nothing, to be perfectly honest. MW3’s multiplayer is radically different from that of its predecessors, and in a surprisingly good way.

Killstreaks are now “pointstreaks”, which can be increased through accomplishing objectives, as well as killing rival players. Pointstreak rewards have been segregated into three separate “strike packages”: Assault, Support and Specialist. The basic pointstreak rewards are available in all of these packages, but most pointstreaks are now exclusive to one of these strike packages. You can only use one strike package, and you can only have three active pointstreaks per strike package at any given time. Most of the rewards in all three packages are locked at first, and you’ll have to unlock them as you play.

Just like in previous Modern Warfare games, progression items or “unlocks” are given through leveling up, finally throwing Treyarch’s “COD Points” system right out the window, where it belongs. In addition, your weapons level up with you, and you can upgrade them using “Proficiencies”: adding attachments, reducing recoil, and other good things like that. There are still a few customization perks that modify your weapons’ behavior, but for the most part, weapons and perks have now been successfully separated, which is absolutely wonderful.

There’s also a new Prestige Shop, featuring special rewards that can be redeemed using Prestige tokens, which you get by Prestiging. It’s great in that it encourages players to use Prestige, but unlike the console versions, the lazy PC port does not allow players to redeem Prestige tokens by Prestiging in previous Call of Duty games, because they “have no way of tracking global user rank on previous PC versions”.  Which is, quite frankly, a lie, because both MW2 and Black Ops use Steamworks to track your multiplayer progress.

Also worth mentioning is that there has been some extensive multiplayer re-balancing: some perks have been removed, some have been added, and diving-to-prone is gone. For the most part, the multiplayer seems to be the best the series has ever had. Obviously, you can’t really compare it to the massive battle royales in Battlefield 3 or Homefront, or the superb action gameplay seen in Counter-Strike, but Modern Warfare 3 is pretty much the best at what it does.

Speaking of other shooters, Modern Warfare 3 offers a lot less as a PC game than it does as a game in general, which makes it pale in comparison to other current games. Dedicated servers are back, but they’ve practically been exiled to the ends of the multiplayer menu. In addition, they’re unranked, so you won’t get any sort of progression by playing on them, and you’ll be restricted to your basic, default classes.

That’s right – the stock loadouts and perks. No custom classes or customization at all. The dedicated server’s wannabe replacement, IWNet, is still just as irritating and plain stupid.  Although this time, my experiences with it were a lot more pleasant, and I suppose that’s a step forward. No mod tools, evidently. However, the porting job itself is actually pretty great. The game ran quite smoothly.  And loading times, while occasionally significantly problematic (3-minute loading times are never fun), most of the time they proved to be fairly quick.

As for the graphics?  Meh.

They get the job done and look quite good, but they’re not really up to 2011 standards. The post-processing was also a bit off.  Just like Duke Nukem Forever, it made the screen look strangely blurry. The levels themselves have some pretty good detail, but in the areas where the developers thought you wouldn’t look… they generally look pretty bad. There’s also some reused content from past games – in fact, there’s one building that first appeared in CoD1. Yes, 2003. Maybe it’s an intentional reference, a little heads-up or something, but I still thought it was really strange.

In conclusion, is Modern Warfare 3 worth buying? I think so. At the end of the day, maybe the disappointingly short singleplayer isn’t the only thing in the package. Both Special Ops and the multiplayer provide near-massive amounts of replayability, and a whole lot of fun. And that’s what video games are about, right? Having fun. Not complex storylines or multi-faceted gameplay mechanics. Just fun. Put your prejudices aside – Modern Warfare 3 is actually a pretty good game, and while a full-price purchase might not be for you, it’s definitely worth picking up in the future.

Graphics: 7/10
Game Play: 7/10
Replay Value: 7/10
Overall: 7/10

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