Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 through Streets of New York Paris London

By Muhammad Faisal 2 comments

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Release/Out Now

While fighting through the streets of New York, Paris, London and other cities in Modern Warfare 3, I keep coming back to this: If you compare the Call of Duty series to, say, Skyrim, or even Half-Life 2, then it's a regressive, controlling, anti-gaming experience. Don't compare it to those games, then. MW3 is an arcade rail shooter, such as Time Crisis, except now you can control your legs a bit.

     It feels this way because, for the first time, Infinity Ward has got the scripting right. Modern Warfare and MW2's bombastic scenarios left you in the dark, unsure whether progress meant killing all the henchmen or tripping an invisible barrier to stop them infinitely respawning. In Black Ops, wild over-scripting left you feeling unnecessary; whole levels seemed to pass without you needing to fire a shot.

     Here, you always know what you're doing, and the answer is almost always the same: reach the marker while killing everyone in your path. Or, for a change of pace it's mount this gun on a helicopter or car and kill everyone in your path. As long as you keep moving forward, the fantasy never breaks.

     This pace is a change from previous MW games that means there are fewer standout or game-changing missions. Instead of a quiet, prolonged stealth section, such as MW's Pripyat, moments of sneaking are shorter and peppered across the game. A lot of the missions now have their own self-contained arc: a snaky opening, a disaster in the middle, then a daring escape. Taken individually, that makes each mission a satisfying experience but as a whole, it makes the game feel monotone, relentless and exhausting.

     There are two moments that do stand out, one good and one bad. The good has you tumbling inside a plane as it falls out of the sky. With each turbulent shake and twist, you and your enemies are hurled into the walls, or cast weightless as you try to line up a shot. The whole sequence lasts around 90 seconds, and it's brilliant.

     The bad moment is optional. I had already watched a video of the scene, set in London, in which an American child is blown up. You're the father of the family, filming your vacation, and says, "Are you getting this?" She's waiting for you o move closer. The explosion doesn't happen until you do. It's crude, leering, terrible written and a cynical attempt to court headlines.

     The rest of the single player isn't so cynical. The events of Modern Warfare 2 have tipped the world into all-out war. You again play Captain Price, Soap McTavish, and other soldiers from America, Russia and Britain as they try to stop the super-villain, Makarov.

     When the story does interrupt the shooting, like a Time Crisis 'WAIT' command, it's gibberish. Happily, these moments are brief, quickly setting up the next violent sprint.

Fair play

     The changes Infinity Ward has made to the multiplayer are all designed to make it fairer and less frustrating experience - and it has worked. Terrible ideas such as the Commando perk, which let enemies zip towards you with a knife in an unavoidable dash, are hone. Kill streaks have morphed in to Point streaks, giving you rewards for capturing flags and for helping your team as well as for popping heads.

    The biggest improvement is in the level design. The traditional Call of Duty multiplayer maps used to be slaughterhouses lined by a dozen windows and doorways, with inexperienced players as the stunned cows trapped inside. Now they're designed to keep people moving, each area flowing into the next, without cubbyholes for snipers. I've yet to find a level I dislike, but the German shopping mall 'Arkaden' is my favorite. 

     Of MW3's new modes, Kill Confirmed is the one I'm enjoying most. It's an old idea, but it works: every time a player dies, they drop a dog-tag. For a kill to count towards your team's score, you need to collect your fallen enemy's tag. Similarly, if you collect one of your own team's tags, you deny your enemy that kill. 

     Kill Confirmed gives your shooting purpose, and creates a kind of ambient teamwork. It's also dramatic, as players make desperate dashes across open ground to recover a comrade's tags and deprive the enemy of them.

Modern war
     Whatever map you play, the progression system rewards you quickly and constantly. I reached level five in an hour, and level ten in ninety minutes after that. After almost every round, I've unlocked something new, be it a weapon, emblem or entirely new game mode.
     These moments of drama are what the rest of MW3's multiplayer lacks. For the most part, whatever the mode, all you do is run around and shoot people. There's no spectacle, no last-minute reprieves or desperate pushes.

      If you want purpose to your multiplayer, the cooperative Spec Ops is the best mode to experience MW3's thrills. It has two forms. There's the new Survival mode, which is simple idea and challenging. You fight against escalating waves of bad guys. After each wave, you get money to buy new weapons, place mines and call in air-strikes.

      The second mode sends you into remixes of the single player campaign's key missions, such as the attacking force in that aforementioned plane assault. You likely won't succeed your first time through, but gradually, as you try again and again, you and your partner fall in to step with each other. Playing this way skips the hackneyed plot of the single player, beats its boredom with brevity, and provides clearer teamwork and direction than the mayhem of the multiplayer.

      CoD games have always followed a simple formula. In single player it's 'shoot men to save world', and in multiplayer it's 'shoot men to unlock rewards'. Previous games have burdened that formula with terrible game design, in the form of anything from frustrating scripting to unfair balancing. With MW3, it feels like someone said, "Hey, let's stop putting in bullshit in our game" and for the most part the dev team has compiled with that request. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is linear, badly written and one note. It's still, from a certain angle, regressive. It's also fun.

Vital Statistics
Price $63
Developer Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games
Publisher Activision
Multiplayer 16-player, 2-player co-op
DRM Stram

Needs Dual core CPU, 2GB RAM, 256MB 3D card
Wants 2.6GHz quad core, 3GB RAM, 512MB 3D card

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2 comments for this post

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