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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 review


It's the most anticipated release of 2011, but does Modern Warfare 3 live up to its record breaking name?...

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 review...

When the Call of Duty franchise decided to veer away from its norm, creating a modern day FPS in the process back in 2007, many questioned its decision. However, as Call of Duty 4:Modern Warfare opened to both critical and consumer acclaim, sales spoke for themselves and a dominating franchise was born. Since it's release - known to fans as COD4 - the series has dominated the market each year, breaking record after record falling its huge demand.

So here we are, four years after the release of Modern Warfare and two years after Modern Warfare 2, and Activision have again teamed up with Infinity Ward to bring you the latest instalment of the Modern Warfare series...but what's it like?

Game Modes

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 gameplay...

Let's work our way through. Just like Modern Warfare 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 contains three playable options within the game - Campaign mode; Special Ops and Multiplayer. The storyline, interestingly, continues directly where MW2 left off; following the games main protagonists - Captain Price, Soap and Nikolai - on the hunt for Makarov as they attempt to prevent World War Three.

However, as the game progresses players will largely follow the exploits of new characters Yuri, Delta Force operative Sgt. “Frost”, SAS Sgt. Burns and Andrei Harkov - who’s a federal agent protecting the Russian president. While all are unique - and your gaming experience through each will echo this - all have a vital and memorable role in the storyline, one that reveals itself to the gamer as you progress.

Like previous instalments, the storyline constantly draws you into the game, making it harder and harder to put the controller down and walk away; so get used to the phrases "just one more mission" or "one more checkpoint" as they're going to make up the staple of your MW vocabulary.

So what of the story itself? Well, (Spoiler Alert) after the agonising death of one of the games main characters you - or at least your protagonist - feels the need to complete said missions in order to seek vengeance for his comrades death. After the final mission there’s a sense of relief as you’ve finally ended four years of campaigning against the Ultra-nationalists; an emotion relative to those familiar with the running storyline. As such, its conclusion marks a fitting end to the game, and one that, if Activision wanted to finish on a high, should mark the end of the Modern Warfare series.

However, despite a number of positives, the storyline still has its downsides. The numerous times you are lying on your back after being stunned or blown up is still over exaggerated - it feels like every other mission someone is either helping or telling you to get up. Also, despite their increased A.I, the enemy is...numerous, to say the least. Continuous waves flood your screen and harbour your progress; an endless bounty of cannon fodder which - should you refuse to progress - has the ability to halt your progress entirely. While it's good to see some depth there really should be a limit as, on more than one occasion, this 'depth' grew tedious.

As ever a Modern Warfare title isn't complete without some form of controversy, and MW3 has chosen to include a holiday video gone bad...very bad. Now, while the video itself is a credit to the ingenuity of the title one fears that, should a player choose to skip said video - or genuinely misses it - they'll be out of sync from the overall storyline. It's minor, but on this occasion a compulsory viewing may have been wise.

Spec Ops

A snapshot of Survival mode from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3...

Spec Ops make an enjoyable return via MW3's survival and mission modes. Survival mode is similar to Zombie mode in Black Ops but with a new dimension; now defending yourself against various waves of human enemies of increasing difficulty. Starting with just a pistol (sound familiar?), the player must continue to kill their enemy to gain XP and currency to increase their arsenal, all of which can be purchased in similar Zombie fashion. As for the enemies, one can expect to see attack dogs, helicopters, juggernauts - you name it, it's after you.

The Mission parts of the Spec Ops are similar to the missions of the campaign but with a twist, such as taking a VIP hostage on an airplane or fighting African Militia. You know, those quirky, day to day scenarios we all find ourselves in. Anyhow, similar to MW2, players earn stats for completing each mission on a different difficulty. Again, like the unending A.I, Spec Ops is great with friends but can become tiresome on your own, especially with the limited number of single player challenges.


An ever changing face of multiplayer in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3...

And so we arrive at the multiplayer or, as it should be known, the main reason to purchase this game. The multiplayer section has had a complete revamp with the addition of new games and point streaks (formally kill streaks), meaning the accumulation of points -  such as planting a bomb in Search and Destroy - can subsequently increase the players point streak, so the player is no longer limited to kill-specific streaks.

Basically, the points streaks are now broken down into three different packages - assault, support or specialist. Assault is similar to kill streaks and rewards players with Care packages, AC130s or Juggernauts. Support rewards don’t reset when you die - which was confusing at first - and perks include UAV, SAM Turrets and Stealth Bombers.

As players level up, so to will their weapons, awarding the player with the likes of two attachments for the weapon or reduced recoil whilst firing. It's small, but improving excellence is difficult, so it's certainly appreciated.

Like I mentioned previously there are new games added to multiplayer. The best mode is definitely 'Kill Confirmed' where opponents will collect dead enemies’ dog tags to score points, but a player can recover their teammate’s dog tags to prevent the opposition from scoring. If teams are cold blooded enough they can use dog tags to lure the opposition into a trap to obliterate the enemy.

Finally, with the release of MW3 we saw the introduction of Call of Duty ELITE, costing $49.99 per year. While many, such as myself, see this as yet further proof of corporate greed, ELITE offers its subscribers free DLC maps as and when they are released; the ability to level up a player’s clan; pro analysis and daily competitions.


And what say you, graphics?

Whilst the graphics for this game are impressive as usual, my stepdad summed the game up perfectly, whilst I was playing, with one simple line: "It looks exactly the same as the last few games" - and he is a 100% correct.

Whilst running around India, Sierra Leone and Somalia I couldn't shake the feeling of deja vu following this comment. The local village huts looked exactly the same as those that were used in the shanty towns of Brazil in MW2; and one wonders just how much 'new' terrain was actually designed rather than altered? And then it dawns on you, roughly half way through the have been here before. OK, it's not quite identical, but these environments bear a striking resemblance to MW3's predecessors. Office buildings, submarines, airplanes and streets, paved with with disused cars and army vehicles, remind you all too much of the two previous instalments...

Where the game saves itself however is the inclusion of new areas such as Berlin, London and Paris. All of these areas are well detailed and continue to amaze throughout. Beautifully rendered with a smooth finish, the user is treated to sites almost as captivating as their real-life counterparts, and the site of the New York skyline burning and the tunnels underwater are some of the best visuals ever to grace the MW series.

The cut scenes we have all grown to love once again return at the end of each mission and, like their predecessors, continue to impress with cinematic realism.

And yet, a final annoyance creeps into my analysis. Somehow, three production companies, millions of dollars and the backing of Activision was still not enough to sort the grass detail on the maps, which again feels unrealistic and static. So, whilst you can crouch in certain areas to hide/recover from getting hurt, there is still certain parts of the grass which retain their rock solid feel, adding yet more barriers and additional danger.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 final thoughts...

After long thought I realised that, for a game that had so much potential, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 just doesn’t live up to the hype. There's no denying this is a good game - excellent in parts in fact - but, to the diehard COD fan, I didn't love it, and isn't the ultimate challenge; to please the co-existing fans?

With COD4 and MW2 I could easily sit for hours and play this game online all day, but with MW3 it all feels repetitive and unoriginal. The graphics are the same; the multiplayer is the same; the storyline is frighteningly similar - heck, any more similarities and this game could be done for plagiarism.

With a four hour storyline (yes, four hours) and a few add-ons to the multiplayer, MW3 feels more like an add-on - a DLC if you will - rather than the latest in the series. Fortunately, this review meant that I was fortunate enough not to have bought the game because, had I spent £45-50 and a number of hours queueing to purchase it, I feel this irritable nature may have been somewhat more severe.

And yet there are positives. The game is enjoyable; is captivating and is consistent, but it's what this game isn't that causes the problems. Overall though, I’d stuck between a three or four star rating, essentially depending on your previous experience with the franchise. New gamers are sure to get a kick out this title, and, as the sales show, this game will be dominating the online market for some time to come. However, for returning veterans it's a meagre three out of five; an interesting add-on, but lousy latest releast, thus resulting in its subsequent rating.

New gamers:

4 stars

Returning fans:

3 stars

Richard Penwright is a founding editor of the UK's leading British and American Football news blog, Double Coverage. With everything from in-depth analysis of the NFL to the movement of British American Football, Double Coverage is a must-stop for all your American Football info...

See also:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 preview

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Trailer goes live

Call of Duty: Black Ops - First Strike review

Batman: Arkham City review

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim review

Saints Row: The Third offical review

Ico & Shadow of the Colossus review

Next generation Xbox in 2013?


If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.



#1 it is epic charlotte pursey 2011-11-16 11:44
it is the best games. it is so epic boom xxx
#2 Good review...but Andy Walsh 2011-11-16 13:40
I think this is a very good review and hits home on a lot of topics. However, I think this game deserves more credit than given. Although this game is very similar to COD4 and MW2....this is what makes me want to play it. I did not like World at War, or Black ops. These games were to differnet than previous games and were not good for competitive gaming. MW3 will be a great game for competitive gaming since it is so similar to the previous ones. Even with similar terrain the maps are new and very different than previous maps. They have also changed many of the guns. Unlike in previous versions where the M16/Mp5 were must have guns. Other guns such as the ACR, Type95, G36C, etc. can be used in competitive gaming. Overall I think this game is just way more balanced than some of the others and really much better for these reasons.
#3 DIsagree with Andy Chris W 2011-11-16 17:16
Sorry Andy but I disagree with that, I don't understand how you can contradict yourself so much, you say the game is very similar to COD4 and MW2, and that makes you want to play it, but why not just keep playing MW2 / COD4 and save yourself £50 a year (if you're a console gamer)

I also doubt COD is the type of game for competitive play. Competitive games are the likes of Counter Strike, Unreal Tournament, Quake, Team Fortress. COD is just too casual. I don't see how spamming a chopper gunner can be considered competitive. Surely competing should be about who has the best skill in the game, not who can sit in a corner, grab a couple kills and go nuts with killstreaks.

You say the maps are very new, then right after say they are very different, well which is it? Personally when I watched MW3 gameplay, if the person who made the video titled it MW2 Multiplayer gameplay I would of believed it. Literally everything in it has been recycled - voice acting, animations, buildings, debris, objects in the map like barrels and vehicles, textures. MW3 looks more like a map pack or small expansion, which mirrors exactly what Richard Penwright wrote about. The maps in COD MW2 were terrible anyway. They were too multi-layered, encouraging a camper style of gameplay which I detest.

Finally, there are not many new guns in the game at all, in each weapon class (Assualt Rifles, SMG, Sniper etc) there are only one or two new weapons, with some cracking weapons taken out like the FAMAS.

So yeah I agree with Richard here, but I would like to see more mention made of the plain rehash that this game is. 4 stars for new comers is too generous, it deserves a 3 across the board and even then, a game of this calibre should NOT get away with 3 stars. They get hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars each year, but can not afford to hire 5-6 more environment artists to make new scenery or objects or textures or animations? Don't make me laugh.

At the end of the day, gaming is now a business instead of a passion for developers, and Activision have found the perfect formula - create casual shooting game that anyone and their mother can get into, hype the hell out of it, release every year for inflated price, drive down development costs - massive profit.
#4 mw3 paul w 2011-11-29 20:41
i bought this game thinking it was going to be really good been a cod fan . i thaught it was going to be a cross beeween black ops and mw2 so i could not wait, when i got the game i was so dissapointed all it is is a updated version of mw2. so dissapointed. im going to trade it in for fifa 12 or try battlefield i dont know yet but thats what i think about the dissapointed.

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