Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (XBOX 360)
The latest Call of Duty game continues where Modern Warfare 2 left off with the new edition in this franchise offering a single player campaign, updated Special Ops missions and an improved multiplayer experience.
We can expect entire battles to be waged before our eyes, witness cities burn and crumble around us while we are battered and jarred by a seemingly infinite enemy. MW3 is all about chaotic action, huge explosions and frantic set pieces and delivers all this while drawing the enigmatic tale of Price and Soap to a close.
When starting MW3 presents us with three different ways to play the game. We are given the option to enter Special Ops, Campaign or Multiplayer and the controls for all playing options are pretty standard such as right trigger to fire primary weapon, left to use Scope/Iron sight. Right Stick controls our view and when pressed is our hand to hand attack. Then the left Stick moves us around and we can also use our D-Pad for a variety of functions that are mission specific. It can used to equip smoke grenades, enable night vision, switch to under slung grenade launcher and use a gasmask.
As well as these more standard controls the game has a number of interactive scripted scenes used to move the game narrative on. At these points the controls are given unique scene specific functions that are displayed in game for our guidance.
Looking at the gameplay modes Special Ops allows us to try our hand at a variety of missions and survival games. Survival mode is where one or two players try to survive endless waves of increasingly difficult enemies. Ammunition, weapons and support can be purchased either between waves or during a fire fight and this style is divided up into four sets of four missions, with each set having a different location and enemy types. Mission mode is a series of timed missions, again playable by one or two players, and these missions either fill in gaps in the campaign story or allow us to replay key campaign events from the perspective of the enemy.
The central option on the main menu is Campaign our gameplay in this mode is a series of missions based around Special Forces squads. We play a Delta Force, SAS or Taskforce 141 member as we work our way through mission around the world which follow the events of the narrative.
In some of the missions we step into vehicles to complete objectives, taking control of a large gun mounted on the top of tanks enabling us to deal out more damage and sustained suppressive fire. We frequently get larger weapons such as mortar, mounted machine guns and various rocket launchers supplementing the wide variety of hand held weapons that we are issued with or can pick up in the field. In some missions we are also given the opportunity to directly control remote weapons, guiding in air support or a heavily armed UGV. Despite the huge arsenal the mission gameplays is very much on-rails combat, in visually stunning environments and at a variety of speeds.
Multiplayer is the thrid and final option on the main menu in which we are given a 16 maps which cover a wide variety of scenery and styles, from tiny desert base to bombed out urban sprawl. The wide range of maps suits both large scale multiplayer matches and small scale private matches and are designed with spacious battle zones and claustrophobic choke points and each has high and low routes allowing multiple entry points and numerous ways to gain the advantage.
Like Special Ops, Facebook connectivity is available in Multiplayer. This allows us to see if Facebook friends are online playing MW3 and invite them to a match.
Successful players are rewarded with points that can be put towards rewards called Strike Packages and through these we unlock abilities by getting kills in objective based game modes. Players are able to customise weapons too and these level up the more we use them, gradually allowing us to unlock new attachments and proficiencies and these perks take the form of things like recoil reduction or improved stability.
Along with the customisation options, pointstreaks and perks, we have two public game modes. Team Defender sees one team member grabbing a flag while the others defend them. Kill Confirmed is a form of team deathmatch; only upon death every player drops a dog tag. This can be collected by a member of the opposing team, which leads to a "kill confirmed" or grabbed by a member of their own team, thus denying the enemy that kill.
The private match types are numerous, which we can tweak and customise to provide us with a near infinite number of options providing a dynamic multiplayer game. In addition to all of this multiplayer customisable goodness we are treated to Call of Duty Elite. Elite takes all the stats we care about, like our multiplayer kill/death ratio, and puts it into a format we can easily understand and interact with. We can check out our performance on past matches and see exactly where we were killed and who killed us, as well as compare load outs and performance like accuracy and flag captures. We can also look at pictures of maps with all the information such as spawn points for various multiplayer game types, giving us the ability to think about strategies and planning.
Graphics and Audio
Initially we were impressed with the graphical whirling dervish that assaults our senses when we first drag ourselves out of the wrecked vehicle in the single player campaign.The graphics have a slick gloss and polish that add to the gameplay emersion and the game also has a cinematic feel, object weight and behaviour has a lot of realism, lighting effects are excellent and main character faces have a photo realistic quality at points.
However, when the pace of the game slowed down, such as during our first stealth mission, we had the opportunity to have a close look at the scenery and it is here that the engine starts to show its age. MW3's vegetation looks poor, the textures used for the environment vary during the game and generally lack detail. Having said that the occasional dips in quality do not distract from the gameplay enjoyment.
Moving onto the audio; the sound design is excellent. We are hit with the sonic double whammy of top notch voice acting, with most of the main character voiced by recognisable film actors, and meaty sound effects. Explosions which reverberate realistically are coupled with well recreated gunfire. Generally the audio elements combine to add a noticeable richness and depth to the game experience. Overall it is amongst the best game audio we have ever heard.
User experience and Conclusions
MW3 is an engrossing FPS and the gameplay is hugely enjoyable and the single player has a couple if points that help it stand out from the crowd and propel the game up a notch. But before we cover the good, we are going to get the bad bits out of the way, simply because there are fewer of them.
Graphics simply aren't up to scratch. Elements of the graphical environment are good, but not excellent, and lack consistency. The lack of texture detail is often offset by the large amount of action going on during a set piece but thankfully despite its graphical short comings MW3's playability isn't compromised. We also need to point out that none of the graphics are buggy or glitchy, just not up to standards that we have come to expect from modern games.
The second of the three areas of fault is the plot. Simply put it is shallow, and formulaic. This is the case of another world ending big bad guy that only a handful of plucky heroes can defeat. There is only so much that can be done with the subject matter but a little extra effort and thought wouldn't have gone amiss.
Lastly and leastly MW3 singleplayer campaign doesn't offer anything new. It is an entirely unoriginal FPS where we are guided from point A to point B. Having said that, by this point in the franchise, what else should we expect? Call of Duty has a formula that works and any great deviation from it, while being interesting to critics, would result in fan outrage and commercial suicide. Quite simply Call of Duty set the rules of the game some time ago an MW3 play within them.
Moving back to the singleplayer highlights, we were impressed by the way MW3 emphasises the first person perspective using design elements to enhance the experience. For example, when we are in heavy rain our vision has a slight watery blur, nearby explosion results in the temporary addition of grit to our view. Use of blur and focus, and jarring camera movements all help add to the realism without detracting from our ability to play.
A further enhancement of the realism is delivered in the cut scenes. These scripted moments are almost entirely interactive, here aspects of control like the ability to walk are temporarily removed and replaced with memorable one-off challenges that the game never recycles. Even a flashback requires the timely pressing of buttons.
So overall Modern Warfare 3's single player campaign presents a formidable challenge; the chaotic set piece combat is enriched by giant fire fights serving as the background. It has an intense roller coaster feel, with moments of brief calm to set us up for the next paroxysm of combat.
Moving on from the engrossing aspects to the Campaign to Special Ops, we found that the Survival is a fast-paced and well-conceived mode adding a huge dollop of tension to what could have been an unoriginal and tedious element.
The Special Ops Mission mode is also are excellent; these timed challenges that can be quite tricky and due to their brief nature, immensely satisfying. So overall the Spec Ops mode is an aspect that helps bring MW3 up to another level.
The number customisable options available to us in Multiplayer makes it one of the best we have ever seen. This coupled with its easy playability makes MW3 a stand out winner. With more features, modes, maps and a new ways to interact via Call of Duty Elite and Facebook integration the multiplayer elements adds a huge amount of value to the game. The sheer amount of information in Elite for example make it an engrossing tool that can definitely help us improve our game.
MW3 has a quality Campaign, value adding Special Ops and a Multiplayer mode that offer so many options as to keep any gamer at any level infinitely interested. Very much a classic. 95%