Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3: Still modern, still war

November 16, 2011

Another year, another Call of Duty game. This year we have the third and probably final Modern Warfare title, which sets out to finish the trilogy while also expanding on the series’ always popular multiplayer and Special Ops modes. As with any Call of Duty game, Modern Warfare 3 has a lot to offer despite most of it remaining relatively the same.

Modern Warfare 2 was a great game, but its campaign suffered a bit. The story didn’t seem to make much sense, they tried to do too much at once, and a lot of the levels tended to be ridiculous just for the sake of being ridiculous. While Modern Warfare 3’s campaign isn’t perfect, it offers a nice improvement over the second game by having a tighter, more consistent experience.

The story, which has you tracking down the ultranationalist Makarov and, essentially fighting World War III, is much easier to follow this time around. You’ll still find yourself jumping from character to character throughout, but these characters are in constant communication and you will find that their efforts all go towards a united front against Makarov and his followers rather than what seemed like a disjointed effort. For those familiar with the story, the campaign will play out almost entirely as you expect it would, but there are still a few shocking moments to be seen throughout.

The campaign isn’t entirely great though. A few missions tend to drag, especially near the beginning, but it does pick up significantly once you reach the halfway point. Every mission from then on is, for the most part, exciting and they advance the plot forward nicely. This all leads to an excellent final mission that sends the series off with a bang. Not an unexpected conclusion, but satisfying nonetheless.

Special Ops (or Spec Ops) mode is back and better than ever. Now it’s separated into two separate modes: survival and mission. Mission mode is the same as before: you have a select number of missions you can complete by yourself or with a friend, each with a different objective. Some missions are basic run and gun, some are stealth, and some involve one player completing an objective while the other covers him with remote controlled turrets. The variety is great and, just like before, it’s probably the best part of the Modern Warfare experience.

Survival is a new, wave-based mode that has you and a partner facing off with different enemies on each of the game’s sixteen maps. You are awarded with money for each kill, which you can use to buy different weapons and equipment. And, as expected, each wave is more difficult than the last. You’ll even find yourself facing helicopters, armored enemies known as juggernauts, or dogs with explosives strapped to them. It can get pretty crazy.

Spec Ops is a great way to pass the time if you’re not really into the standard competitive multiplayer, but there is a huge problem that was supposedly going to be addressed: it’s only for two players. It feels a bit weird to have a mode like this restricted to such a small player count, especially now that there’s the new survival aspect of it, which would probably work great with four people. Spec Ops itself is fantastic, but adding more players would have really been enough to make the mode stand out even more than it did in Modern Warfare 2.

And then we’re left with the most popular aspect of any Call of Duty game, the multiplayer. The multiplayer is pretty much the same as you remember it. There is a large number of modes that are all relatively unchanged, you level up and prestige, you customize your weapons, have perks, create clans; it’s all what you would expect. There are, however, some small changes (besides the new maps and a couple of new private match gameplay modes) that are much appreciated.

One of the best examples of this is the splitting of the killstreaks. For players who know Call of Duty, killstreaks are a large part of the experience. For a certain number of kills you get, you’ll get to use one of these, and they are split into categories: assault, support, and specialist. Assault is the same old killstreak system: it counts kills you get before you die and resets when you die. These are mostly offensive options that you would expect from killstreaks. Support lets your counter continue to go up even after you die, but these are mostly for tactical use like advanced UAVs or turrets. Specialist allows you to use more perks, which might be essential depending on your strategy.

This is a very smart change and allows players of all skill levels to get to use killstreaks. I’m not particularly skilled at Call of Duty multiplayer, but using the support class allows me to still be of use to my team while not having to worry about my killstreak counter reseting. It may not seem like much to those who know nothing about the multiplayer experience, but it makes a lot of difference.

The multiplayer is still great, and if you let yourself get sucked into it, you could lose countless hours of your life playing it. The major problem is, outside of minor (but important changes), it’s all pretty much the same. Modern Warfare 3 feels more like Modern Warfare 2.5, which is a huge disappointment considering the large leap the series went from the original to 2. This is the biggest problem with the game as a whole: it just feels like more of the same. The same may be great, but it really needs some big changes to make it feel fresh again.

Do you like Call of Duty? Then chances are you’ll like Modern Warfare 3. It’s just a shame that it is really more of the same. You might love that, but others might find it off-putting. In the end it’s a great game that really delivers on all of the fronts you would expect it to, for better or for worse.

Pros: Less convoluted story, satisfying finale, some small but significant additions
Cons: A few campaign missions drag, only two players for Spec Ops is a bad decision

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.