The new and improved Modern Warfare... 2.
Four years ago, a first-person shooter video game was released that had set an untouchable standard for its competitors. Moving on from its World War II era, the Call of Duty franchise decided to go with a different change of scenery. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare introduced modern weapons and equipment as well as incorporating new features like perks, killstreak rewards, and in-depth customizable classes, allowing FPS fans to create their own load-out based on their play style.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare completely revamped the popular series. Its success continued on into the sequel, Modern Warfare 2. New killstreak rewards were presented, maps were changed to focus on verticality, and additional options were given to further tweak classes. Continuing to meet the high expectations of a successful streak, however, is difficult to keep. Modern Warfare 3, the latest installment, exemplifies what happens when a series cannot always maintain an untouchable standard.
When you first started playing as Sergeant John “Soap” MacTavish in CoD4, little did you know you would be on Death’s hit list as priority number one since you saved the world from terrorists repeatedly. Luckily, you met Captain John Price and, despite his questionable sanity at times, he has been a loyal friend. The both of you carried one epic bromance adventure in the last two CoD titles. In MW3, you won’t be dissatisfied with the storyline as it still contains that familiar CoD flair: slow-motion breaches, AC 130 gun fire, high-speed chases, and things that go boom all around you with amazing graphics.
Like its predecessors, MW3 will have you switch between different playable characters throughout the story, though it would have been nice to finish the campaign with the same character I started with in CoD4. All of this highly dramatized action, though, lasts a short while. The campaign runs a little over five hours on normal difficulty while eight to ten hours on veteran depending on your skill. So while the over-the-top explosions are always fun, it doesn’t last long.
Spec Ops mode, however, will keep you entertained. Two player, both online and split-screen, Spec Ops missions are back and harder than ever to finish, especially on veteran. Teamwork is key, and you need a capable buddy, who you are bound to yell at, to get through challenging objectives. The new mode, Spec Ops Survival, is the best addition to MW3: Fight against endless waves of enemies from heavily armored infantry, to dogs with C4 strapped to their backs, juggernauts, and enemies suited for chemical warfare. There is a currency system, so kill everything and anything in your path to earn money to buy and/or upgrade your weapons, explosives, and air support like predator missiles, and even a U.S. Delta squad can be called in to help you survive the waves. Trust me, you will need it. This mode serves as a great way to not only go on a fun killing spree but also become accustomed to the maps, since every map is taken straight from multiplayer.
One of the primary focuses during development on MW3’s multiplayer was balance and gun-on-gun gameplay, so there have been many changes and improvements. Certain perks, like One Man Army, Commando (Woo!), and Danger Close, have been removed. Shotguns are now primary. Perks like Scavenger has been specifically modified: ammo is easily refilled, but grenades and ammo for launchers depend on the fallen player’s load-out, who may or may not have grenades equipped. Goodbye grenade spamming! The javelin remains in the game, though, and snipers with the new Quickdraw perk equipped are a deadly combination, making quickscoping act like shotguns.
Before, killstreak rewards were designed solely for kills while players who strived for objectives weren’t well-rewarded enough. Now, your streak rewards include both kills and points, and have been categorized into what are called Strike Packages: Assault, Support, and Specialist.
Assault includes achieving rewards like an AC130 and an AH-6 Overwatch, which is your bodyguard from the sky. The AH-6 helicopter hovers above you and kills any enemy that dares to attack you. Your rewards reset once you die. The Support package is a little different, including UAVs, turrets, and my favorite, the Escort Airdrop. Ever get pissed off when someone steals your care packages? An Osprey gunner takes care of those thieves as you secure your precious cargo. However, your rewards do not reset when you die, so go out there and rack up those kills and points. Last is Specialist, where you are given a chance to turn into one badass lone soldier. Select your preferred perks and for every two kills, you earn a perk. After eight consecutive kills, every perk is given to you and you are now faster and much harder to kill. It takes patience, but it’s worth it. Careful though, since once you die, your perks reset. Here’s a tip: Don’t neglect Hardline.
The Strike Packages are a huge plus. Whether you earn kills, cap the flag, shoot down a UAV, or shank a SAM turret, you earn a notch toward your streak (that includes a notch toward the next perk in the Specialist package). That’s right, killstreaks are no longer strictly tailored to kill-whoring, so do yourself and your team a favor: Play the damn objective and take time to shoot down enemy drones.
The gun-on-gun focus applies to customizing your weapon of choice, which now has its own rank. Level it up and earn attachments, camo, and something new called Proficiencies. You can add one Proficiency per weapon, such as Kick to reduce recoil or Attachments to equip two attachments to your weapon. The more you use your weapon, the more you unlock just like in MW2. There isn’t any currency system like in Black Ops, so you can’t choose which attachment you want or which Proficiency you would like to use first. Instead, you have to earn all of them. This may bother some players, but at the very least, you’re able to try any weapon you unlock as you rank up.
Altering your weapon in great detail is always favored, but it seems like the idea of Proficiencies was a rushed thought. Most of them are either perks or attachments from previous titles, so there isn’t anything innovative here other than another level of customization.
The gameplay in multiplayer is noticeably played at a different pace. It’s just as fast as, if not faster than, MW2 and if you’re used to Black Ops, the change will take time to get used to. You usually have a two- to three-second window to seek cover or go prone when you’re shot in previous CoD titles. In MW3, however, your screen hardly ever turns red, because before you notice what direction you’re being shot from, it’s too late and you’re dead.
With this in mind, a mode for noobs like Combat Training would have worked incredibly well here due to the different pace, new toys, and new weapons to try out. Theater mode and even a couple of Wager matches from Black Ops were included (in private match only) in MW3, so why not Combat Training? MW3 has been developed to suit every type of player, right? Luckily, private matches include every perk, streak reward, weapon and attachment unlocked from the start, giving newbies a chance to learn and explore everything the game has to offer before jumping into online multiplayer. Not to mention there are alternate game types, such as Infection and Juggernaut, both incredibly fun if you can get a large group together.
While in private matches, you may want to test out the two new game modes: Kill Confirmed and Team Defender. Not only do you go for kills in Kill Confirmed, but you must collect the dog tags of fallen enemies to win the match. Dog tags can be retrieved by any one of your teammates and you both are rewarded points for it. Don’t want people raging over stolen dog tags, now would we? Team Defender is like Halo’s Oddball except with a flag. Holding onto the flag earns points toward winning the match, so teams are encouraged to work together. Points are equally distributed making both modes well balanced and fun to play.
Prestige Shop is also a new addition, giving players a little incentive on their way to rank 80. Each time you prestige, you earn a token for it, which you can spend on rewards. Just like Proficiencies, however, the Prestige Shop seems like a last-minute thought. Rewards include Double XP (two hours worth in-game), an extra custom class slot, and packages that contain callsign titles and emblems. But who would want to spend a hard-earned token on pictures? Prestiging is an achievement, especially after achieving rank 80 in MW3, and a reward like pictures might as well be a slap in the face.
Spec Ops Survival and Strike Packages are the best new additions in MW3, while Proficiencies and the Prestige Shop are great concepts that lack creativity. Emblems, callsigns, and accolades seem to have been forgotten; although they now have leaderboards, they attribute to nothing other than a competitive edge. Other than the Strike Packages, MW3 really is nothing we haven’t already seen. This does not say you won’t get your first-person shooter fix. As a standalone game, it's worth every penny and will undoubtedly keep players occupied until the next installment, but as a sequel, it’s disappointing.
Review based on X360 version. Copy provided by publisher.