Having read reviews of MW3 and finding a few of them (and a lot of internet people) saying that it was shit because it’s no different than the others I decided I would check it out for myself and try to be objective about it (in so far as that’s possible for an opinionated gamer such as myself).
The first thing I have to say is, yes, it is no different from MW and MW2 and in a lot of ways no different from any other “AAA” FPS in the last 5 years. The story isn’t terribly immersive and the characters, while pithy, tend to spew over-used cliches. It works for the whole ‘action movie’ aspect of the Call of Duty series but it can be a bit grating at times. The other major thing I have to say is shame on Activision and Infinity Ward. The Gaming Liberty‘s review of MW3 says:
“The story is hardly inspiring, the characters are as transparent as ever and it’s just as throwaway as you think it is, but who cares?”
They then go on to give the game a score of 9/10. I’m sorry but the story and characters in a game are worth FAR more than a measly 10%. If the story and characters of a Legend of Zelda game or an Uncharted game or any other game worth spending hours and money on were worth that much then they would not be the great games they are. Story and characters are there to immerse you in the world, without that you are simply working some buttons and levers to achieve some random objective which may or may not be fun. Even cutesy, small-scale games like Patapon and Mad Blocker Alpha have the story and characters being far more than a measly 10% of the entire game as that pretty much IS the game.
In any event, in a return to my scolding of Activision and Infinity Ward, if everyone who plays your game says the story and characters (an undeniably integral piece of the whole) are flat and throwaway then you have not, I repeat have NOT made a great game. Perhaps a good game, but not a great game. And the difference is monumental. Imagine Grand Theft Auto IV without any of the characters and their interactions and none of the story, just randomly generated missions with very little text to inform you of the context of the mission. You just would not play that game. It would be broken and feel totally empty. You can’t tell me that that means that only 10% of the game is missing, it’s simply not true. Activision and Infinity Ward have made at least 3 games (focusing solely on the Modern Warfare series) that can be charged with flat characters and a throwaway story. Given that these games have been wildly successful and highly popular, almost defining the current landscape of online multiplayer (at least in the US where MMOs aren’t overwhelming the FPSs) it is at their feet that we can lay the blame for a lowering of the bar in terms of the quality demanded of everyone else for game design. The common complaint is “Well, who wants a lengthy single player campaign when no one cares about the story?” That would be pretty much no one. I (and many, many other people) would however like a lengthy single player campaign where I CAN care about the story. So, in conclusion, shame on Activision and Infinity Ward.
That being said, I must admit I actually enjoyed my time with Modern Warfare 3. I played approximately 2 hours of the campaign before a crash to desktop bug disrupted my gameplay. Given my familiarity with the other installments in the series I’m fairly confident that this is long enough to give a well-rounded review of the game as the first few missions give a well-rounded re-immersion into the world of Modern Warfare. I enjoy FPS games, I enjoy the challenge presented on PC with lining up shots well and I pride myself on being a pretty good marksman. In that regard, given that the combat aspects of MW3 haven’t noticeably changed since MW, I was always going to enjoy playing this game, and so I did. The combat is frenetic and fast-paced and enemies, while not the smartest bunch, present a thorough challenge even to an FPS veteran such as myself, being placed in well-placed spots to force you to change up your tack in a given firefight. The level design in the levels I’ve played through, while following the primarily linear path of most modern FPS games, afforded enough branching paths to allow me to attempt different strategies if one routinely provided me with hot, leaden death. The variety of toys to play with is also quite enjoyable, alongside the plethora of armaments provided throughout the levels. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but there’s always a distinct pleasure in swapping out a depleted weapon for a shotgun or the like and tearing enemies up until you find a nicer weapon to give added range and accuracy (can you tell I like sniping?)
So, from an FPS point of view, MW3 is a solid game and quite fun to play. From an action movie point of view, it’s also quite enjoyable. The story lends itself very easily and obviously to an action movie style, but the set pieces, such as attaching mines to the bottom of a sub to force it to surface in order to infiltrate it or trying to make your way through a falling plane and engaging enemies in a thoroughly Inception-inspired, gravity-twisting section, do add to the immersion in the action itself, if not exactly into the story. It’s a subtle difference, but it has a not so subtle impact on a player when they look back on their gameplay experience.
On the tech and graphics side, I didn’t ramp the specs all the way up on my PC as I wanted to get into the game fairly quickly, but my PC, which struggles playing Crysis 2 at anything above 1280×960 with no Antialiasing, utterly breezed through 1600×1024 with full Antialiasing (x4), Shadows and Specular Maps, so there is probably a lot of performance tweaks in the MW3 engine which, let’s face it, is really just a slightly updated MW2/Black Ops engine. As with all Call of Duty games since MW Antialiasing is a must-have option if you don’t want the game to look terribly cruddy and blocky.
So, I’ve stolen enough of your precious time for now, so I’ll get to the point most of you have been waiting for, the scoring. I’m going to give it 6.5/10. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable and fun game and it’s good. But it’s not a great game. Not by a long shot. A great game is one that has Moments(TM). Moments that will stay with you long after you’ve lost, traded or thrown away the game itself. Moments that occur to you months or years later and have you yearning to pick up the controller/keyboard/mouse and throw yourself back into the fray. Modern Warfare, and every other game in the series, is simply a good game. Worth playing, if you like that kind of thing, but certainly not a great, classic game. In 3 to 4 years when reviewers come along to recount the greatest games of the preceding 15 years, it’s unlikely Modern Warfare 3 will be anywhere near the top of that list. Fair play to Activision and Infinity Ward for making good games, but you guys should reaching for universal acclaim. You can have your lengthy, intense, emotional, lasting appeal single player campaign AND your wildly successful online multiplayer without sacrificing what you’ve already built up. Seriously, from someone who doesn’t just play FPS games to “pwn some n00bs”, put more effort into it. I work at an independent game studio and we don’t just want to make good games that pay the rent. We want to make great games. You guys might want to take a page out of our leaf, or something to that effect.