Life possesses a requisite inevitability. Death. Taxes. Stains on white tablecloths. Your cat will knock over the most expensive vase in the room, you will have a flat tire in the rain, and the one time you run a stop sign in the middle of the desert in the middle of the night it will be in front of a cop who will write you a ticket with the maximum fine.
Call of Duty will sell millions and millions of units, and it will be played hundreds of thousands of millions of hours by frat-boys and ten-year-old children, and man-children, and maybe, just maybe, by me.
The siren call of hours of Pavlovian RPG-leveling-satisfaction will not be denied, and the promise of a satisfactory resolution to one of the most muddled and confusing narratives in recent history almost sells itself, but is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 really worth it?
In a word: Maybe.
First and foremost: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3‘s campaign:
You can be mad, that was vague. Then again, so is MW3. One would be hard-pressed to find a well-informed industry personage who would hang the laurels of genius on the script-writer/supervisor for the Call of Duty franchise. Striking, brutal, impressive (in the literal sense), visceral, and awesome (again, in the literal sense) – these are appropriate descriptions for their campaigns. But not engaging, driving, immersive, charming, or perfect. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 suffers from a few ills, and most of those stem from what feels very much like a lack of attention to detail.
For all the hype, the pretense, and the anticipation, the campaign in this title is a disappointment. Not just from a narrative standpoint (as very few of us were expecting Hemingway and gracious sakes did we not get it) but also – and this makes me pause even now in abject surprise – from a graphical standpoint. The engine is old, certainly, and I did not expect cutting edge, but the visuals in the campaign are inferior to both Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2, let alone its Year-To-Date competition (I’m looking at you, Battlefield, and even more at you, Rage).
While the title is at times graphically acceptable, it never rises above the curve, and often possesses something I never thought I would see in a Call of Duty title: bland textures and boring level design.
The title almost exclusively recycles a number of the successful design concepts and sequences of its predecessors. As a rule of thumb, this isn’t a bad procedure, but MW3 takes this to a new low. The infinite enemy spawn gates, the breach sequences, the spectacular and yet unfortunately blatantly telegraphed ‘holy-s***’ moments are lifted almost wholly from previous titles, sans impact and what feels like without the soul of the previous titles. Heretofore I have voiced the opinion that Infinity Ward (R.I.P.) should handle the multiplayer suite, and Treyarch should handle the narrative sequences, and MW3 does little to fight that feeling.
The truly startling thing is that on occasion the title rises far above this graphical and narrative torpor, delivering flashes of gorgeous environments or a phenomenal action sequence, and reminds you how good these games can be – then drops you back into a swamp of poor texture work, obviously visible level geometry, poor particle effects and recycled action between recycled characters using recycled voice-overs.
There was something very noble and driving about the first Call of Duty. It was novel. It told the story of a Band of Brothers, in stark opposition to the FILO Rambo-figures of past FPS narratives. You felt a kinship with these soldiers whose names popped up on the screen when cross-hairs passed over them. They spoke to you, responded to your actions, actually participated in the firefights, and had personality.
That’s something Call of Duty has always driven home, and while MW3 isn’t any different in this regard, it isn’t different at all. Not even a little bit. Remember Ghost/Gaz? Same voice-over artist, same functionality as a plot device, but minutely different balaclava? Well, in this game his name is Sgt. Wallcroft, and his balaclava doesn’t have a skull on it.
At least I don’t think it does, but as he wears a gas-mask the entire campaign, no one can really say for certain.
At first I found it a touch difficult to really clarify why the campaign was so disappointing in comparison to the previous two, so I replayed the moments of genuine brilliance in its predecessors – Modern Warfare’s All Ghillied Up, the Nuke sequence, the showdown finale on the shattered bridge. Do you remember you realized what Whiskey Hotel was? The execution sequence that kicked the title off? The slightly disgusted feeling in the pit of your stomach when mowing down the innocents in No Russian? I do.
That, in short, is why the campaign in this title feels like a failure – not because it is awful, but because it is almost completely derivative and safe, and therefore sadly inferior to its predecessors.
SPECIAL NOTE – OFFENSIVE CONTENT WARNING; SPOILER ALERT:
This title features a squence that prompted Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer to again place a gate on offensive content. This sequence is every bit as conceptually disturbing as the last, but in a very different way. Unlike MW2′s sequence, the player isn’t in control, but is rather a close observer of a chemical attack on London, and witnesses the death of a small child and mother through the eyes of a father recording a family vacation. While the sequence isn’t horribly mangled in presentation, the animation and voice-work is somehow lifeless, and coupled with the blatantly-telegraphed intent and direction of the set-piece it loses all possible poignancy and becomes totally unnecessary.
END SPOILER ALERT
I do not wish to beat dead horses, so I won’t. I do not wish to spoil the spare plot, so I won’t. The campaign of MW3 is woefully disappointing, ugly, bland, and in comparison to its competitors, almost a joke of a side-note with two moments of brilliance that almost serve to justify its presence in the title.
Thank good god that’s all it needed to be. I am fully aware I’m one of the few that’s disappointed in the single-player. I am fully aware I’m one of the frighteningly small percentage that will bother to actually beat the single player.
The good news is, if you’re not that guy, you’re in luck.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is an unquestionable and undeniable tour-de-force as a multiplayer platform, and while past titles have suffered from a number of ills – balance issues, poor map design, and others – MW3 is the best, most balanced, and deepest multiplayer suite in the franchise to date.
The overall premise is the same: fast, liquid gun-play with RPG-like-leveling of your classes, perks, and guns. Whether you sit down for 5 minutes or 5 hours, you will make progress in leveling some aspect of your kit, making the already-addictive multiplayer almost impossible to quit. I find myself far more attached to this iteration than previous titles, and I blame that entirely on the increased depth and variety of customization.
In a detailed sense, each class has a number of customization options, from Primary and Secondary Weapons (each with their own innate leveling and customization unlock system) to Perks (traits that modify how your individual character behaves under certain circumstances) to Equipment (From Grenades and Claymores to more exotic options like jammers and spawn beacons) and all of this customization yields hundreds of different options for any of the twenty-plus game-modes, and will undoubtedly lead to hours of frustrated girlfriends and missed classes and bleary eyes and irate mothers and . . .
Well, slightly-late posts.
To sum and wrap and synopsize and clarify and recap, it’s likely that if you’re reading this to decide whether or not to buy this game, you shouldn’t. If you’re the target audience. you’re already armpit-deep in it. Either get back to Skyrim, or get back to Prestiging.