Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 - Review

The "Call of Duty" franchise has established its reputation for being the "Coca Cola" of the video game industry ever since "Call of Duty 4"'s giant impact on the first-person shooter genre.
But with the series' tradition to release a new game every year, there always was less and less freshness and innovation to be found.
Immediately, the competition took this chance to throw "the king of shooters" off of his throne, trying to win over "Call of Duty's" massive fanbase, like "Battlefield 3" tried/tries this year.
Surprisingly enough, the "Call of Duty" franchise managed to keep its title every year, and on top of that, raising the grossing bar with every new release (the newest one being set by MW3).
With "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" (MW3), Sledgehammer Studios (Infinity Ward is co-developing) tries to complete the Modern Warfare trilogy, that left us on a cliffhanger in MW2.
Every year, "Call of Duty" gets a new chance to hold or increase its fanbase and influence on the industry. Does Sledgehammer Studios show us something new and exciting to fuel our passion for "Call of Duty" again?


MW3 picks up right where MW2 left off: The United States are under siege by Russian forces, ultranationalist Vladimir Makarov is on the loose, and the wounded Captain John “Soap” MacTavish and Captain John Price are on the run with the Russian informant known as Nikolai and a new ally called Yuri.
Together their global manhunt for Makarov continues as World War III puts the world in total chaos.
Exposing Makarov as the real traitor that he is, is the only way to stop the war... 

MW3 continues the series' tradition in telling the game's story through the perspectives of different soldiers. Unfortunately, the player is thrown into most of these perspectives without knowing anything about the soldier's motivations or involvment in the war (except that he is a soldier).
This makes splitting up MW3's narratives very easy: there's the story of "Soap" and Price, and the story of rather unimportant special forces soldiers. Other sidecharacters (whether important to the plot or not) are not well enough introduced to actually make you really care for them, but they do their job.

While both narratives/perspectives are equally as fun to play, it's much easier to follow Price's story than any other. The game's cutscenes in the style of a news broadcast (while loading) are tying the missions together but do a poor job in pacing and telling the story and happenings. It often feels rushed but it's nothing too tragic considering that MW3 story is extremely simple as a whole.

MW3 is by no means groundbreaking regarding its story. The story is basically at the same level of quality as MW2's (if not lower). There are only a few twists and turns on the way and they are nothing that keeps you on the edge of your seat. But to be fair, in a game whose main goal is catching Makarov and surviving Russian military attacks, there doesn't have to be any. "You just want to get that bastard and that's it, right?".
And although MW3 does its tagline "WW3" great justice by throwing you into complete and total mayhem throughout your entire experience, the final payoff is kind of a bittersweet experience: While the story of the Modern Warfare trilogy ends more or less pretty satisfying, there is a final event relevant to the grand scheme that is so out of nowhere and shoehorned in, that you will find yourself thinking: "....Wha..? Are you serious?....alright well whatever let's get Makarov". Again, considering how ludicrous and "michael bayish" the overall story is anyway (at least since MW2), it's no big deal. Yet, still you will probably be left wondering.

To be honest, i guess nobody expected MW3 to bring anything entirely new to the table in the story department. It's the missions and setpieces, which make the game stick out: frequently you are put in action driven missions with so much things blowing up, exploding or breaking down, that you can practically smell the "Uncharted"-setpieces right around the corner.
Personally i enjoyed MW3's missions far more than the ones from MW2, despite MW3's length of just about 5 hours.


The gameplay which once was the franchise's biggest strength slowly became its biggest weakness due to the fact that only so little has changed.
MW3 plays EXACTLY like the previous Modern Warfare games. Judging MW3's gameplay is pretty tough, considering that it practically lives by the rule "why fix what isn't broken?".
Other games like the "God of War" franchise haven't changed in the slightest considering the gameplay.
In the singleplayer experience the main changes are probably limited to the new weapons arsenal that you are given. The rest is the exact gameplay style that people are used to from the series.
The campaign's strength lies more in the mission's overall war atmosphere and depiction of cities.
Each city and battlefield in the game has a distinctive feel and atmosphere throughout the mission, somehow leading the game to a surprisingly big color palett. Admittedly, the mission objectives offer not that much variety and mostly consist out of "follow him", "kill this", but it's undeniably the best depiction of a chaotic war battlefield i have seen (yes even better than "Battlefield 3", at least in the campaign).
Every area that you're in seems to be in constant movement: Like in a true battle at the front lines, there rarely is a moment of silence.
Additionally, the game constantly throws some very exciting setpiece moments at you, which are all run by the game's engine in realtime rather than relying on cheap CG clips (and always at smooth 60fps).
Describing it as an extremely linear but at the same time fun and polished roller coaster ride seems to be the most fitting.
The only real downside for me is: you can't play the campaign cooperatively.

Like in MW2, Spec Ops are back. Giving you 16 new side missions, the Spec Ops will give you plenty of stuff to do after you finished the campaign. It's basically MW3's version of a co-op mode.
This time you are able to create an offline spec ops profile and upgrade your arsenal and abilites by gaining xp from playing the missions. Of course each mission can be played with a partner (on and offline).

The most important addition to the Spec Ops is the "Survival Mode" which can also be played with a partner.
It's basically MW3's take on the commonly known Horde mode:
With a partner (or alone) you are set against waves and waves after enemies, while simultaneously being able to stock up on ammo, guns, etc. via earning money with each kill. It's a great new addition which i was waiting for since MW2.
And now finally we got it. From now on, the Survival Mode should be included in every Modern Warfare game.
Of course survival mode can also be played on and offline.


Most of the real gameplay changes have been made in the multiplayer - the heart of each CoD-game.

Although MW3's multiplayer did get some changes and additions, it's still basically the same multplayer-structure that we know in love from MW2, with the leveling system, perks, killstreaks...

Let's look at the changes: Avoiding to lose its loyal fanbase but also keeping things fresh, Sledgehammer Games kept most of the original structure in tact. Just like with every other new CoD-game, the studio's main goal was to make the game more balanced.
This time, those changes mainly come in form of, introducing Strike-packages which are mainly killstreak packages that can be choosen from 3 different groups that alter how your killstreaks work.
With this change the player is given more freedom in choosing in what role he wants to play during the battle considering the package he chooses (there is: assault, support, specialist). It's not a very big but welcome change, next to new weapons and killstreaks.
Another change is the game's take on improving gun balance: Now each gun has it's own weapon level which has to be upgraded by frequent use. With each level, attachments, kicks, and other gun specific additions can be unlocked. This makes choosing and sticking to a specific gun more forced but at the same time, most players have a "favorite gun" anyway.

Perks have only been slightly changed or renamed but basically work the same way that we are already used to from MW2.

However, despite all the additions and slight changes, i was missing the great customisation ability from "Black Ops" that made each player feel so much more unique. Weapon customisation in MW3 has been improved upon MW2 but still is a big step under the creative freedom that "Black Ops" offered.

Sledgehammer's biggest achievement probably goes to the design of new gamemodes. With about 20 modes and even additional custom game modes that you can create in the online "vault", the possibilities are almost endless.
The new additions, with the game mode "Kill Confirmed" in particular, are pretty inventive and radically change your approach and HOW you play the game. Whereas you play like a daring deathmachine in "Free for All" you have to be more strategic when playing "Kill Confirmed", in which enemy players can lure you into traps.
Of course all of the classic game modes like "Sabotage", "Capture the Flag", etc. are also present.

Also the multiplayer features 16 maps from larger to smaller ones, which are more or less based on levels from the campaign but at the same time feel like a totally different place, giving players plenty of variety.

Also, just like "Battlefield 3"'s Battlelog system, MW3 introduces the "Call of Duty Elite" feature, which is an online community platform that lets you compare statistics, profeciencies, map layouts, etc..
While undoubtedly being a nice addition, the trend of including such platforms to the multiplayer of shooters has to catch on. As for now, probably most players won't use those platforms that much, as for playing the actual game is always much more fun than comparing statistics and numbers. It may be a feature whose time is about to come but it also could be just an unnecessary addition. Only time will tell. But it's definitely nice to have.


One of the biggest issues i had with the "Call of Duty" franchise was that it seemed to have come to a complete halt. Since "Call of Duty 4" the graphics engine of each game seems to be the same with only some small additions. MW3 undoubtedly at first looks exactly like MW2...and for the most part that's true. It runs on basically the same engine with only a few graphical refinements to make larger scale battles possible.
MW3 is without question a great looking game. At various missions you are given chances to gaze at setpieces or skylines featuring jets, explosions, etc.. The scale of the battle in addition to it running constantly at super-smooth 60fps is pure eyecandy. It's funny how a game with a more dated engine is more capable of showing us large exciting battlefields than the actual game "Battlefield 3" (i am not taking sides, just saying).
But to be fair, MW3 still looks pretty dated in comparison to the incredibly impressive graphical achievements that have been made this year by games like "Crysis 2", "Uncharted 3" or "Battlefield 3 ON PC". It's the best looking CoD-game out there and most notably the one with the most impressive and largest scale but graphically the series has to improve by a big step to keep up with the competition in the near future.


Gun sounds have a much bigger punch to them than in the previous Modern Warfare titles but still feel a little dated and shallow compared to the magnifiscient sound design of "Battlefield 3". Although the explosions are very good and provide a lot of nice bass.
The voice acting is pretty good throughout the entire experience, the same goes for the soundtrack which seems to have learned a lesson or two from "Black Ops" by signficantly including more guitar riffs. Still the score provides a nice epic feel during the battles.

The Verdict

Overall, though MW3 has incredibly high production values and does bring some nice new additions and changes, those are far not as many or significant enough to the franchise as needed.
The campaign fully relies on its theme of putting you into World War III and for that i have to give the game credit. The fictional WW3 atmosphere of the battlefields is astonishing. MW3 is a non-stop action-,explosion- roller coaster thrill ride full of great setpiece moments, fun missions and scenarios despite running on a slightly dated graphics engine. And although it offers a forced but satisfying conclusion to the Modern Warfare storyline, it's likely to please fans remotely interested in the story.
The main changes and additions to the series in this game are mainly concentrated on the multiplayer and the Spec Ops. Those, can be summed up as the new and satisfying "Survival Mode" and some small changes concidering the customization of classes during the game for a more balanced gameplay.

If you expected MW3 to give you something completely new, it will be a total disappointment. Despite some minor changes, it seems like the game has entirely devoted itself to its loyal fanbase (which is f***in big regarding the game's financial success).
As much fun as i had playing the campaign, the spec ops, and especially the extremely addictive multiplayer, i can only suggest MW3 to fans of the franchise or people that just want more of what they love from CoD. In the end, it again comes down to a question of personal taste. And i personally liked MW3 (maybe even because my expectations weren't very high to begin with).
Through the eyes of a non-fan, MW3 is just more of the same and isn't even that much different from MW2.
But for every fan of the franchise, "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" is the best version of a CoD-Modern-Warfare game yet, and will give fans exactly what they want, for a whole year.....till the next "Call of Duty".

Final Verdict: 8 out of 10

Status: Only for Fans


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