The lights are on
It's kind of hard for people not to be bummed out when their predictions are true. Not that this is a terrible game, though. Modern Warfare 3 in fact is another solid offering from IW; however, aside from its Multiplayer and Spec Ops, which are clearly the shining light of this entry, the game fails to offer the riveting narrative we once expected of it, instead adding more convoluted plot twists and scenarios in the name of thrilling action and suspense. Overall, it's a formula that isn't broken, but it's also one that also has begun to lose its luster.
So, let's dive into the campaign, and avoid if you don't like spoilers. I would like to say IW provided lot's of variety in this continent-hopping experience, which picks up just a short while after the events of Modern Warfare 2. However, some of the situations players will find themselves in have become pretty much standard fare action with virtually no interest in true narrative development. Unfortunately, this series has turned to outright confusing players with a story that might as well have been directed by Michael Bay, due to the meticulous attention it pays to explosions than coherency.
The first big question I had came a while after Soap's rescue mission. Given his current condition, - the game provides highlights from the climax of the final showdown with Shepard- it seems impossible for him to suddenly be able to return to combat so quickly, unless the regenerating health system also works on NPC's. Little backstory is given on the overall ties between the places you visit later on aside from either being another chase mission looking for Makarov and/or one of his cohorts, or a mission that's peripherally related to the story and serves to give a perspective other than that of Price's team.
The game builds intensity later on with more cleverly designed departures from the usual linearity of the campaign, such as a mission in Somalia where players are engulfed in a vivid all-consuming sandstorm after extracting information from a key target. There's also a modestly satisfying stealth mission- although it's no "All ghillied up", and there's more than enough segments involving some high-powered mayhem, such as an adrenaline-fueled runaway subway chase that has you taking potshots at terrorists in London. These moments, while not frequent, are a refreshing change-of-pace from the wealth of overused action conventions in the game that coddle players.
A scene that seems like an apology letter for "No Russian" has you defending the Russian leader on a plane during a hi-jack scene that vaguely recalls the bonus spec ops mission in the first Modern Warfare. A lot of missions in fact, feel similar, with just a few changes to give them new purpose. Aside, this stage's relative pointlessness - aside from being an interactive element of the story with an equally confusing premise later on- sticks out like a sore thumb and could simply have been another cutscene or omitted altogether. Yet, this level is nowhere near as ridiculous as a scene you'll run into involving a terrorist attack on civilians that seems more like an awkward jab at reality television than a plot development packing serious emotional weight.
Yuri, the character you'll spend a considerable amount of time playing, has a backstory that will add some meager flesh to his motives and finally give players a sense of actual involvement in the narrative beyond that of a nameless extra. However, players will still find the relatively brisk campaign to be unsatisfying in comparison to its predecessors and the price - no pun intended- that comes with your sacrifices will ring hollow due to how contrived they seem. The game does give you an excellent conclusion in spite of this, and Modern Warfare 3's Spec Ops and Multiplayer more than make up for anything else you crave.
Multiplayer is one of Modern Warfare 3's greatest triumphs. Not only is there a lot more balancing in the system, but the new strike packages are tailor-made to suit varying playing styles and encourage players to master them and compensate for their weaknesses. I'm normally not big on competitive aspects of games, but Modern Warfare 3 makes it fun again with new improvements that make accomplishments like achieving objectives or prestiging have a value that's more than cosmetic. My favorite spot however, when I wasn't collecting tags in Kill Confirmed, was in the Spec Ops mode.
Mixing in various missions and even introducing the COD equivalent of Horde mode, Spec Ops is the icing on the cake for me. In Survival Mode, there's even a nice system that allows you to purchase weapons, etc. at various kiosks located in the maps. The inclusion of a leveling system that scales difficulty also makes this a welcome destination, although it doesn't support up to four players and is the only blemish on an otherwise perfect addition to a stellar game. Yet, nothing compares to taking out waves of enemies, attack choppers, and suicide bombers and dogs. Or, in another mode, getting the chance to become that most hated of adversaries, the Juggernaut.
Ultimately, Modern Warfare 3 is a strong offering, but the genre is changing and players will soon crave an experience that extends beyond scripted and dated blockbuster special effects. There were plenty of moments where I thought of other games that had skillfully added some variety and challenge to otherwise mundane scenarios to give the player a true sense of involvement and responsibility, not to forget skillfully crafted stories and characters who we cared about for more than simple continuity reasons. While I enjoyed this game, its campaign was certainly the lowest point of the experience, and I sometimes felt like the game was dragging me though each level due to how parochially they were designed. I can understand a "focused" experience, but players miss a lot, and in this case, it's beginning to show.
Regardless of individual opinions however, Modern Warfare 3 is an entry worth checking out. It's also a sign of a franchise that needs a more obvious change and an approach that goes beyond conventional wisdom. The adage "If it aint broke, don't fix it," is only useful for those content to remain in mediocrity. Let's see if the next year's entry will break this chain.
Excellent review. Can u give more details about the Special Ops? Just started playing it; it makes no sense to me after playing the campaign level. Can anyone shed any light on this?