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The Call of Duty series is a hot franchise in gaming, ever since its start in 2003 the series has been mainly World War II focused, but really hit the big time when the Modern Warfare took the stellar gameplay and brought it to the modern day. Modern Warfare 3 comes after the departure of almost half of Infinity Ward's staff, including its founders Jason West and Vince Zampella. How does Modern Warfare 3 fare in such a venerable series with legions of fans? The answer: Somewhat well.Modern Warfare 3 doesn't change much from Modern Warfare 2 in terms of gameplay, and lacks some of the improvements the Treyarch created Black Ops 2 brought to the table, making it feel more like a pricey expansion then a full on sequel rife with additions and changes to the formula. It's hard to blame Activision for playing it safe with a series that does so well in the sales department (with both previous titles breaking records for incredibly fast, incredibly high sales), but it's a shame they don't even take any gameplay improvements from the previous Call of Duty title, making it feel like a step back, albeit an incredibly fun and polished step back that is still about as fun as its predecessors, if not much different.The campaign is the usual rut of shooting enemies, taking cover to heal, then progressing with set pieces strewn throughout. The set pieces tend to use the usual turret sequences and easily survivable chopper crashes as in previous titles and other similar games, but also add on some great reveals and segments that use the near future setting and franchise characters to great effect, though more often than not they feel linear and nearly impossible to fail so as to not ruin the spectacle. The levels themselves sometimes open up a bit, but you only do things on the game's term, never moving forward without a prompt and only taking point when the level is carefully closed off to prevent wandering.The story is the usual mess of events that seem to happen without reason and plot holes, though it is easier to follow then Modern Warfare 2, it doesn't reach the heights of Black Ops and feels more predictable, though as mentioned it does leverage the characters to good effect with a few twists that are pretty clever at the moment, even if they don't make sense when you think about it. One big flaw is the inclusion of a "shock" moment that feels forced, as if the several previous titles having one means that they had to add one here, and not to spoil anything but it feels like something out of a different game and doesn't add to the story, simply existing for the sake of existing.The Special Ops mode is easily my favorite part of the game, allowing two player online or splitscreen co-op as well as solo play through a series of one off missions and survival modes on various maps. The survival modes are like a mix of Treyarch's bot training and zombies, but with a two player limit and a more careful crafting and pacing to it. It's very fun, but it falls into a rut faster than the zombies mode (with the maps simply being reused multiplayer maps) and the two player limit seems like it could easily have been bumped up to 4 players. The ranking and unlock system here is used to great effect, while the scoreboard is a great way to keep players playing.The missions are the best aspect of Spec Ops, giving you levels similar to the ones from single player, but without any overarching narrative limiting the possibilities. As such in one mission you'll be in control of an airplane hijacker working for Makarov, while in another you'll use a Juggernaut suit to defuse bombs. Some of these missions require two players due to offering one player as an AC-130 operator or giving them control of the cameras in a complex, and all are scored, giving incentive to return to either switch parts or tactics, or to try and beat a previous score.The multiplayer is probably the least impressive or changed part of the package; even though it's the mode most players will be buying it for and will be playing throughout the year. Created with help by Sledgehammer games to give Infinity Ward more room to breathe in the midst of its mass exodus, it offers a bevy of modes, weapons and upgrades that keep the game addicting and vastly improve on the upgrade and unlock system of before, but the gameplay itself is unbalanced, with maps that feel too small and closed in and no big changes in modes (though Kill Confirmed is a fun and popular addition, it's basically a new variant of Team Deathmatch). The hit detection is also finicky, with a shotgun blast from 15 feet away killing an uninjured opponent, but a blast from 3 feet away straight to the chest occasionally failing to kill. Some of the additions just seem to add credence to the possibility that they didn't care to balance the game, with deathstreaks offering an annoying edge to those that don't do well, and a new Support Killstreak that should simply offer a small edge, but offers giant bonuses like a stealth bomber that you can receive with enough points no matter how many times you have died (though I will applaud the change from killstreaks to pointstreaks, as it encourages teamwork much more than previous titles).Overall, the game is a fantastic and addicting package that works well in spite of the vast team changes, taking the best from before, tweaking it and giving us a nice fun game. It won't change anybody's mind if they hate Call of Duty, and if you are getting fatigued by the franchise or by military shooters in general it won't respark your interest, but if you can't get enough of Call of Duty, are a fan of shooters, or just really want to get into what this whole "Call of Duty" thing is about, it's a fun game that fans will enjoy. I would shy away from the PC version (as the community is smaller, it lacks splitscreen functionality and hackers are more prevalent), but it's still a fun game regardless of where you play it.
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