Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Following a series of surprisingly thorough leaks, Activision has finally unveiled Modern Warfare 3, the follow-up to one of 2009’s best-selling games and the first release from Infinity Ward since its founding members left along with a huge chunk of the team. There’s very little doubt as to how well a new Call of Duty game is going to sell, but can it live up to the high expectations left by its predecessor despite all the drama surrounding its creation? My first look left this question frustratingly unanswered.
The first thing to note about Modern Warfare 3 is that Activision made the smart and possibly necessary decision that Infinity Ward could not handle the development alone. Instead, the remnants of the studio that created Call of Duty are teaming up with Sledgehammer Games, a new Activision studio started by Dead Space creator Glen Schofield. Sledgehammer was previously said to be working on a third-person Call of Duty title that is presumably on hold while it helps with Modern Warfare 3.
MW 3 picks up shortly following the end of the second game, with the world embroiled in an intense conflict. Once again, players globetrot across continents during the single-player campaign. Exotic locations such as the Himalayas were mentioned, but the focus is on larger scale urban warfare in cities such as New York and London, the two locations shown off during the first demo.
The Manhattan level, titled “Black Tuesday,” starts the player character in a crashed Humvee. As he comes to and climbs out, he looks up at the crumbling New York skyline. Debris from collapsing buildings falls dangerously close. A lone hot dog cart stands in the ruins, looking absurd with its colorful umbrella amidst the dust and wreckage, ready to be used as cover for an inevitable firefight. Infinity Ward enjoyed playing with the idea of fighting on recognizable home turf in Modern Warfare 2, and it’s running with that concept for this game as well.
Infinity Ward isn’t spilling many details on Modern Warfare 3’s plot, but the Russians still seem to be the key bad guys. In “Black Tuesday,” the player has to fight through a sea of enemies to get to Wall Street. He runs and guns alongside characters with names like Sandman and Grinch – the goofy kind of codenames that you’d expect your Call of Duty buddies to be burdened with.
If there’s anything remarkable about the actual gunplay in Modern Warfare 3, it’s that it’s pretty unremarkable. You follow your AI partners through a linear path that winds through busted city streets and into a skyscraper that a helicopter has crashed into. In each new area, players come upon a handful of enemies, aim down the ironsights, and take them out. Shooting looks to be as frantic and fun as it’s always been in the Call of Duty games, but nothing struck me as particularly new or exciting aside from the shrug-worthy ability to flip a scope on and off your gun at will.
Later in the level, you gain access to the Reaper drone, which allows you to attack rooftop enemies and helicopters from an aerial viewpoint. While the change of pace was nice and the explosions look great, even this segment has a very been-there-done-that feel, especially since it’s followed by an obligatory helicopter ride where you man the turret.
The London level, which begins on the city’s grimy docks, was similarly underwhelming until halfway through, when the player jumps into the back of a truck that then takes off down the subway tracks. Although gameplay-wise it’s just another on-rails section, the truck makes for a great set piece, flying past a subway platform full of screaming civilians and narrowly dodging out of the way of overturned subway cars until it finally flips over.
While the single-player portion left me a little cold, Infinity Ward is promising major innovation in Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer mode and a return of Spec Ops. The popular co-op mode was not shown in action, but it sounds like it will remain two-player and feature some new game modes.
It’s hard to critique Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer for sticking to the successful formula with Modern Warfare 3. On the other hand, I wonder if I would have been shown something more exciting and unique if the team responsible for making this series a hit hadn’t been so thoroughly disrupted last year. Luckily, they still have time to blow us away before the game comes out later this year.