I’m not too keen on the idea of really shooting another man in the head with an AK-47 in the horrific heat of war, but isn’t it a wonder how our fantasies take us to some pretty heavy territory? I have a terrific time being a soldier in a world war in Modern Warfare 3. Some people hate the idea of a game like this, and I kind of understand where they’re coming from. But I’m not here to debate the rights and wrongs of war in our videogames—I’m here to proclaim Modern Warfare 3 the most intense, the most convincing first-person shooter I’ve ever played.
The word “convincing” may be a bit touchy. There’s no simulation that will ever be real; there will never be a substitute for what it’s really like to be in the horrific heat of war. I feel lame for even broaching the conversation, but there are a few moments in Modern Warfare 3 that, at the very least, left me thinking about the drama and impact of a battle. Good art makes you feel something, makes you ponder—I think there are a few artful moments in Modern Warfare 3, even in its loudest, most obnoxious cacophonies. Even when it falls flat on its face.
In its most spectacular form, Modern Warfare 3 creates awesome scenes of chaos and destruction that left me screaming “holy f***” in a combination of utter surprise and excitement. When the faceless, towering building in Berlin came crashing down around me, I felt something awfully new and tactile for a videogame thrillride. There’s another back-of-the-box word for you—thrillride. It really does encapsulate the Modern Warfare 3 experience.
You know what you’re getting into if you’ve played Modern Warfare 2. It really is more of the same, but the set pieces are new, the presentation’s handled more skillfully, and there’s enough new detail to the world creation that I never once felt like I was getting short-changed. In fact, I was spectacularly entertained pretty much every step of the way.
There’s a story in here, swirling behind the manic action, about Russians and rogue villains that could stand as sort of a Cold War allegory for the modern age. I don’t remember much of the twists and turns, but there’s something to be said about the fact that I didn’t cringe during the breathless dialogue exchanges that drop vague references to nationalism and heroics. Film director and writer Paul Haggis, who penned Crash and Quantum of Solace, is credited with help on the story; you never know just how much value and commitment comes from the big names that put their touch on a final game story, but it’s emblematic of a larger question: How were the larger cinematic beats crafted for Modern Warfare 3?
Some people won’t just hate Modern Warfare 3 for its war—a terrorist “let’s one-up ‘No Russian’” sequence will get plenty of people hopping mad—but those pure, impassioned voices who rail against games that you watch for their thrills won’t be short on vitriol, either. And I take special note of the cinematic moments, because they really are at a level of craft and vivid imagination that we don’t get in most titles—and they make lesser games seem kind of silly in comparison. Modern Warfare 3 does a bang-up job of keenly transitioning gameplay to observation, even when it resorts to having you just attack a button prompt when some wildly entertaining sequence unfolds around you.
The shootouts are often scripted, sure, but that’s Modern Warfare’s brand of engagement, and everyone’s scrambling to match its architecturally masterful level design and tremendous aesthetic setup. That march into the financial district of New York, on top of a Stock Exchange floor—and after pushing through a surfaced nuclear sub—is simply awesome.
This game just works for me, on too many levels, as someone who, honestly, really could do without the theme and is tired of so much of what the game represents. I’m tiring of bullet-sponge mechanical devices; Modern Warfare 3 goes the complete opposite, feeling so damn satisfying with its emphasis on quick kills and exceptionally powerful ordnance that does damage across a glorious 60-frames-per-second setting. I love the set pieces—slinking through the canal leading up to a Czech castle, piercing the darkness of a prison ward, marching through a sandstorm and the disorientation it brings.
Really, what were you expecting from this game? I guess I was expecting to be tired of more Call of Duty, especially after the exodus of so much Infinity Ward talent, but I got some of the best gaming entertainment this year. When you factor in the multiplayer components and the Elite connection, the conversation obviously goes in a different direction. I’m no monumental expert and don’t live online; I had a great conversation with a fellow player named Skrewattack—who was utterly kicking my ass in team deathmatch—who gleefully explained the nuances of the guns, the perk additions that rearranged some key points, and who seemed as obnoxiously and lovingly loud and entertained as I was playing hours at a time across the many modes. The addition of Kill Confirmed, where you have to grab a medal from your victim to seal the deal, will be getting me locked into hours of play as the game goes live and is filled with gamers from around the world. I’ll be playing Modern Warfare 3 again, for certain, after I write this review—and I don’t think I can say that about any other game I’ve played this year.
SUMMARY: Modern Warfare 3 creates awesome scenes of chaos and destruction that left me screaming “holy f***” in a combination of utter surprise and excitement.
- THE GOOD: Awesome presentation
- THE BAD: Could do without the modern warfare
- THE UGLY: That knifing to the neck
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, and PC. Primary version reviewed was on the Xbox 360.