Review: Modern Warfare 3 campaign features spectacular action sequences, but linear gameplay

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After two years since my last Modern Warfare game, I was so excited that when I started the campaign up, I immediately began blindly charging the enemy and yelling, “Call of Duty!” I was gunned down almost immediately.

I played through on the Hardened difficulty setting and I quickly learned that after years of playing this series, I could predict where I was supposed to go and what I was supposed to be doing. The campaign is incredibly linear and I easily took advantage of my previous experiences to recognize where I was safe and where I wasn’t.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a little obvious if you look for it. Keeping the game in a linear progression allows for control in how the player sees the game. This means that when something spectacular happens (and it frequently does), you see it, because Infinity Ward set it up that way. Frequently, I would find myself watching a scene around me and suddenly feel like I was unimportant and I was safe, regardless of my actions. These moments include seeing an osprey crash, charging onto a beach or following tanks into a warzone. If you are playing and you feel this impulse, ignore it. You are not safe. You will still die very easily if you take one wrong step. The game feels scripted and linear, but your actions and what you do with the little freedom you are given is the difference between life and death.

The overall mechanics of the game haven’t advanced at all in years. This could be a good or a bad thing again, depending on how you feel about it. There are lots of bad guys. You have lots of guns and bullets. You spend lots of time using the left trigger and right trigger, hiding behind cover and waiting for the blood to run off your face. It can seem a little stale at times, but if you liked the core of the gameplay, then that is exactly what you’ll get.

The one game mechanic I find very stale and needs some work is the AI teammates. I kept having issues when I would follow my teammates out into a firefight, only to be gunned down after taking a few steps. These two factors are my main beefs: the linear aspect of the game and the unkillable AI teammates. My allies can run into a bulletstorm and then casually stumble behind cover and return fire, but I can’t. Sure, I know from my previous CoD experiences where I’m supposed to be going when this happens, but my teammates become kind of misleading. They are nowhere behind cover or in a safe position and when I’m with them, I use them for cover. I also get frustrated when an enemy behind me shoots me from an area where my allies had just been. Sometimes they do some work, but frequently they only do that work when you move forward and they come with you.

From a story standpoint, we arrive at the finale of the three games. World War III has broken out, Russia is invading the rest of the world and since this is a global conflict, there are plenty of places to be in gunfights. Fighting through New York, London, Paris, Prague, Berlin and Hamburg was one way to keep the scene diverse and interesting. MW3 opens by introducing you to Frost, a Delta operator trying to push the Russian presence out of New York. As Frost, you shoot your way through the stock exchange and then link up with some SEALs to “commandeer” a Russian submarine. Your wet work quickly puts an end to the Russian advance on the United States and you are unfortunately done fighting in North America. I was a little disappointed with this since I’ve been looking forward to fighting the Russians in my backyard since 2009. I know it’s supposed to be a global conflict, but with such a short campaign and my excitement of re-enacting Red Dawn, I was a little disappointed when I was shipped out to Europe.

When we finally get back in touch with Soap and Price, they are just arriving at a safehouse following the events from MW2. Soap is badly injured and unfortunately, Makarov followed them home. I became extremely interested in the new playable character Yuri, a former Spetsnaz, because I’ve really wanted to have a Spetsnaz good guy for a while now. Yuri quickly becomes a much more interesting character than Frost, since he hangs out with Price and Soap who have a long history. I was much more interested in their missions, because I felt more in tune with the established characters.

If you played the campaigns from the last two MW games, then you’ll really enjoy all the references to things that have happened in the past. MacMillan makes a return, Yuri has an excellent backstory that intertwines with the past two games and a certain Colt 1911 shows up again. There were some loose ends that were never tied up for me from the previous game, though. I wanted to hear what happened to the Rangers who were fighting in Washington D.C. at some point and why they had to find that bunker. I was also a little confused about why New York looked like it had never been hit by the EMP that Price set off, but there was no mention of that at all.

Even with the few flaws the game has, this is the FPS of the year. IW has been doing this for a while and though I have a few gripes, they sound like whining when I try to explain them. For instance, my earlier remark about wanting to fight more in the States. I actually did a lot of cool stuff in America, but the campaign was too short and could have used a few more missions to flesh it out. I wanted more and that’s my impression of the game. I just want more. So, in a way I’m glad there is competitive multiplayer, Spec Ops and Veteran. And Survival mode. And DLC.

The Good: More explosions than Michael Bay could imagine!

The Bad: Linear gameplay and AI teammates feel dated.

The Ugly: Being mauled by a hyena.

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