World War 3
Call of Duty has proven itself to be the most popular gaming franchise in the world over the last few years and Modern Warfare 3 sets out to retain that title by delivering a globe-trotting war of epic proportions. Set immediately after the events of its predecessor, the game presents a fiction in which the Russian Federation is in the middle of an invasion of the United States and has expanded its offensive to Europe, including England, France and Germany.
While trying to stay alive through a breathless but relatively brief single player campaign, a primary goal will be to hunt down Russian Ultranationalist Vladimir Makarov, the series' primary antagonist and engineer of this global conflict. Your journey will switch between different perspectives of the war, as you step into Delta Squad's boots in an attempt to drive the Russians out of New York, take the rocket controls of an AC-130 gunship above Paris and don the night vision goggles of SAS troops storming the London Underground, to name just a few scenarios.
Modern Warfare 3 is constantly mixing things up, whether it's your location or your character and role in proceedings. There's a brilliant Parisian car chase, a tense infiltration mission in lightning-lit Prague, a gunfight inside a crashing airliner, a submarine shootout and a chopper battle around New York skyscrapers. You'll often be thrown to and fro between traditional on foot combat sections and out of body experiences which see you commanding remote turrets, predator drones or RPG-firing unmanned ground vehicles.
The gunplay is familiar and solid feeling, the audio has been improved since last year, and the heart-pounding action is delivered in a silky-smooth 60 frames per second, making for seamless transitions between regular 'wow ' moments. Some of the environments feature a few blurry textures and jagged edges that betray the game engine's age, particularly when compared side by side with recently released Call of Duty competitor Battlefield 3, but it still offers a fairly stunning spectacle throughout.
While its single player campaign isn't the longest at about eight hours in length, Modern Warfare 3's multiplayer modes will provide year-round entertainment. Multiple game types, from series regulars like Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Domination to new modes such as Kill Confirmed and Team Defender, are playable on 16 maps set across locations inspired by the campaign, from the café-laden streets of Paris to African shanty towns.
Kill Confirmed sees you earn points by grabbing dog tags left on the ground by downed enemies, or denying the opposition points by rescuing tags from your fallen allies before they're captured, while Team Defender challenges teams to capture and hold a mobile flag, with the group in possession of it awarded double points for enemy kills. Players can even create their own game types by modifying just about every aspect of the existing templates.
At the heart of the experience is an accessible progression system which grants players access to increasingly devastating abilities and equipment for completing objectives. These include earning consecutive kills, or more team-focused actions like bomb disposal and objective capture. Few games can match the sense of development and reward Call of Duty dishes out on a regular basis.
Elsewhere, the game's Special Ops mode is split into two parts, Survival and Challenge. Modern Warfare 3's answer to Gears of War's Horde mode or Call of Duty: Black Ops' Zombies one, Survival tasks you and a friend with defending the map against increasingly tough waves of enemies. Kills are your currency, earning you access to increasingly powerful weaponry and defensive equipment.
Meanwhile, the best of the 16 Challenge missions demand co-op play. Often designed to fill in gaps from the story and played from the perspective of the campaign's bad guys, they challenge players to complete timed objectives, from hijacking a presidential plane to protecting a helpless bomb-defusing colleague from a vantage point using a sniper rifle.
Accessible, highly polished and perhaps best described as the gaming equivalent of a Michael Bay Hollywood blockbuster, Modern Warfare 3 has 'massive hit' written all of over it. Like its two Call of Duty predecessors, it's set to be the biggest game of the year in terms of sales, player numbers and probably a whole host of other metrics - and not without good reason.
While it has some cool new features, it does a great job of seamlessly integrating them so as not to upset a winning formula. Modern Warfare 3 doesn't represent a revolution in the first person shooter genre, but it's a great evolution of a tried and tested recipe that tens of millions of gamers know, love, buy and sink endless hours into each year.
+ Solid campaign and brilliant multiplayer modes.
+ Few games pull off blockbuster set pieces so well.
+ Enough content to last until next year's Call of Duty.
- Evolution rather than a revolution.
- The campaign is relatively short.
- Four player Spec Ops modes would be welcome.