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Game of the Year 2011: #17 – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Read our original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 review
Keep track of our Game of the Year 2011 Countdown

Even if you haven’t played it yet, I suspect you already know whether or not you’re going to enjoy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. You’ve almost certainly played one of the post-Modern Warfare Call of Duty games, so you know what they’re like, and if you haven’t then I’d assume it’s because you’ve got no interest.
Like football (and no, I’m not going to say “soccer”) Modern Warfare 3 is a game of two halves – single-player and multiplayer – but these halves are drastically different. Let’s look at the single-player first.
It’s a rollercoaster, frankly. You strap yourself in and then it takes you on a ride, with highs and lows and fast bits and faster bits, with a view to keeping you occupied and making you shriek at the sheer spectacle of the thing. MW3 is heavily scripted and is pretty much one step removed from a rail-shooter, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Indeed, it’s hard to complain when it’s done quite as well as this. The game flows like silk at a constant 60fps, the shooting is exceptional with each gun possessing a very definite feeling of weight and power, and the majority of the many, many set pieces are so well-polished they glow. It’s gaming’s own equivalent of a summer blockbuster with men (who’re so manly I assume their testosterone levels would make their heads explode, in real life) shooting other manly men, saying manly things, diving out of explosions in the nick of time, and saving the world. And again, when it’s done quite as well as this, it’s frequently exhilarating.
Props also go to Infinity Ward for having the balls to finally close off the Modern Warfare saga, tying up all the loose ends from previous games. There’s no cliffhanger ending here and no unresolved plot points. This is the closing act of the trilogy, and – with the game largely taking place in war-torn major cities from around the globe, with all manner of landmarks exploding around you – all the stops have been pulled out.
But then, considering the sales counts of previous Modern Warfare titles, I’d wager you know most of this already. As I wrote above, you’ll already know whether or not this is your cup of tea. It’s heavily-scripted and offers you no choice whatsoever, but the basic mechanics are superb. It’s just a question of whether you like heavily-scripted shooters.

For many, though, the single-player is nothing but a tasty side-dish to the equally well-polished multiplayer. Again, it’s entirely familiar: a ludicrous number of different game modes cater to different tastes and as you play you level up a persistent profile, constantly unlocking new weapons, attachments, and killstreaks.
It’s very similar to how it used to be, but that’s not to say there haven’t been any tweaks. There’s a whole swathe of decent new maps, obviously, with a few standing out as truly excellent arenas of death. To my mind MW3 also seems better balanced than its predecessors, and caters a little better to those with a… shall we say “lower level of skill”?
One of the biggest changes is to killstreaks, with each player picking one of three Strike Packages that change which killstreaks you get and how you get them; experts can take Specialist and unlock more perks as they rack up the kills, while the headshot-challenged can take Support and unlock killstreaks even if they die constantly.

The killstreaks themselves feel a bit less overwhelming, with far fewer occasions on which you’ll be mullered by airstrike after airstrike as the opposing team racks up the kills, and the changes to perks and weapons make the game in general feel a bit less hopeless if you’re as crap as I am. Alright, so there are still preternaturally good players out there, but you feel less like a liability than before in any team-based gametype. My opinion’s certainly subject to change as I play it more, but right now it’s my favourite of the Modern Warfare games when it comes to multiplayer.
And it’d be remiss of me to close this without mentioning Spec Ops and Survival, each of which offer two-player co-op goodness. Spec Ops missions tend to take single-player locations and offer you an interesting twist, giving you a bit more freedom as to how to go about your business, while Survival plonks you in a multiplayer map and steadily throws waves of enemies at you until you’re finally overwhelmed. And yes, they’re just as polished as the rest of the game, and just as enjoyable; in fact, they’re probably my favourite part of this rather good package.
With all of this, Modern Warfare 3 is surprisingly good value for money. There’s a decent-if-overly-linear single-player campaign, the absurdly popular multiplayer, and a hugely robust set of missions in Spec Ops and Survival for those who crave a bit more solo or two-player co-op action. If you’re not a Call of Duty fan it’s not going to change your mind, but if you are, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t have this already.

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