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HUGE fan of COD...and fairly disappointed
on November 9, 2011
Before I start, please allow me to preface this review with three points:
1) I love the COD franchise...and have played every title extensively. My wife will back that statement up...while she sighs and reevaluates her life choices.
2) BF2/BC2/BF3 are good games...and I will not bash them. That said, BF is a different experience, with huge battlefields, many different types of vehicles, and a range of player roles. COD is a different animal...and tends to be more of a "just drop into the action" experience. Choose whatever you like. This is a review of a COD title for COD fans...not a critique of BF3.
3) I play multiplayer on the PC almost exclusively, so I won't offer much in the way of comments on single player mode in this review.
So how is MW3 on the PC if you are a COD fan? Well, in my opinion, it's a step backwards for the franchise...and a relative low point for the overall series. MW3 does have its good points, but on balance, the game is a disappointment. I know that this opinion may not be popular, so please read on if you want to see why I feel this way.
>>> The good old days
I started with the original COD title in 2003...and then jumped into COD:UO, which my gaming group modified heavily. The ability to host mods and custom maps on UO servers kept those servers running, fresh, and populated for years.
COD2 provided a similar experience, but with much better graphics, but sadly, no vehicles. That said, we modded the heck out of it and just shut those servers down last month. That was the staying power of that game.
COD4:MW (modern warfare) hit the streets and it was revolutionary...sadly though, also with no real "controllable" vehicles. Regardless, it was a great experience with fantastic graphics...and many innovations.
>>> Enter Treyarch...and World at War
The three prior COD titles were developed by InfinityWard (IW) for Activision and they were all "game of the year" level titles. During that same time period, Activision had Treyarch develop COD3 exclusively for consoles...and it paled in comparison.
After COD4, Activision had Treyarch develop COD:WAW (World at War) for the PC, which seemed to be a thin repackaging of COD4:MW, but set back in WW2. The good news was that they added drivable tanks and generally made a fairly decent game...but we were all still looking to IW for innovation. Treyarch, not so much.
>>> (Re)enter InifintyWard...and Modern Warfare 2
The next part is long, but relevant to MW3...I promise.
IW next developed COD:MW2 and fans of COD on the PC were shocked. It was clear that IW's strategy was to converge the console and PC versions to the greatest extent possible...forcing PCs to drop to the lowest common (console) denominator. As part of that strategy, they also dropped support for "dedicated servers." The impact of that decision cannot be understated. PC fans were incensed. They were now forced to deal with "lobbies" instead of dedicated servers. No longer could they just join their favorite server and see their friends and get to meet other new folks who frequented that server. Instead, the game randomly threw 12 or so folks together, made one the host, and threw you into a match...after numerous stutters and hiccups. A bogged down or lagging host could also ruin the game...and if that host quit, everything came to a screeching halt while the server attempted to migrate the host...or not.
The bigger issue, however, was that no one in the game had administrative (rcon) access...so hackers ruled. Fans of previous COD multiplayer titles know that Punkbuster and VAC do very little to stop hacking. With dedicated servers, the server admins in game would deal with such obvious hackers...but in MW2, those hackers raged with impunity. Even if you were the host, there was little that you could do. I cannot count the number of times that I was forced out of a game because a hacking player was raging with an obvious aimbot...while the anti-cheat software was oblivious.
The sad thing is that MW2 was fairly fun...even if it was mostly just a minor evolution of COD4:MW...but lack of dedicated servers killed it.
>>> (Re)enter Treyarch...and Black Ops
Treyarch stepped back up to the plate with COD:BO...and while it was once again a minor evolution of the franchise, dedicated servers were back. Well, sort of. You had to rent them from one provider and they were not very mod-able, but at least you could set game type, map rotation, and HAVE ADMIN ACCESS (i.e., rcon). Once again, hackers needed to run and hide...because they didn't last long on well-monitored servers.
Yes, a minor evolution, but still a very good time. BO also supported "unranked" servers that supposedly supported modding, but frankly, most players ignored such servers...because they preferred to chase rank and "prestige". I won't get into why I think that including such ranks and prestige has killed modding, but suffice to say that you don't see the level of community modding and custom map creation that we did under UO and COD2. Oh well, MW3 is coming...and InifintyWard is creating this one...so it's got to be good...right?
>>> WHERE WE ARE NOW: (Re)enter InfinityWard...and MW3 !!!
I picked up MW3, installed it, and tried the single player campaign just to get a sense of the player physics. Controls largely the same? Check. Player physics the same? Check. Single player campaign pretending to be expansive but really very linear with far too many cut scenes? Check.
Exit single player.
Actually, to say the controls are the same is kind. "Lean" is missing...as it was with IW's MW2. Hmm. Now I am getting suspicious, but let's fire up multiplayer anyway and get it on.
Wait. What the...?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! LOBBIES ARE BACK!? ARGGGGGGGGGGGG!
Yes, once again, lobbies are back. From clicking "play", it took about 4 minutes to get into a game...as lobbies were created and then destroyed...and created...and destroyed...and as soon as I got into a game, the host quit...and we came to a halt while the game tried to find a new host...which it could not...so we were all thrown back out into "lobby creation hell."
Yes, lobbies...with all that statement implies, including no ability to have admins who can deal with hackers.
But wait! MW3 supports dedicated servers.
Yes, but not for ranked play...and if BO is any indication of the future, folks will not want to play unranked servers as they chase shiny little prestige icons. Of course, IW is not doing much to help this situation since for some bizarre reason they have disabled MW3's server browser by default. You have to hunt down a setting to turn it on.
Seriously, I cannot believe this step backwards. Granted, it's not a step backwards for IW...it's a step forward from MW2. It's only a step backwards for the franchise (from Treyarch's BO).
Is MW3 better than MW2? Seems to be. They added some innovations and are paying lip service to dedicated servers...but much of what they added over MW2 has no value in unranked dedicated server mode in MW3...so the folks who have labeled MW3 as MW 2.1 are pretty much dead on as far as I am concerned.
So how are the lobby servers once you manage to get into a game? Well, I actually just got out of one where I was playing against a Prestige Level 10 Rank 80...less than 48 hours after release. Seriously...and guess who could see through walls and didn't care who knew it...and guess who couldn't do a darned thing about it?
I could go on and review the MW3 gameplay and what IW added to MW2, but you can get that info from many sources, so I'll save you from more of my rambling. Instead, I just wanted to share a review of the PC experience for this title, which seems to get lost in the reviews of console versions. If nothing else, I hope that I help you avoid the surprise that I had when I fired up multiplayer. If you buy MW3, at least you can now go in with your eyes open.
>>> Closing Thoughts
MW3 is a sequel to MW2...not Black Ops. We will have to wait and see what Treyarch offers next for a sequel to Black Ops.
So is MW3 worth $60? Well, I'll leave that decision to each of you. It's definitely not a 1 star game, but it's also clearly not a 5 star game...at least on the PC.
I suppose that what has really struck me in this experience is that for the first time I now no longer consider InfintyWard to be the king of the COD franchise...at least for those of us playing on the PC. Treyarch may actually now have the better vision. Yes, I know, IW leadership changed as the core folks left to go form Respawn Entertainment, but MW3 smells like their legacy regardless - i.e., a collapsed version for consoles and PCs...and everything in the game setup to motivate you to spend more to get DLC map packs, extra XP, and whatever else they can urge you to buy. Do they want a game with legs that can survive for years? Of course not...so in that respect, they knocked this one out of the park.
>>> My advice
If you love BF3 and COD generally annoys you, avoid this game. It will NOT win you over.
If you love COD, well, you are going to buy it anyway, but at least I will offer you empathy...and I'll be on the battlefield next to you.
If you are on the fence, try "Hello Kitty Island Adventure" instead. There are fewer weapons, but at least you won't feel as used and abused. Seriously though, stay on the fence, because I suspect that the price of this game is going to drop like a stone in the next two months.