on December 5, 2011
This game currently holds the record for sales in a week and sales in one day for any video game. People like to say this is a bad game that only sells well because of advertisement and hype. If that were true it would not explain why people continue to play it or why they continue to pick this up year after year. Are all these COD fans just miserably playing online not having fun? The series maybe boring and unimpressive to many but it appeals to a demographic and it appeals to it well.
It's simple: if you've liked the previous CoD games then you'll like this one. If you were expecting something ground-breaking and new then this game is not for you. This game is like Madden. All you're going to get is new weapons, maps, some tweaks, and some new features. Whether or not this justifies the price tag is a different story. I'm purely basing my review on entertainment.
As a long-time fan of the series I'll start off with the bad. The singleplayer is as useless as ever with a non-sense story that you simply will not care about. It is repetitive and linear with overwhelming spawning enemy AI shooting from all directions serving as the only challenge. The only variation is some vehicle levels reused from previous Call of Duty entries. There are no tools at your disposable to change things up. It's the same shoot, cover, grenades mechanic in place since the first Call of Duty on PC. At least back then the firefights felt intense and you were part of an actual historical event. While Call of Duty 4's campaign was entertaining the following MW2 and MW3 don't add anything, the surprises and thrills are gone. SPOILER: when Jackson died in COD4 it was dramatic and unexpected. When this same trick is used in MW2 (twice) and MW3 it's just not as interesting.
**My major gripe is that there's no consistency of characters. Characters are constantly being introduced and killed off in every entry. Soap, Price, and Nikolai are about the only consistent thing about this series in terms of story. Even then they are just empty NPCs providing orders and guidance to the player. There's never any interaction or personality shown to make you care.
I'll move on to the reason why most people buy this game or any CoD game for that matter: the multiplayer. As usual thing are played out on medium-sized maps between 6-player teams. The most popular game modes are TDM and Domination. Multiplayer is fast, intense, and catered towards those with short attention spans like myself. You won't have to traverse much ground in order to find something to shoot at. Some prefer more variation, obviously Battlefield 3 being the main example. There's nothing wrong with that game but I prefer the down and dirty street fight. If you do too, you'll feel right at home.
The new "strike packages" are welcome giving players different options in terms of playing style and tactics. For instance, the support strike package does not rely on consecutive kills. It continually stacks and does not reset after dying. This allows players to be more aggressive while still supporting team members. Likewise the specialist strike package allows players to add perks to their original 3. After getting 8 kills they player will have all perks becoming a super soldier. Now they won't be able to call in any killstreaks but the advantage of additional perks is a great advantage in a gun vs. gun situation.
Maps were advertised as being more balanced. This is a matter of opinion but I'll have to agree. For the most part the maps have been designed to weaken camp areas. Most sniping/camp spots will have too many alternate routes to enter and flank. Other spots will just be awkwardly placed not giving the player enough view over heavy traffic areas. There are plenty of camping players but what do you expect in an FPS game.
Perks have been reorganized in a way that forces players to make some hard choices on how they set up their classes. Of course the specialist strike package remedies that but in general I've seen people go with the normal killstreaks. For instance, in previous games the player would use a perk to be invisible to radar. This perk would also double as protection against air support. They have now been separated into two different categories. The same goes for the popular 'sleight of hand' perk that allowed faster reloads as well as faster aiming. Now as two separate perks players will need to rely more on careful playing and good old reflexes.
Not such a big deal since it's identical to MW2 but the weapons are great. In Black Ops each category (assault, light machine gun, sub machine guns) had only a couple of weapons worth using. These weapons were so good there was no point in using anything else. MW3 has the reverse effect where everything works great, almost too great, where gun selection sometimes feels like it doesn't make a difference. It comes down to preference.
The downsides of multiplayer is the lack of dedicated servers which I've complained about since CoD switched over from PC. This causes you to rely on the host system. I'm not sure why but every now and then I'll be 'slower' than everyone else usually getting shot after getting behind cover or just a second before I actually spot an enemy. Sometimes I can tell this is working in my favor and I'll have an amazing time but I'd much rather everyone just be on the same level in terms of online latency.
This system prevents users from joining games. It'll just randomly throw you into any game that has a slot for you or your party. This results in throwing players into a lot of losing games. Why? With a lot of people getting frustrated and leaving a losing round it creates gaps on the losing team. Innocent players looking to join a game are suddenly thrown into a round with a 30 score gap that's about to end. The game counts this as a loss! You literally can join a game, do nothing, and still lose.
Another issue is the auto-balancing system. I don't play in a party so when I do well the next round assures that I get stuck with all of the less skilled players to make sure I lose so things stay 'fair.' I'm not using anything that puts me at an advantage over anyone else so I'm bothered that the game feels I need to be punished for playing well. To put things in perspective I have a 2.00 KDR for TDM but only a 1.20 win record. In theory that is about right since the autobalancing is doing it's job. 50 percent of the time you should be put on a good team and the other 50 the losing team. So maybe this is a good thing for some?
I've ranted on long enough but I will repeat what I said before. People do not like this game and never will. The people that do (there are obviously many) wilkl play it and enjoy it as always. The graphics are aging, the game is very similar to MW2, and if you had problems with the series before most of those problems are still there.
The game is FUN. That's all there is to it. If it's not for you that's fine. To be fair I think this is the last COD game for me. It's a solid final entry to the series but if they make another one and it's still the same I'm probably satisfied with this one.
I look at the progression of this series like this:
COD4 - Introduced classes, perks, modern setting, and more arcade-like gameplay
MW2 - Introduced "super power" type perks, pushed the game over the top in terms of arcade style, introduced killstreaks which would become a staple of the series, finalized the game to a console audience in terms of style, maps, and controls/weapons
Black Ops - balanced the game, took a step back in terms of style, map design, weapons, and was actually a little too watered down from what MW2 was.
MW3 - Balances between COD4 and MW2 very well, really no where for the series to go from here
on November 16, 2011
I played the first Call of Duty on a friend's PC way back and had fond memories of my short experience with it. Next, was COD2 for the 360 and I loved it. The game was challenging when played on Veteran, but always seemed reasonable. It had a good story, and just felt tight. I didn't really get into multiplayer at this point.
Next, Call of Duty 3 was a let-down. It was buggy and just felt like it was missing something. After a little research, I discovered that it was developed by a back-up studio and I really started to appreciate how good the original developer, Infinity Ward, was at their craft.
So, I was super-excited about Call of Duty 4, and it didn't disappoint. The graphics were excellent, the story was epic, and I even got into the excellent, revolutionary, multiplayer. Infinity Ward did it again! It was, for me, my top action shooter ever.
Now that I knew what to expect from Treyarch, the second developer, I didn't really have high hopes for World at War and wasn't surprised to find that, at least the single player, was pretty dull... Dull enough that I have yet to finish it. I was bored enought with WW2 shooters at that point to not even really delve into multiplayer. Thinking back, it may have also been a result of Treyarch locking players out who hadn't purchased extra content. I may be wrong, but I remember not being able to easily get into a game at a certain point. So, more hate on Treyarch from me.
I was, again, ready for the next Infinity Ward iteration, Modern Warfare 2. I got it, and it felt a little less magical. The campaign story was bombastic and incoherent and, at the end, I didn't really feel satisfied. The multiplayer, while fun, and addictive, felt like I was at a disadvantage... Dieing when I was safely under cover, only to see a completely different version on the opponent's kill-cam... me, out in the open, peppered with bullets. It could have been lag, but I was on a good connection, so maybe it was the way they changed how the games were hosted? I got a bit frustrated with it, but played a lot, enjoyed the maps, and mostly had fun.
Treyarch! Again I took a gamble and got Treyarch's next version, Black Ops. Surprisingly enough, although the campaign was so-so, the multiplayer was a lot of fun. The dieing under cover issue seemed to be less prevalent, the maps were well designed, and I spent a good deal of time enjoying multiplayer.
Dun-dun-dun... Modern Warfare 3! Over the prior year plus, the original Infinity Ward team had been dramatically destroyed from within, by Activision's management team. Many of the Infinty Ward team jumped ship to follow some of the top guys to a new independent studio. It was a cause for concern, but I thought, maybe, enough of the old team were left to carry on the quality expectations that Infinity Ward had engendered, for the most part, excepting the hiccups in Modern Warfare 2. So, it was with slight trepidation, I opened my copy of Modern Warfare 3, popped it in, and jumped into multiplayer.
Within a very short amount of time, well almost immediately, I gathered that the maps lacked any sort of character that many of the old maps had. Not only did they all feel very similar, but they had been designed full of openings so that you, at an incredibly annoying rate, get shot in the back. The old maps tended to be designed so you could run around, watch your corners, and be wary of the several flanking spots. Now, nearly every 10 feet, there's a spot where someone can pop out of a hole from nearly 6 places at once, meaning, if you choose to run around, you will get shot in the back. And, Call of Duty is nothing, if not a run and gun game. So what happens when a run and gun game has maps that make it hard to run and gun?
I read that these maps were designed to discourage camping, but you almost have to stay in one place to have a chance of not dieing in constant cross-fires. And, I would assume that these small maps, full of holes, would not be very ideal for snipers, which is fine with me, because I never snipe. But, good god, if these maps are not chock full of snipers running around, laying waste at close range, by simply tapping on the aim button and instantly pulling the trigger. But, sniping involves careful positioning, long range, and time, right? Apparently, not in Modern Warfare 3. The designers consciously allow players to have the game aim for them (auto aiming, aka quick-scoping), which sort of feels like cheating, and certainly removes any of the skill of actually aiming, and pulling the trigger, on the mark. When you run into a room, sporting an assault rifle, put 3+ bullets in an opponent's chest, and he still is able to pull the aim trigger, fire, and one shot kill you, without actually aiming, just doesn't make a lot of sense, and is slightly more frustrating than what you might call fun. Add to the fact that you can also shoot someone several times while they bull-rush through the hail of direct, knock even a fantasy video game guy off his feet, hits, and stab you to death in 1 slash... yeah, not fun either. Still dieing, with magical fly around corner bullets, when at least a second under cover, too? Yup. Still on a connection where that probably shouldn't be an issue? Yup.
So, terrible maps full of constantly getting shot in the back goodness, mechanics that reward non-skill, and legacy connection/lag issues that I'm sure could be fixed with dedicated servers, makes for... lots of Un-fun. COD4, Modern Warfare 2, and Black Ops had great maps that were lots of fun. Why such a huge step back? At this stage, this game is not even worthy of an $8 map pack add-on to one of the old games. It has some new modes, perks, and killstreak rewards, but it's not worth it without the well designed maps, and a slew of regressive mechanics.
Lest I forget the single player campain, and spec ops; The campaign, to about the half-way point, feels just as dumb and incoherent as Modern Warfare 2. It's chock-full of giant explosions, and no longer shocking deaths of your playable characters. Half the time, it feels like you're just watching. I'll finish it at some point, but I always used to play the story first. As the games have gone on, and the stories have gotten more re-hashy, poorly written, and cliche, I've cared less about enjoying that singular experience. But as both sides, single and multiplayer, devolve into a mess, what's left? Spec Ops, and the attached Survival Mode, are a nice distration, but these are bonus features. They can't even begin to carry the game.
When compared to the vast selection of games that are available, Modern Warfare 3 is not a bad game. It's polished, it's loud, and it has a lot of content. Tons of people will buy it, and continue to buy it for iterations to come, but as of this version, at least from the smoking shell that was Infinity Ward's greatness, I'm probably done. It's just not fun anymore and has lost its inspiration. Respawn, the new version of Infinity Ward, is working on a new title with, apparent, creative freedom. I'll look forward to that. I'll continue to have Dice's style of multiplayer ( Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3 ) grow on me, which Modern Warfare 3 has heartily encouraged. And, I'll lament the now lost risk taking that Infinity Ward pushed through with Call of Duty 4, but I fear Activision's corporate interests have sunk that boat. And, to top it all off, what's with all of the glowing critical reviews of a game professional critics should recognize for its iterative failings? I think that's a rhetorical question referencing the prior sentence.
I don't always think a 5 star scale is quite specific enough, so I'll go to 10 and give Modern Warfare a 6 out of 10. For reference...
COD4 = 10
MW2 = 8.5
MW3 = 6