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Game Review | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

The Russians attack New York City in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Game summary: The Russian Federation continues its invasion of the U.S., as well as Europe, including England, France and Germany. (IMDb)

I wasn't particularly looking forward to playing Modern Warfare 3 after the second game became so soul-crushingly irritating and such a chore to play through again that I gave up on it before the end. As a result, it was a very pleasant surprise to discover that this game was a huge step up and far more enjoyable an experience.

There's the obvious improvement of the visuals as graphics technology advanced between releases, but there's also the better design choice of not making it impossible to see what's happening when seriously hurt. There are still occasions where the game puts you into the action and instantly sets you down to low health, leading you to seek cover, but that's it.

Even if you do take a lot of damage, your vision doesn't become completely obscured, but neither is it easy to see what's going on. There's a decent balance that at least allows you to find your way into cover so you can regain your health and composure before heading back out into any given firefight - something which only really happened by (literal) blind luck in Modern Warfare 2.

The gunplay also feels more solid this time, with the game making you feel like you actually are an experienced special forces soldier and able to hit the people you're aiming at. This does mean there are no moments when you're controlling a low-level grunt like in the first game, but neither does it mean you have to waste a ton of ammo like in the second.

What also helps is the slight reduction in the number of enemies on-screen at any one time. Modern Warfare 2 could put you into situations where you ended up facing a wall of gunfire and being forced to take some kind of damage to get through it. Here, things are a little more forgiving so that, with careful play, you can get through most situations relatively intact.

It's not necessarily any easier, as you do tend to face off against similar numbers of enemies, but the AI here at least feels a little more 'realistic', with no psychic links between enemy troops able to react with split-second timing and perfect accuracy. You can still get very easily killed if you just try and bulldoze your way through the bad guys this time.

Soap (Kevin McKidd), Price (Billy Murray) and you (Yuri, voiced by Brian Bloom) sneak past a lot of enemies in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Everything I've written about so far is pretty much a perfect distillation of Modern Warfare 3: getting rid of the most annoying issues of the second game and focusing on what really worked in the first. It sounds simple, but I've got to give credit to the developers for figuring out what was working and what wasn't.

The only real area that this game doesn't match up to the first is the story. Any pretence of anti-war sentiment is entirely gone, with everyone involved being made to look pretty much awesome and entirely in the right with their actions. There's no murky grey areas here, with everything boiling down to a pretty simple good vs evil conflict in the end and never really goes any deeper.

It does also lead to there being very little here that feels new, fresh or exciting - it's all highly-polished, but never brings anything particularly interesting to the table. It's fortunate that Modern Warfare 3 is so fun to play through - with some sections I remembered as being terrible turning out to be a lot of fun - otherwise I might view it a little more harshly.

I like to think of Modern Warfare 3 as a 'James Cameron game': it's not bold, creative, innovative or any other synonyms that might imply some genuine spark of inspiration, but it's all put together so damn well and proves to be so enjoyable that you don't care. In short: out of the three Modern Warfare games, this is probably the one I'd most want to play again.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 ends the trilogy on a high point, even if there's not a single bit of originality or innovation in the game's DNA. There's some fantastic course correction here, dumping the irritations that became so prevalent in the previous game and returning to the more cohesive experience of the first Modern Warfare. A very, very fun title.


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