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     " Ultimately, Modern Warfare 3 really is a good game--but it's a good game that is seriously suffering from a lack of innovation or advancement. "

      Title: Modern Warfare 3 by Activision

      Format: PC Shooter

      Reviewing Monkey: Our Ape Masters


      The Hype...

     Call of Duty is back!
     That's it. That's the hype.
     Don't pretend like you didn't know it, or don't know what it means--it's November again, and with November comes a new Call of Duty.
     And you're hyped.
     'Nuff said.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      I'm going to proceed through this review as though you've played the last several Call of Duty games--because I know you have. However, if, by some miracle haven't, go play them. Right now. It doesn't matter which one (though I'd suggest Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare), just go get playing. They're cheap, they're worth it, and they'll tell you whether or not you should even be looking at Modern Warfare 3.
     Seriously. Go. Right now.
     Because, just like the last three Call of Duty games, Modern Warfare 3 (MW3) is--undeniably--more of the same. Visually, it is a slightly spruced up version of the same engine. In design, it is a slightly spruced up version of the same. And in gameplay it is exactly the same as the same.
      It is, in other words, more of the same.
     Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
     It's good in that so much of the formula works. The campaign is chaotic and action packed, the co-op is entertaining, and the multiplayer is damned fun.
     It's bad because it honestly hasn't changed much in over a decade, and some of it really needs to. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
     Let's break this down in the order I mentioned them above: campaign, co-op, and multiplayer. Which is probably the reverse of how most of you will play it, but it'll make for a better review this way.

     The Campaign:
     In the early days of the Call of Duty franchise, developer Infinity Ward made honest attempts to create campaigns that showed players some of what combat might be like by scripting intense skirmishes around actual events.
      But that was 2003.
     In the current days of the Call of Duty franchise, developer Infinity Ward has decided that a campaign should be a constant, chaotic, bullet-filled scrum of activity. Sort of like playing dodgeball in a small room filled with a couple hundred people--and you all have guns. It is a non-stop malestrom of violence that--let's be honest--has no purpose aside from letting you shoot as many people in the face as you possibly can. And, as it turns out, the answer to "how many" is a lot. A whole lot. Like, genocidal levels of a lot.
     You will kill them in the streets, you will kill them from the air, you will kill them while free-falling in a plane that is losing altitude faster than Lindsey Lohan loses AA chips. You will kill them everywhere.
     And you will have a lot of fun while doing it. Or, at least, you will at first.
     After about an hour of slaying nameless hordes you will stop giggling. After two hours you'll stop smiling. And by the time you finish the scant, six-hour campaign, you'll have killed so many people that it will all have blurred together into a fugue-state of death.
     But the problem isn't really the violence, it's the pointlessness of it. There is a plot--or so we're told--but it doesn't make any damned sense or give you any reason to care about it. Nor do your actions make you feel like you're a part of it any way. Instead you'll just use cut-scenes as time for much-needed mouse-hand stretching, before you again cruise through narrow, tunnel-like maps as though you're a slot car of death destroying everything on the track. There's no strategy, no real variety, and no thought. Just a sense of charge! Charge! Faster, pussycat! Kill, kill, kill!
     The sole exception to this is the soon-to-be-much-talked-about-on-Fox-News baby killing scene where Infinity Ward tries to top their sensationalized civilian slaughtering from Modern Warfare 2 with a sequence that forces you to watch a baby get blown up. For no reason. Except that it's easier to get a shock response out of people than it is to put in the time and effort necessary to create a compelling story.
     Still, all that said, you will have fun with it. Yes, it's shooting from rails, but it's a lot of great shooting from rails.

     The Co-Op:
     Let me get this out of the way right now; for those of you expecting Zombies, you'll have to wait for next year's Treyarch's Call of Duty. Zombies is theirs, not Infinity Wards, so even though they're both Call of Duty games, Modern Warfare can't include them. 
      But IW doesn't send you away empty handed--in its place is a new "Survival" mode, in which you start out with pistols, earn money through killing waves of increasingly difficult bad guys, and then spend that money on weapons and gear.
     So it's Zombies without the zombies. Which is actually cooler than it sounds.
     Because they're not slaved to the old formula of "defend this building..." Infinity Ward was able to make some much-needed changes to the concept. Now, instead of spinning a box, you purchase the weapons and upgrades you want (though it's still from a box). That means no more getting stuck with a bolt-action and the ballistic knife; now you can just go ahead and buy your M-60 and upgrade it with a red-dot when you've got the cash. You can also go back and buy ammo, purchase defenses like air-strikes and sentry guns, and buy claymores at will. All of which are awesome.
     On the down-side, it still has many of the same problems that Zombies is yet to fix. You still start at Level 1 with a pistol every freakin' time you play, which sucks. You'll also eventually die, not because the enemy got smart or came at you with superior numbers that you couldn't overcome, but because they just get too tough to kill. Which also sucks.
     It also injects a new problem which is endemnic to the Modern Warfare franchise: it only lets you play with one friend. Just one. Despite the fact that there's no good reason to limit it, and despite the fact that every other game now accepts four players as the minimum, Infinity Ward still sees fit to limit you to two-player co-op. Which is downright idiotic. Maybe, hopefully, pleadingly, they'll change it with a patch.
     They won't. But it sure would make me happy if they did.
     That same limitation also plagues the other co-op offering, Spec-Ops, but is much less noticeable because of the mission format. Just as in Modern Warfare 2, this Spec-Ops pits you and a friend against a series of side missions--each about five minutes long--that let you kill bad guys in new and unusual ways. My favorite mission, for example, has one of you sneaking through an urban environment while the other gives him cover through a series of mini-gun-mounted cameras.
     To be sure, this formula is fantastic and Spec-Ops is unquestionably my favorite way to play MW3. The missions are varied, the objectives are creative and cool, and the increased levels of difficulty will have you replaying missions over and over again for all the right reasons.
     I just wish it supported at least four players.

     The Multiplayer:
     Small-scale deathmatch and objective based games that sport persistent characters who gain perks and weapons as they level.
     You know it, you love it, and it's back. With very few changes to either enhance or detract from the experience.
     On the plus side, the new maps are awesome; almost all of them designed with a nice, flowing layout that discourages camping and makes the battlefield dynamic. The weapon levels are balanced again, so that higher level does not necessarily mean exponentially better equipment. And the perks--at least as of the time of this review--were fairly well balanced, with no broken gimick classes running around ruining everyone else's good fun.
     On the down side: it is functionally indistinguishable from every other Call of Duty we've had in the last five years. The game types have shifted a bit, the weapons are a tiny bit different, and some of the perks have been swapped around--but it's still the same game. The exact same game.

     Ultimately, it's that sameness that stood in the way of me being really excited about playing Modern Warfare 3. I'm still just running and gunning, with no need to think or plan. I'm still playing almost the exact same "classes" that I have been since COD4. I'm still plodding through a campaign that has nothing more to offer me than a couple of new set-piece fire-fights.
     And while, yes, it is still a lot of fun to do that running and gunning, I'm ready for a change. I'm ready for progress. I'm ready for the franchise to impress me again.
     I'm ready to start climbing into some of the vehicles I'm constantly teased with on the battlefield. I'm ready to be able to hug cover and use strategy. I'm ready to feel engaged, rather than simply stimulated.
     So what do you say, Infinity Ward? Are you ready to answer that call?

      The Verdict:

       Ultimately, Modern Warfare 3 really is a good game--but it's a good game that is seriously suffering from a lack of innovation or advancement. Play it, enjoy it, but don't expect to be impressed.


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