Modern Warfare, and the greater Call of Duty franchise, are the cheap target of many obvious jokes. They are also the focus of a curious sub group of gaming fans that annually rage against the winning formula that Activision has found. I can understand that. I can see why people look at the wider gaming landscape and despair that what most mainstream onlookers see is Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.
Gaming has so much more to it than that, which is why it confuses me that the sub group of raging fans aren’t off playing something they enjoy rather than getting all frustrated about something they don’t. Uncharted 3 just came out, I hear it’s rather good, if a little similar to the previous one…[drop2]Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 begins with a fancy graphic retelling of the fragmented, explosive plot so far. It throws you right back into the action and the continuing narrative brought through from Modern Warfare 2 with the same self assuredness that you will likely remember from previous Call of Duty games. This game is tightly planned, tightly scripted and exquisitely directed. Whether that makes for a good game is a matter of personal tastes but the opening few missions will be enough to let anyone know that this is Modern Warfare. It’s not trying to be anything else and, in terms of fan base size and zeal as well as series and predicted game unit sales, it shouldn’t have to.
Missions in the early stages are juxtaposed nicely, barrelling through explosive funnels to a daring conclusion one minute and serenely navigating underwater minefields the next. The overwhelming feeling is one of familiarity and, again, whether you judge that to be a positive or a negative will depend very much on your personal tastes.
It’s worth noting that this ageing game engine is still capable of putting out some quite beautiful visual effort as well as keeping the frame rate silky smooth and at 60fps. It might not be as attractive as recent pretenders to the FPS crown but it certainly matches anything else for pace and atmosphere.
What is unfortunate, and it’s worth remembering that this is simply my early impressions, rather than a full review, is the reliance on tricks that were already pulled in the Modern Warfare series. The shock bait and switch lacks any impact whatsoever when a savvy audience is already expecting it. I won’t spoil it here, of course, but there is one moment which is almost a timed replay of a previous Modern Warfare moment and it was very obvious that it was coming.
Of course, it’s unfair to be too harsh on Infinity Ward at this stage. It’s possible that these early nods towards previous franchise highlights are planned. Certainly one sequence seems like a very knowing nod to the after-credits bonus mission in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. That same area plays host to some of the best moments in the game’s early stages too, as it plays with physics before throwing another brilliantly paced, tightly directed scene at you.
So, it’s a bright start for Modern Warfare 3, albeit with one or two reasons for caution. It’s certainly nothing unexpected – yet – but that’s not to say that it’s not enjoyable. Modern Warfare has always led the industry in the explosive braggadocio that fans seem to adore and if early signs are indicative of the fuller picture, it will continue to do so.
We will be back later this week with full reviews of the single player and the multiplayer.