Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

I feel a bit overwhelmed attempting to speak to the most review-proof game of the season, barring Gears 3. Nobody is on the fence about buying it or not, we all know what this series is and what it delivers. Having completed the campaign (the best part of the game, no matter what anybody says), I will briefly write my thoughts on this wonderful first-person-shooter.

The Modern Warfare games have an intense cinematic vibe, something akin to Patriot Games and Mission: Impossible; high stakes, international dangers and cooperation between multiple factions of the military (as well as shady characters reluctantly joining the fray for personal and dubious motives). Having a vague recollection of the previous games storyline, I was able to quickly get back into the plot. World War III has broken out, and the player is in control of the linchpin of actions required to end the war. The main antagonist is  Vladamir Makarov, and for many reasons he is the reason a treaty between Russia and the US is thwarted, and the Russian President Boris Vorshevsky and his daughter Alena are kidnapped.

That’s pretty much the main gist of the story here, to be quite honest; everything before and after this event (around  the first 30 minutes of gameplay) has something to do with the Russian president being held captive and Makarov generally being a bad dude. I’m selling the details short because they won't matter until you’re in the game, an incredibly immersive experience as it is. The world literally crumbles around you as gunfire and grenades destroy the streets of New York City, Paris, Berlin, Prague and several international landmarks. Intermissions between levels tie together events and use intricate maps and a barrage of stats and charts set in the style of TRON, with a dramatic soundtrack on the intensity level of Armageddon’s control room scenes. This game is tense, and you feel it in your heart. From the first shot fired to the last helicopter downed, the fierce action almost never stops, flinging different environments and goals at you at every turn.  My favorite scene is the Inception-inspired sequence inside of an airplane as it loses altitude and every character is rendered weightless and a slow-motion in-air gunfight takes place. It could have felt forced, yet it fit the flow of the sequence of events perfectly, as more of an extension of how events could unfold. This game is the closest thing to playing a part in a John Woo movie written by Robert Ludlum, and it’s a blast.

Of course, this being Modern Warfare, the campaign is not what the majority of the players buying it are inclined to use with it. The multiplayer aspect of this series is a beast all of it’s own, and perhaps that is why the campaign feels so short. As a gamer who is becoming reacquainted with the artform, I simply don’t understand the allure; I attempted some online multiplayer for a few hours and could not shake the amount of boredom it induced. All of the tension and action of the campaign is gone, in this mode, replaced with half-rendered graphics and dry environments. I can only count myself lucky that I have disabled all audio chat connections via XBL, for I can’t fathom the amount of abuse my avatar was receiving from whatever 14 year old in Omaha was yelling. It feels like a completely separate game and if this, along with the utterly ridiculous “Call of Duty Elite” concoction, rendered the campaign short a few levels that it could have been, than I weep for a generation satisfied with an experience that could be had on a Sega Dreamcast running Quake 3 Arena. This is not difficult stuff to pull off. 

I’ll allow the screenshots from Activision speak for themselves. These look as if they are single rendered frames, and they pretty much are. This is essentially how the game looks as you are playing it. It’s an incredible achievement and pushes the 360 to perform on an incredibly high level. Also of note are the menus and sequences between levels, which animate very quickly and purposefully, again driving home the feeling of stress and tension. 

MW3 offers very little amount of music during the game. Fairly generic film score variety. However, when it is heard in the game it isn’t distracting and is yet another layer on the stress-cake of war. Where the audio stands out is in the voice acting, provided by several actors such as William Fichtner & Timothy Olyphant, to name a few. You’d be hard-pressed to actually recognize them between all of the gunfire and explosions and yelling from Russian forces, but the fact that professional actors are also barking in your ear is a very nice piece of icing. 

I actually truly love the main cover of the game. All of the special editions are also very well designed and offer a nice alternative to prove how much you are willing to pay for a game that will sell for $29 at Game Stop in a few months. 

It’s a very cinematic experience only marred by a campaign that would have benefited from a longer runtime. I had a blast playing through it, but not sure how soon I’d revisit it. Multiplayer is meaningless to me, and since that aspect is such a huge point of concentration I refuse to take part in, I can’t say that I’m fully sold on it. 

Four out of Five. The campaign is very fun. Multiplayer is nonsense. 

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