Version tested: Xbox 360
Let’s face it: by this point, the Call of Duty games are practically critic proof. Like a new Coldplay album or a Pirates of the Caribbean film, it doesn’t really matter whether the pundits rate it or slate it; it will sell a gazillion copies anyway, both in the UK and across the globe. By now, a sizable number of you will already have completed the single-player campaign and got stuck into the game’s multiplayer mode, and you’ll be making your own minds up whether this is the best or worst Call of Duty yet, or something in-between. It would be ridiculous to try and pretend otherwise.
Still, not everyone will be a day one purchaser, and there will doubtless be some readers wondering how the third Modern Warfare measures up. After all, the development team at Infinity Ward has gone through massive changes of leadership and personnel, and Modern Warfare 3 is very much a co-production between Infinity Ward and new team, Sledgehammer Games. There’s plenty of reason to fear that the Modern Warfare magic has been lost.
Well, there’s good news here – and a little bit of bad. Modern Warfare 3 is very much what you’d expect from a Modern Warfare title. It’s a game of spectacular set-pieces, hard-hitting action, bombastic mass-destruction and a genuinely gob-smacking disregard for moral boundaries. It’s heavily orchestrated and incredibly linear, and it boasts a storyline that’s equal parts Tom Clancy and Chuck Norris. If you loved Modern Warfare and its sequel and you really want more of the same, then your wish has been granted. In fact, it’s almost exactly the same in every way.
Let’s give Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games due credit here: it isn’t easy to do this stuff as well as Modern Warfare 3 does it. At heart, you know that you’ll spend the majority of the game following another guy from object to objective, pausing every now and then to duck behind a wall and blast away at a gang of military goons, then moving on to the next checkpoint to do it all some more. You know that the action will vary between run-and-gun assaults, sniper missions and last-ditch defences – often within the space of a single level – and that you’ll have occasional scripted action hero moments and the odd turret or drone-piloting sequence to spice things up. On this level, Modern Warfare 3 poses few surprises.
Yet what hits you the more you play is how well-constructed the experience is. Where Battlefield 3’s Modern Warfare-inspired campaign stuttered, bored and frustrated across the meandering progress of each mission, Modern Warfare 3 is always doing its best to be the best damn Modern Warfare it can be. The difficulty level is always just right, each level always has some new twist and the game works hard to deliver real moments of shock and awe. In cinematic terms it’s more Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich than JJ Abrams or Steven Spielberg, but as the action moves from India and New York to Somalia, London, Paris and Prague, you can be safe in the knowledge that you’ll see cities ravaged, trains wrecked, battleships destroyed and national monuments wiped out. No other FPS throws so much carnage up on screen.