What's more, the levels pack in some genuinely brilliant moments that actually do give you an experience that no FPS has delivered before. Having had them spoiled for us we have no wish to spoil them for you, but if the game doesn’t give you one jaw-dropping moment every half-hour or so, then you’re probably so jaded that you really shouldn’t play this sort of thing.
But then you might have good reason to feel jaded. When we said ‘almost exactly the same in every way’, that’s also a criticism. The fact is that there are huge stretches of Modern Warfare 3 where it becomes all too apparent that the series is recycling its own ideas. Maybe it's inevitable, but over three Modern Warfares and last year’s (not dissimilar) Black Ops, we’ve already had enough battles through public buildings, shanty towns and civic squares to fill a lifetime, and all kinds of stealth and sniper missions, rooftop chases and bits where you rain down fire from a handy drone. While we wouldn’t say that Modern Warfare 3 is ever boring, the familiarity is beginning to breed some contempt. It might just be that – as far as the single-player campaign goes – this style of game has gone as far as it can go.
In multiplayer, of course, there’s just no time to think anything so negative. Two changes mark this entry out. First, Killstreaks have been reinvented to reward other activities beyond simple slaying, and the perks have now been reinvented as three ‘strike packages’ – Assault, Support and Specialist – which should, theoretically, keep the game more balanced and encourage different styles of play. Meanwhile, a new Kill Confirmed mode adds a twist to standard team deathmatch. For kills to count you have to collect the glowing dogtag dropped by your dead foe. What’s more, by collecting them from your own downed team-mates, you can deny the enemy team their score. This mode stops any cowardly custard snipers from racking up the points – they have to move if they want to make progress – and it adds a little strategy to the headshot-happy, kill-or-be-killed CoD experience.
Frankly, twitch-heavy, competitive multiplayer FPS action doesn’t get much better than this, and CoD veterans won’t have any problems upgrading from Black Ops to Modern Warfare 3. Of course, noobs and the less committed might still find it hideously inaccessible; a game where they spend more time looking at the killcam and respawning than actually playing the game. Multiplayer CoD demands a level of devotion before you can get much back, and if you haven't caught the bug by now, then it might be too late to really get started.
Luckily for those of us too wussy for the competitive stuff, Modern Warfare 2’s Spec Ops missions are back, with 16 new missions of dedicated co-op goodness, and a brand new Survival mode that turns the multiplayer maps into fraught battles against wave after wave of enemy troops. In a nice touch, several of the Spec Ops missions allow you to replay sections of the single-player campaign from a different perspective – including a few real highlights. All in all, you’d have to look to Gears of War 3, Left 4 Dead 2 or F.E.A.R. 3 for a richer co-op offering, and there’s certainly no other military FPS that does it so well.
Modern Warfare 3 is very much the grand finale of a series, and while there are times when it can feel like a ‘Best of Modern Warfare’ with all the old tracks remixed and a few new songs thrown in, it’s still a game that encapsulates all that’s good and bad about this ludicrously popular phenomenon. If you’re looking for a reinvention or, a new direction then, frankly, you’re wasting your time, but for the millions who love Modern Warfare, this threequel sees the series off in style.