REVIEW – Modern Warfare 3 Campaign


Modern Warfare 3 is, officially, the largest entertainment launch in the history of entertainment launches. The game sold more than 6.5 million copies at retail in the US and UK alone and stands to be a top earner for months to come. But is it any good?

Erik Norris and Joey Davidson put the campaign side of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 through its paces over the course of the two or three days following its retail release. Now, we’ve come together to set out and discuss our thoughts on the game so far.

We will be putting up a multiplayer review of Modern Warfare 3 once we feel we’ve spent enough time with that side of this effort. We’ll also score the game as part of that coverage.

For now, let’s dive into the single player campaign.

Erik: Alright, Joey, now that we’ve both finished the campaign of Modern Warfare 3, let me be the first to say that it was definitely better than Infinity Ward’s last effort, Modern Warfare 2.

There are definitely still some issues (which we’ll cover later on), but Modern Warfare 3 manages to take the sins of its father and turn them around to deliver a coherent, entertaining war story.

Joey: And, right out of the gates, I agree with you. While I won’t go so far as to say that this one beats Treyarch’s efforts in Black Ops, I will say that the story in MW3 falls just short of how great things were in the original entry in the trilogy.

MW2 lacked focus. We’ve talked about that fact a lot since the game came out, but I want to reinforce the idea here… the game felt like someone had just screamed the entire plot line into an empty room before developing the project. They received no objections, so they went with it.

Here, however, things feel well tied together. Hell, there’s even a finite conclusion. I know, that may seem like a lot to ask, but it actually happened.

Erik: I was a little shocked by that, too. It’s not often that games put a definitive bow on a series. That’s why Gears of War 3’s campaign stood out; it actually wrapped the plot line up. The same can be said for MW3.

However, like most Call of Duty titles before it, MW3 definitely still suffers from a few nagging problems we’ve expressed concern about before. For starters, proper pacing is pretty much nonexistent.

As I mentioned to you, I still find it funny that Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games broke the title into the standard three act structure of typical storytelling. Yes, all previous CoD games did this as well, but none of them adhere to the rules of that structure. Focusing specifically on MW3, it’s less about the ups and downs and climax and more about a string of action vignettes until the credits roll. Exciting, yes, but it’s not how you go about telling a compelling narrative.

Joey: Well, it’s almost as if there’s never any downward motion. Every campaign level starts quiet and ends loud. It’s predictable as hell. You never end a segment on a somber or low note, you always end moments with this massive round of explosions. There’s a crescendo, but never a decrescendo…and that type of “pacing” doesn’t work for emotional storylines.

I guess that, in itself, is my problem with the Call of Duty franchise in general. Yeah, we see destruction in America, London and Paris. Yes, we see the death of a little girl. But I never feel any connection to the moment, there’s no emotional involvement with the characters or the action on screen. A “major” person dies in this game, but, when it happened, I didn’t care.

Erik: Right. I agree with you on all fronts there. However, with all that said, the action set-pieces MW3 does deliver are pretty damn spectacular. I would be lying if I said they weren’t all white-knuckle, adrenaline rushes. The game’s campaign isn’t very long, as I think we both beat it in just a hair over five hours, but it was a damn entertaining five hours, for sure.

And while the game’s graphics engine is getting a little long in the tooth at this point, it still manages to impress quite a bit throughout the campaign, whether it’s the lighting techniques or seeing some of the globe’s most recognizable structures get razed to the ground.

Joey: With that said, though, I definitely want to emphasis your last point a little harder…I really didn’t like the look of this game. Maybe this is just me buying into the Internet’s vocal frustration, but I really felt like this game was more of the same. Part of that stems from the sameness of the game’s engine and style. It felt like more Modern Warfare, and I think a change in style would have gone a long way to combat that problem.

Which, I know, would almost make it too much of a unique game.

That’s the problem I think Activision have created for themselves, and I really feel that Modern Warfare 3 falls victim to it the most. Creating a Call of Duty game that isn’t a Call of Duty game would have a lot of fans in an uproar. This campaign is more of the same because the same continues to work. As the sales for this title prove, Activision has no reason to change their formula for success. The sales have actually increased, thus reinforcing the notion that nothing is wrong with Call of Duty’s campaign.

However, I’ll assert that campaign lovers are going to feel gypped again. Is it better than Modern Warfare 2? Sure. But not by much. It’s still short, it’s still repetitive and there’s still a big problem with pacing. I walked away from this campaign thinking “better, but not great.” That’s what it is… not great.

Erik: I think you hit the nail on the head. For gamers who desire innovation and forward progress, Call of Duty just isn’t ready to take that step yet. As you mentioned, the sales figures prove, to Activision at least, that they don’t need to change much year to year to have a hit. But as far as we’re concerned, Activision has to do something fresh and new with Call of Duty sometime soon to get us to change from jaded curmudgeons to ravish fanboys again.

The campaign of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 just doesn’t get us there. It’s more of the same, which isn’t bad, it’s just not great either.