Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 3 First Impression

On the surface, this Call of Duty experience is similar to the other Modern Warfare games. If a casual fan sat down for a few rounds of team deathmatch or domination, it would be easy to forgive them for mistaking this for a map pack. Its visuals are familiar, most of the weapons are recycled from previous games, the tight gunplay feels similar, maps are still fairly cramped affairs for the most part, assembling a party operates the same, and many of the killstreak rewards return. Modern Warfare 3’s most noteworthy tweaks may be smaller changes, but they add up to contribute in a big way.

The worst thing you can say about MW3’s campaign is that its first half can lapse into COD formula, despite several excellent set-pieces, before everything is forgotten in an absolutely bombastic concluding half. Infinity Ward’s singleplayer design specialises in giving the firstperson perspective a physical presence – through a peerless use of blur and focus, and the simple expedient of jarring the camera around – and MW3 once again offers sequences that are exceptional.

An early mission, Turbulence, is set on a plane carrying the Russian president. You’re a member of the Russian special forces tasked with his protection, and soon after the mission begins the aircraft is hijacked. During the next few minutes the plane goes increasingly out of control, with everyone inside battered off the ceilings, sides and seats – and then it heads into a nosedive. Have you ever shot terrorists in zero-G before? It’s not only a piece of visual and aural magic, with suitcases and enemies crashing about like lottery balls before floating in a queerly peaceful manner as you try to get a bead, but it’s one you’re always fully a part of. Brief as it is, Turbulence is a brilliantly conceived and executed moment.

Perhaps this is the secret to scripted sequences: where Modern Warfare’s direct competitors often overscript the spectacular moments, or worse make them entirely non-interactive, here aspects of control like the ability to walk are temporarily removed and replaced with memorable one-off challenges that the game never recycles. Lining up a shot in that plane is a surreal experience, and IW is smart enough to give you perhaps a minute of doing so, before leaving it at that. Though Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t have an individual mission quite as sustained as MW2’s outstanding Gulag assault, it arguably has more individual peaks of excellence that, in the latter stages, pile on at a breathtaking pace. A European beach assault channels that Medal Of Honor landing sequence we all know so well, but inverts it with gleaming hovercraft and tanks. There are desperate car chases past ruined monuments; rescue missions that keep on finding new ways to go wrong; frantic assaults on fortified positions; panicked sprints; dirty bombs; even a chase scene involving a Transit van.Taken as a whole it doesn’t quite live up to the original Modern Warfare’s outstanding campaign – but it gets closer than it has any right to. It’s let down by a few uninspiring urban shootouts early on, and one proper howler: the game’s ‘No Russian’ moment is a schmaltzy London-based sequence that really should have hit the cutting-room floor. There are other clunkers in the script, but not many, and everything can be forgiven for Blood Brothers, a mission that sees MW3 at its narrative height – and it’s because you care, to a degree you may not expect, about the characters IW has crafted and brought to life over this series. MW3’s singleplayer ends up just as memorable as what has gone before, not least because it ties everything up in a finale of supreme catharsis – and restraint.

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