A game of two halves…
The first ever call of duty back-to-back sequel has landed, and today I discuss my experience playing the latest release from Activision as I review Modern Warfare III.
Following the demise of the Russian-backed Iranian forces, Vladimir Makarov step up as leader of the Russian ultra nationals and stages a prison break to resume command of the Konni group and continue his efforts to trigger World War III and utilize the chemical warheads at his disposal. In what can only be described as a cat & mouse experience between Makarov and task force 141, which sees series favourites (Price, MacTavish, Ghost, Farah, and Gaz) deployed on missions/plots to thwart Makarov. The campaign is roughly 6 hours long, being broken into segments & acts with players shooting and looting their way across a plethora of linear/open locations spread across the likes of London, Sierra Leone, Germany, France, India, Russia, and more.
For this year’s Campaign, Sledgehammer Games have implemented the Open Combat experience – these are gameplay elements that give the player more freedom and choice in terms of approach to the mission objective almost akin to that of the warzone. Not every map fulfills this due to sheer lack of size, but in the larger areas, players can dictate the way they get to the objective, whether that’s all guns blazing (gun and run), a stealthy approach with your knife and silencer, or just through sheer sniping from afar. I found it worked quite well, but generally speaking, you’ll end up having a showdown with waves of Konni group AIs which is certainly not a bad thing…
As you engage in these missions, you’ll use advanced military technology like spotter drones. This is a staple in Call of Duty campaigns and is well integrated into this game.
Visually, the flair is there (just). Some environments look crisp, weapons are well-detailed and realistic. Lighting effects, night vision & character models are also nicely implemented. Whilst it won’t win awards for best looking game of the year it’s certainly not an eye sore.
The shooting mechanics remain incredibly fun and satisfying, with Sledgehammer not straying far from the format Infinity ward built up. There’s a familiarity factor with the same guns, gear, and attachments as last year’s game which was to be expected as this is a direct sequel after all. (Also, one could make the case, why change the core mechanics in the first place?).
As I touched on above, at only 5-6 hours, the campaign is very short. The pacing of the story felt rushed and would have fared better as a DLC experience rather than a fully-fledged standalone release. Without the suspense of Makarov’s actions, and what twists and turns would next occur, the story seemed to lack anything else of relative interest. Besides one side plot with Sheperd, It felt like everything hinged on the notorious badass from Russia to carry the story content of the mode.
Modern Warfare III certainly packs a heavy-hitting punch here. Offering remastered maps from the original MW II and the re-release last year, with a massive 7 modes of differing gameplay. It’s this multiplayer aspect of the series where players spend most time these days and it’s understandable why. Multiplayer includes a visually updated collection of beloved maps and an entirely new open-world Zombie mode.
The new mode recycles C0D’s Warzone Battle Royale format by placing a squad of 3 players in a large zombie-infested Urzikstan map. Long 45-minute matches center around finding increasingly stronger weapons to combat zombie hordes whose health and ferocity increase depending on zones.A squad of three players can team up and drop into the zombie-infested Urzikstan. From there, players must hunt for higher-tier weapons and gear and survive long enough to reach an extraction zone. Rounds can take up to 45 – 60 minutes. Operation Deadbolt contains three tiers of infected zones, with the highest tier containing more significant numbers of zombies, with so much health that high-tier weapons become a must. As you get closer to the center of the map, the more treacherous the game becomes. Zombies turn up in much bigger hordes, some even with armor, that present a real challenge if you’ve not sorted a loadout properly. With the increased level of danger comes greater rewards and it’s this choice of pace that you decide that makes the mode feel refreshing. On top of that, there are new enemy types to deal with like the Mimics, disciples that summon hordes whilst gaining health by taking yours, and manglers – heavily armored zombies with high damage output.
Players can complete side-missions called Contracts. Meeting special objectives like hunting down a particular target, defeating a group of NPC mercs, or clearing out an invested building’s puss nodes award bonus experience and large amounts of zombie mode currency. Like previous C0D zombie modes, currency spent at mystery boxes and pack-a-punch stations can yield increasingly powerful weapons.
One big change-up, which I think is ingenious on Sledgehammer’s part is the melding of equipment being pseudo-perks. In your loadout, you have three equipment slots: one for gloves, one for body armor and another for boots. Gloves, for example, have either ‘quick-grip’, ‘scavenger’, or ‘commando’. It’s a nice way of integrating the tried and true method of perks, keeping them grounded in combat.
One of the exciting aspects of trying out a new Call of Duty entry is getting to grips with the new guns. There is a handful for each subclass to choose from, be it assault rifles, SMGs, sniper rifles, etc. Joining them is also the full list from last year’s game and by that Warzone too. This means that you can use the new guns, but the chances are your opponent has one they paid for last year that’ll make mince meat of you.
Yes, you guessed it, the mechanics, graphics, and UI are almost identical to Modern Warfare 2. You can import your guns and unlocks from Modern Warfare 2.
Cutthroat, the new 3v3v3 feature, is one of the few unequivocally positive new features. It’s just Gunfight with three teams, so it’s not a fantastic work of imagination, but Gunfight has long been one of the best modes, and having just one life per round definitely adds to the tension and encourages more careful tactics.
The multiplayer is a perfectly enjoyable online experience, with lots of modes and options.