2011-11-17

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – Relativism In A Game Filled With Absolutes

by Yo Snyder

Some how Call of Duty is able to make more money each successive year
it releases. I can’t really explain how it keeps getting bigger despite
the fact that it’s basically a slightly tweaked version of the same
game with a new coat of paint each year, but it does. Whatever it is
that’s drawing everyone else in seems to be lost on me, because although
I can acknowledge that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is a good
game with a really good multiplayer component, I just couldn’t get into
it. I had this sense of weariness when playing it, which again is no
condemnation of the quality of the game but perhaps speaks more to its
inherent familiarity. You pretty much already know if you’re going to
buy this game, but for the few who haven’t decided, here’s my take on
it.

First, let’s talk about the campaign. Battlefield 3
looks almost stoic compared to the frantic Bay-hem that takes place in
CoD: MW3’s campaign. I’m not even exaggerating here; you crash in every
level. I crashed a jeep, a boat, a plane, a tank, a couple of
helicopters, and a “we can do it too, Battlefield 3” moment when a
building crashed. It got to the point where in each level I was just
waiting to get past the epic crash/barely survive to live to fight
another day moment. Wearisome. Also, what was once surprising and
shocking in the first Modern Warfare game is now almost tiresome. One of
the characters you play as dies. Check. Some sort of weapon of mass
destruction is detonated. Check. Betrayals. Check. It’s all here, just
as it should be. There’s even the totally pointless “shock moment” that
doesn’t serve the story and seems to be included mainly to give everyone
something controversial to talk about. Granted, it’s all done well, but
it’s just so utterly expected that some of the fun is gone. However,
there is one level I truly adored; a battle in midst of a sandstorm
where all you can see is silhouettes and shadows and the enemy’s
flashlights or laser sights. It looked amazing, it took me by surprise,
it was tense and exciting; I wish more levels were as unique as that
one. Also a positive that I took away from the campaign; not nearly as
many f-bombs as in BF3 and it wasn’t nearly as dark or sadistic as the Black-Ops campaign, so I was glad for that.

One
interesting thing that came out of the campaign was the statement that
truth is all a matter of perspective, especially in war. It’s a profound
sounding statement that reflects the relativistic outlook of our
culture, but I thought it was rather ironic to include such a sentiment
in this particular game. One of the hallmarks of Call of Duty games is
just how linear and scripted they can be. This allows you to experience
some show-stopping action sequences, but also eliminates the chance to
experience things on your own terms. The irony is here’s a game that’s
presenting a relativistic outlook despite the fact it functions on
absolutes to deliver on the gameplay. You must go this one way to get
through this level to continue the game; that’s an absolute. What’s
more, it’s an absolute we accept. No one complains about the
narrow-mindedness of the developers for doing that, or decry the
restrictiveness of the demand that we the gamer experience the game the
way the developer says we should. No, people just accept it. In fact, if
you think about it, for a post-modern, relativistic society we live by a
lot of absolutes. In fact, life is pretty much defined by absolutes
whether we realize it or not. And yet people still claim the gospel of
the Bible is far too narrow in its absolute statements of how to get to
heaven. Everyone should be able to choose their own path there. But, if
we’re okay with one way to get through this game, why can’t we accept
that in reality there may only be one way to get to heaven? And instead
of being upset about that, why couldn’t we just be glad that someone
showed us that way? Irony. That’s what it is. Just plain, simple irony
that so many of us miss.

Of course the main reason people are picking this up is for the
multiplayer, and again, you should pretty much know what to expect here.
First, let’s talk Call of Duty Elite. It took me a week and a half
before I was successfully admitted, but once I got in I liked what I
found. It’s more fully featured than Battlefield’s Battlelog as it
includes things such as maps so you can familiarize yourself with
locales and even see where you died the most with a heat map. There are
also tips on how to improve and videos and the usual stat tracking. All
in all, I think Elite has the upper hand on Battlelog with its features,
but I don’t feel that way about the actual multiplayer. This is the
same fast-paced, twitch shooting that’s become the standard for Call of
Duty. Is it fun? Yes. Do I enjoy it? Sure. But some of the issues from
past games are more frustrating for me because they’re still here. I’m
not a great player, or at least not an elite player, so the whole
“killstreaks help the rich get richer” is still frustrating for me.
Another annoyance is it feels like every weapons is a shotgun. No matter
what I get hit by, it’s practically an instant takedown. Don’t know why
that is, but it’s a little something I noticed and maybe it’s just me,
but I’ve heard other players note it as well. I like the new addition of
strike packages, some of which will get you things with killstreaks
that persist even if you die, but it doesn’t add as much balance to
killstreak issue as you might think. Another nice tweak is you can level
up guns as you use them and unlock specific perks for them. It’s nice
that you don’t need to use a perk in your class for a weapon any more.
Aside from these additions, however, not much as changed. That’s good
and bad, and mostly a matter of perspective which is which. I do
appreciate that you can play online with a friend split-screen and that
there’s the option for private matches here, so those two are definite
positives that BF3 just doesn’t have.

And then there’s the return
of Spec-Ops. If you’re looking for some co-op action, this where it’s
at. See how long you and a buddy can survive, and this time there’s the
added wrinkle of earning cash to unlock better weapons. It’s kind of
like Horde 2.0 from Gears 3 without the ability to set up traps
and the like. Still fun though, and a tough challenge. If you need to
improve your skills, this is definitely the place to do it. 

Another
year, another Call of Duty. Look, don’t get me wrong, it’s a really
good game. The campaign brings the story started in Modern Warfare 1 to a
decent close and it’s entertaining though entirely expected. The
multiplayer is a well-oiled machine that can practically run on its own
now. The Kill Confirmed mode is a nice addition, and the other tweaks
are welcome, but again it’s all entirely expected and familiar. But you
know what, some people are perfectly okay with that. Me? I’m just a
little tired of it. I still have fun playing, but I enjoy it for shorter
spurts. And when I realize I can’t destroy walls, drive tanks, fly
jets, and do some of that other fun stuff over in Battlefield 3, I just end up wanting to play that game instead of this one. It’s all purely personal choice. Modern Warfare 3 is
another solid entry for the Call of Duty franchise and plenty of people
(6 million on day one) will play and enjoy it. Me, I’d rather be on the
battlefield than answering the call of duty.

Score out of 7:

Graphics:
5 – Initially I was not impressed; this engine is starting to show it’s
age. But there are moments where it still shines (firefight in a
sandstorm, for instance), but some of the improvements, especially with
lighting, that’s scene in games like Forza 4 and yes, Battlefield 3, cause the flaws in this game to stand out more. It looks good, really good, but it’s starting to show its age.

Sound: 4 – There’s just no comparison in the sound design between this and Battlefield 3.
I’m sorry, but there isn’t. It gets the job done, but the sharp, acute
clarity of BF3 was sorely missed while playing MW3. Sound FX are almost
muddy here by comparison. Still, there’s some good voice acting and a
solid score, so it’s not terrible by any means.

Controls: 6 – Smooth, fast, responsive. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Call of Duty. 

Gameplay:
5 – Again, it’s exactly what you’d expect from Call of Duty. Explosive,
over-the-top set-pieces in the campaign, fast and furious multiplayer,
and some solid fun with co-op play in Spec-Ops. It’s good, it’s fun,
it’s very familiar.

Story: 5 – It does a good job of bringing this
trilogy to a close and tying things together, but tries too hard with
some emotional moments that don’t quite resonate and some pointless
shock tactics that really don’t pay-off.

Content: 4 – Not nearly
as foul-mouthed as BF3, but there’s still plenty profanity. It’s also
non-stop in the action/explosions department, but like BF3, very little
gore.

Final: 5 – Truth be told, my final score has more to do
with my weariness of the CoD franchise than with any flaws found in this
game, and with a few frustrations that continue with the multiplayer.
It’s a fast, high-octane shooter like every other Call of Duty title the
past few years, and therein lies my weariness.