Duck-and-cover blasting of enemy forces in rubble-strewn streets. Storming up flight after flight of stairs to take out a skyscraper-mounted radio tower. Jumping onboard a Black Hawk helicopter to man its 50-caliber minigun in a cat-and-mouse air battle. Joining a scuba suit-clad Navy SEAL team to scuttle a Russian submarine and use its missiles to bombard an armada of attack ships. These are just a few of the initial, adrenaline-laced assignments of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
Once again the Call of Duty franchise drops gamers into the body armor of a number of different seasoned warriors from around the world and sets them off on a heated, bullet-whizzing roller-coaster mission—fully equipped with the likes of M4 assault rifles, Claymore mines and Javelin missiles. Only this time the action all starts in the streets of … the Big Apple.
How did we end up with war on American shores? This latest campaign picks up where Modern Warfare 2 left off. And that means central heroes Soap and Price are still hunting for the Russian bad guy Vladimir Makarov. This power-hungry madman is hidden away somewhere in the world while he marshals a huge ultra-nationalist terrorist force that's raining down pestilence on large populated areas from New York and London to Hamburg and Paris. No center of civilization is safe from a maniac who's willing to detonate nukes or unleash chemical weapons in the heart of a megacity.
The Familiar Feel of Duty
Translation? A single-player campaign mode that immerses gamers in pretty much exactly what they've gotten before, and expect to find again, in the virtual Call of Duty world. Those expectations include buttery-smooth shooting and hand-to-hand battling mechanics, heroic world-saving combat and defenseless-prisoner rescues, a special-ops section with individual skill-building co-op missions, and about 10 hours of over-the-top adrenalized World War III-like story action. Need another translation? Gamers spend all of their time ducking from the realistic carnage onscreen, dashing from checkpoint to checkpoint and giving their trigger finger the workout of a lifetime.
The truest, grittiest gore of war is thankfully avoided, but the seemingly infinite numbers of onscreen bad guys spurt and splash plenty of red stuff nonetheless. Military "lingo" includes f- and s-words as well as "a‑‑," "d‑‑n," "b‑‑tards" and "h‑‑‑."
One particularly bit of unpleasantness is worth singling out here: To stir up a little more gut-wrenching anger at the ruthless villain Makarov, a cutscene shows a mother and child being murdered by a deadly chemical attack. You're offered the option to skip this unnecessary nastiness, but unlike some other kill-heavy shooters out there, MW3 boasts no selectable content filters designed to lighten the load for the rest of the battle. So it's pull the trigger and watch 'em die, pull the trigger and watch 'em die, pull the trigger and watch 'em die, over and over and over again.
Time in the Trenches
All those familiar minuses and (a few) plusses, however, really only scratch the surface of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Fans who swarmed to stores and slapped down a record-breaking $775 million in the first five days of the game's release will readily admit that it's the online component that gives MW3 its real draw.
That multiplayer battling takes place on 16 new and intricate maps. And it's designed with an involving leveling-up schematic while introducing frantic, enemies-on-all-sides excitement. It boasts a newly revamped rewards system that keeps players locked in place with regularly administered perks.
Notice that I said locked in place. USA Today reported on a Utah woman who couldn't seem to drag her husband away from MW3 after he bought the game and spent the next 48 hours immersed in the heat of online battle. So she decided to post an ad on Craigslist to try to grab his attention:
"One Husband to the Highest Bidder"
"I am selling my 22 year old husband," she began. "He enjoys eating and playing video games all day. Easy to maintain, just feed and water every 3-5 hours. You must have Internet and space for gaming. Got tired of waiting, so free to good home. If acceptable replacement is offered, will trade."
She later said she was joking. And he said he got the gag. Still, I'm sure the young missus in Utah would be pleased if we all got the message.