That magical point in the year has arrived once again where a slab of gun toting violence has landed at millions of peoples feet. Yes, the yearly spectacle that is Call of Duty has returned, this years title being Modern Warfare 3, the sequel to 2009’s CoD outing.

The single player campaign is a key part of the game that most people completely gloss over, but I always play and enjoy CoD campaigns. They usually only take around six hours and are a great introduction to the multiplayer as you get to test out the various arsenal of guns before having to grind and unlock them, to then find out that they’re useless.

The story continues straight off the back of MW2 with Captain Price and Nikolai getting Soap to safety and puts you right in the middle of the violence, with the tutorial-like aspects not taking place in a shooting range, but in a big sprawling level set in the middle of New York. This time around, the game actually feels like World War 3, as noted by the constant WW3/MM3 motif in the trailers. Because of the amount of countries you go to and see, you get the feeling of a grand conflict, rather than something a lot more centralised that you felt in previous titles.

The story also seems a lot more grounded in reality. Gone are the floating in space, seeing the world explode moments which have been replaced with high drama and emotion. In myBlack Ops review last year, I said that the title took Call of Duty storylines in a whole new direction to give the best single player CoD yet and MW3 is on the same level. It features a fantastic plot with genuine emotion and a true ending to the Modern Warfare series.

Of course the single player is just the minor part of the game as we all know what CoD is made for and why gamers buy it; the multiplayer.
With this being a sequel to MW2 and having spent the last year playing multiplayer Black Ops, initially it feels like a step back in comparison. Oh how I miss having a claymore and a frag, although the bouncing betty does make up for it slightly, unless you get sneaky wee shits with the delayed explosion perk running by it or it goes of with team mates around it in hardcore.

There have been a few aces played by Activision and co when it comes to multiplayer modes but they still manage to miss the sweet spot.
On the ranking games we see new modes Team Defender and Kill Confirmed, the latter put in to try and combat campers to no avail. Once you kill someone, you have to pick up their dog tags for it to count, this however means that when someone kills you they just sit and wait for someone else to pick up the tag.
Team Defender is actually much better and tasks your team to hold onto the flag for as long as possible to score points. This is a fun mode especially when both teams are storming the same building fighting for the flag, however the scoring system seems dodgy at times. Apart from that, the usual modes make a return but why is there no free-for-all hardcore mode?

After dying endless amounts of times against the world, me and a few mates decided to set up our own private matches and this is really where the fun is to be had. If Activision has any sense, the modes on offer here should be available in ranked matches as well instead of just private, or at least let it count towards your ranked XP and not have it separate.

Apart from being able to change a host of options on the standard modes, the team have also included some advanced modes for the more adventurous. A couple have made the journey from Black Ops, those being One In The Chamber, which becomes a laugh when you change it from pistols to rocket launchers, and Gun Game.

Other advanced modes include Infected, Juggernaut; where you have to kill the player who is the Juggernaut to become ‘it’, Team Juggernaut; where you defend your teams Juggernaut to become the next Juggernaut, and finally Dropzone which has you trying to hold randomly appearing Dropzones for points and care packages. These modes while done in other games in one form or another are becoming more fun than the usual modes on offer and it astounds me as to why Activision and co have kept them separate from ranked matches.

Talking of ranking, there has also been changes to the way you gain XP. While you still prestige up as normal, you now have to rank up your primary and secondary weapons meaning to get additional attachments and weapon perks, you have to level up each individual weapon. This does add a bit more reason to have a go on all the weapons available, but ultimately it can still leave matches largely unbalanced moreso now than before.

The matchmaking system even after all this time still doesn’t balance teams all that fairly which is something that should really be sorted by now. This is another reason why they should allow you to just rank up during private matches as well as essentially you are just doing what you would do in ranked matches but having more fun doing it.

They have however added some sort of half decent incentive to spend all those hours to prestige with the inclusion of the new prestige shop. You will get a token each time you prestige and if you have prestige in previous COD titles, you will get a token as well. These can be used for unlocking various things such as two hours game time of double XP. This at least makes it slightly more worthwhile to keep fragging away and if Activision holds promise about Call of Duty Elite events and prizes, then this will help the gameplay last. However I fear, as usual, it will be spoiled by control pad modders and cheats.

Something that does work extremely well and I can give no complaints about is the new kill streak system. It really does make things more fun for those of us who cant hold an 18 kill streak all the time and are more like bullet magnets. You now have three different kill streak options Assault, Support and Specialist and they are actually well tailored and a good balance for clans.

In Assault you will find things like the Pave Low, Juggernaut and Attack Helicopter and you lose your kill streak on death. In the Support option however, you keep your kill streak on death and have things like the Stealth Bomber, Ballistic Vests and Escort Airdrop which delivers multiple random kill streak awards. The third kill streak package, Specialist, allows you to earn extra perks as your kill streak rises but again resets on death. This is the only one I have not given time on but it’s not really suited to my style of play.

The maps on offer, which there are 16 of, are really not much of a rise in quality to that of MW2 and Black Ops and all suffer the exact same issues as in the previous titles. There are still way too many camping points (they really need to have a no sniper mode in ranked matches) and the re-spawning system is still a nightmare with the ever dreaded spawn kill scenario creeping its ugly head up yet again.
Lag issues have still not been resolved with me being able to knife someone a car length away and some maps are not suited to a certain number of players, but I guess every FPS will be like that. Also, I don’t know if it is just me but I sure as hell don’t feel like I have played 16 maps, leading me to believe they are very much all the same with different aesthetics.

If you are used to and like the multiplayer in Black Ops, then this will definitely feel like a step back in the wrong direction, however if you didn’t like Black Ops but loved MW2, then this will have shown some improvement but maybe not enough to warrant a full price purchase.
Within my initial 10 mins of online play, I was about to give my console and TV a quick lesson in flying but the COD franchise has the strangest effect on me. It is a game where I find myself shouting ‘this game is shit’, yet it does have an addictive quality to it.

Many will have already made up their mind about this title, hell 1 million Elite Platinum subscribers in 6 days says it all, but for the “newbie”, the above is my view on the multiplayer.

The other mode on offer is the Special Ops mode which can be played solo or in co-op, in which you have to rank up in order to unlock the four different tiers in the Survival and Mission modes, as well as the weapons that you can obtain in each mode.

In Survival you have 16 locations which throws wave after wave of enemies, attack choppers, Juggernauts and Attack Dogs at you as you try to hold your ground. Starting off with basic items and little ammo, you gain money much like you did in the Black Ops zombie mode with kills and streaks which then allow you to purchase new weapons, air support and upgrades. From what I can see that I have unlocked so far, it is the same 16 maps from multiplayer that you will see in Survival mode.

The Mission mode has much more variety and in some cases lets you shoot for the other side. For example, you have to capture the president for Makarov by hijacking his plane which actually has to be one of my favourites as the plane goes through a lot of turbulence making it that more tougher. Another will see you as a Juggernaut recovering a sample of toxin, so the missions are not just tied to the single player campaign set pieces. Not all missions are about running and gunning either with stealth missions thrown in there for good measure.

Special Ops Survival mode has the addiction of the zombies mode in Black Ops with the Missions mode adding more variety after the single player campaign. In all I would say the Mission mode could add about an extra two hours or more of gameplay, depending on your skill.

Modern Warfare 3 is exactly what you expect and what you want of the title. It brings some new innovation to the series but changes some vital things which makes the experience seem a bit more sticky compared to the rest. It’s still the equivalent to crack for teenage FPS fans, but unless patches and future maps fix some annoyances then I’m sure many fans will stick with the MP of BLOPS.

Overall: 7.5

Gameplay
+ Its classic Call of Duty fast paced action, with some awesome set pieces rounding up the experience
– Like all CoD’s, its a game you’ll pick up and inevitably get annoyed with for a bit, only to return to it later like a battered wife.

Graphics
+ Near enough the best a CoD game has ever looked with some fantastic effects and with a stable 60 frames per second.
– Not as gorgeous as other shooters on the market.

Sound
+ Classic orchestra themes to build up the hype and heartbeat.
– No standout tracks or Hans Zimmer like Modern Warfare 2 provided.

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