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Review

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed: November 8, 2011
  • X360

Modern Warfare 3 sticks to its competitive, cooperative, and single-player guns and reminds you why the series is one of the best in the business.

When the Modern Warfare scion of the venerable Call of Duty franchise branched out four years ago, the electrifying campaign and addictive multiplayer cast a new mold for first-person shooters. In the years since, this formula has been consistently refined, shamelessly imitated, and widely adored, making it one of the defining franchises of this generation. Modern Warfare 3 stays the course, delivering an explosive campaign, breakneck competitive action, and challenging cooperative play. This is an exciting and rewarding game, but the series' signature thrills have lost some of their luster. Modern Warfare 3 iterates rather than innovates, so the fun you have is familiar. Fortunately, it's also utterly engrossing and immensely satisfying, giving fans another reason to rejoice in this busy shooter season.

The campaign picks up where Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 left off. Our heroes, Soap and Price, are in bad shape, and the villain, Makarov, is still at large. It doesn't take the pair long to get back in the hunt, and soon you're hopping the globe in pursuit of your quarry. You make a few forays into backwater outposts, but the most striking situations are when you take up arms in conflicts that consume entire cities. From New York City to London to Paris, no bastion of Western civilization is safe, and the destruction that has been visited on these iconic locations is visually stunning. The impressive scenery makes the action more impactful, and the campaign shuffles you around to different fronts within each city to make sure you can experience the battle from many different angles. Remote air support control, on-foot firefights, and tense vehicle sequences keep the campaign moving at a great clip in these urban environments, capturing the expert pacing that has made past Call of Duty campaigns so exhilarating.

As with its predecessors, the Modern Warfare 3 campaign has a few tricks up its sleeve aimed to shake you up or make you cry out with excitement. The latter are more successful than the former. A jet flight gone wrong and a chase through Parisian streets are highlights, using environmental upheaval to make you feel like you are struggling for control in an out-of-control situation. These sections are definitely exciting, but because Call of Duty has trained you to expect the unexpected, they lack the extra spark of surprise that kicks exciting up to thrilling. Modern Warfare 3 also takes a startlingly out-of-place shot at wrenching your heartstrings, but the outcome is so obvious from the moment the scene starts that you're left to watch dispassionately as the characters set up and fall victim to tragedy (opting to not see disturbing content at the outset of the campaign will likely spare you this unpleasantness). The game is more resonant when you encounter scenes of tragedy in the natural course of the campaign, but this is not an emotionally fraught campaign. It is, however, an engaging and superbly paced roller-coaster ride that brings the Modern Warfare story to a very satisfying conclusion.

They certainly know how to make an entrance.

If the five-hour campaign doesn't satisfy your thirst for AI blood, then the Special Ops mode almost certainly will. Returning after its debut in Modern Warfare 2, Spec Ops offers 16 one-off missions that complement the events of the campaign, letting you experience new facets of the global conflict in which you are embroiled. From stealthily escorting resistance fighters to slugging through a large enemy force in a Juggernaut suit, there's a lot of variety here. Though even the longest missions can be completed in under 10 minutes, the variable difficulty levels help Spec Ops missions provide hours' worth of challenging combat. Furthermore, you can now tackle almost every mission solo and make a bid for leaderboard glory.

Spec Ops also includes the new Survival mode, which offers even more opportunity for cooperative or solo slaughter. Survival pits you against wave after wave of increasingly difficult AI enemies on the same maps you encounter in competitive multiplayer. Playing either Survival mode or Spec Ops missions levels up your Spec Ops profile, which in turn channels that familiar satisfaction by unlocking guns, attachments, and equipment. These unlocks come into play solely during Survival games. As you progress through waves and earn money for killing enemies, you gain access to hotspots where you can purchase items from your unlocked arsenal. While you can always pick up the guns your enemies drop in a pinch, the weapons you purchase are likely to be the ones that give you staying power. Refilling grenades and ammo regularly is a necessity, and as the waves get tougher, so is making use of the more powerful assets in your repertoire. A sentry gun can help you stay safely entrenched in one corner of the map, while a squad of AI allies can help cover you when things get hairy. With good gun choices and savvy equipment use, you can make solid progress, but there's always another wave waiting to outflank and overwhelm you.

Spec Ops is a great destination for those seeking a stiff, surmountable challenge (missions) or the thrill of seeing how far sharpshooting and smarts can get you (survival). But the most fiendish challenge comes when you take your skills into the realm of online competitive multiplayer. The action will be instantly familiar to anyone who has braved a Call of Duty battlefield in the past four years. The speedy action and rewarding experience point system are just as thrilling and addictive as ever, and some welcome refinements make it even easier to enjoy. Interface improvements make it easier to customize your loadout and view relevant challenges, which offer hefty XP bonuses. Those thirsty for more information about their weapons and statistics can use the free Call of Duty Elite application, which you can download to your Xbox Dashboard or access through a Web browser. In addition to providing extensive stat breakdowns and a variety of premium features that you must pay more to access, Elite offers some useful weapon tips that can help you tweak your battlefield strategy. The Combat Training mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops that simulated a multiplayer environment with AI opponents does not appear here, so newcomers are left to fend for themselves in the online wilds (though Survival mode at least affords you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the maps).

The 16 maps provide an excellent array of arenas for the action to play out. Bomb planting, flag grabbing, territory controlling, and straightforward killing form the backbone of most matches, with the notable new addition of Kill Confirmed. This mode mixes things up by requiring you to collect tags from dead bodies in order to actually register your kills. Confirming a kill or denying an enemy kill by collecting a downed ally's tags is as important as making sure your bullets hit the target, giving this mode an enjoyable new tactical dimension. Adjustments to weapon upgrades and killstreaks also require some tactical shifting, because you now unlock attachments, camouflage, and stat-boosting proficiencies by leveling up individual weapons through use. Killstreak rewards have been reissued in strike packages that offer some new assets to play with, like a remote recon drone and a ballistic ground-based booby trap. The Assault strike package works in the familiar way, rewarding you for killing successive enemies in a single life, but the Support strike package doesn't care if your streak spans multiple respawns, and the Specialist strike package rewards you with extra perks instead of traditional killstreak rewards.

Spec Ops supports two players locally, while competitive multiplayer accommodates up to four.

These tweaks alter the flow of rewards into your arsenal and onto the battlefield, but Modern Warfare 3 doesn't take any chances with the tried-and-true formula. At launch, even the matchmaking playlists feature standard fare, but the robust Private Match customization options let you tweak the standards to your liking (even offering some of Black Ops' more interesting modes) and hold the possibility of odd permutations to come. Whatever diversions or innovations may lie in Modern Warfare 3's future, the competitive multiplayer still offers the same sweet satisfaction you've come to expect from the series. This is some of the best online shooter action around, and with the daunting challenges of Spec Ops and the exciting, globe-trotting campaign, Modern Warfare 3 stands tall as another great descendant of the game that changed a generation.

The Good
Climactic campaign
Lots of varied and challenging Spec Ops action
Exciting and entertaining competitive multiplayer
Spec Ops profile spreads the satisfaction of leveling up
The Bad
Multiplayer sticks closely to familiar formula
8.5
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
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About the Author

Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.

Discussion

72 comments
watchdogsrules
watchdogsrules

kill conformed is my favorite multiplayer mode in MW3

a-jay13
a-jay13

battlefield series's multiplayer and destructibility combined with COD series's campaign and co op. it would be freakin awesome,but it is not gonna happen.the worst thing about the cod i felt was the movements of the player,it felt so blant,i mean you go prone and crawl at that time they should have atleast added a movement animation similar to battlefield 3.pardon my english

Drkr_Zen
Drkr_Zen

One of the best series in the business? That's too much credit.

One of the best in the shooter genre, maybe. But not the business.

NTM23
NTM23

Man, I really like the Modern Warfare campaigns. I initially didn't really care for the first MW all that much, but when I got through two in one sitting, I was thoroughly impressed. I liked the characters more, especially Soap and Price. Three's campaigns was really great too I think, but it did stick too close to what we've already experienced, so just with that factor it made it a little less exciting; I wouldn't say I was disappointed in it though. One thing I did find disappointing at first was the fact that Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe weren't back to do the soundtrack. 

After I got through three I thought Brian Tyler did a pretty great job for the most part though; there were only a few sections in which didn't appeal to me. I understand there are a lot of people that don't much care for this series, or the way it plays anymore, and while I agree in a sense, I do love the Modern Warfare games. Black Ops never really got me though, which can be in some ways considered ironic. I just never found Treyarch's games to be as good as Infinity Wards, though I did like World At War. Playing that recently though, it wasn't very good, and doesn't stand up to time as well as the first MW, for me at least.

It'd be neat if they were to put the trilogy out as one large and seamless game, so it'd be around 12 to 25 hours (which sounds like a leap). I don't remember how long it took me to beat an individual one on veteran, but I just said eight, though the game in actuality is about four hours on the easy and normal difficulty settings. I feel like it took me twice that time though on veteran, but maybe that was a different game; I don't remember. I just remember being surprised that it took me twice as long as I had done it in the first playthrough. Anyways, all graphically and gameplay-wise the same. I would be interested in playing that.

Zekethompson22
Zekethompson22

Such an amazing campaign. The level one the plane is the best!

NinjaMaddy
NinjaMaddy

 Sticks closely? Its the same damn thing!

JFlame44
JFlame44

It was sort of the nail in the coffin. I have played many past CoDs and they have become repetitive because

CoD 1: The Original Beast

CoD 2: Improved CoD 1

CoD 3: Starting to feel the same...

CoD MW1: Epic, Something so gorundreaking

CoD WaW: Adds the iconic zombies, great release.

CoD MW2: Starting to feel the same, great new maps though.

CoD Black Ops: Improves on zombies, some OK multiplayer, ridiculous campaign.

CoD MW3: The last nail in the coffin

CoD BLECK Ops 2: Great zombies, what else to offer... NOTHING!

 

They need to change up soon, otherwise they may suffer the same fate as the Bond series.

griff65
griff65

This was a better improvement than past cod's, i liked the fact this one was actually closer to real time than the others, and had much better equipment, however perhaps they could improve upon the 2 player split scree aspect of the game, 

i do however understand that the new CoD is much more futuristic and look forward to seeing the changes and improvements :D 

gamefreak215jd
gamefreak215jd

in the next game activision should either focus on increasing the length of the game (singleplayer) as well as introduce some new features.or they must focus on improving the multiplayer along with new features(including better graphics).

bmz13
bmz13

OMG OMG OMG !!! another shooting none criative same-old gameLets pay alot of money for a new same game that we played, and buy all of the DLC!!

 

Than to close we say that nintendo sucks only couse it has diferent games than shooting ones

 

 

jowzey
jowzey

I have been playing this for the last 8months and am not quitting yet,Even though Black Ops was awesome,they did well with the weaponry and story even though the campaign was short but it was quite worth...yeah,MW3 deserves enough respect

jordan119
jordan119

Never played the COD muliplayer before so I did with this one , yes i was shit at it , i  got about 18 deaths for every 7 kills but even so , whether your the guy who gets 19 kills with 1 death or the guy who gets 1 kill for 30 deaths. You're still only running around shooting people , i dont see whats so special about it (apart from the marketing campain) maybe im missing something , so what is so special about it  ?

sowatson
sowatson

The special ops is great but I think the game is pretty bad.  I liked the first two alot.

Drake2013
Drake2013

I've never played a CoD game, and I think it's wonderful. I should also say that special ops is a really nice touch to the game as well, defenitely worth the money.

dixitayan
dixitayan

campaign very short,

good game though.

 

eddieham13
eddieham13

There is a Gamespot bad game emblem called "Same as last year" and this applies to this but it doesn't have it?

bf3rocks23
bf3rocks23

multiplayer is getting very boring. If you are to, switch to Battlefeild 2 or 3 they are way better.

berghg12
berghg12

bought this game, played one game online, then put it up for auction on ebay. Terrible

NikIvRu
NikIvRu

Giving this game such a high score is one of the two biggest disappointments I have in gamespot.Oh this game is totally copying its predecessor - okay will give it 0.5 smaller score- that will teach them... 

ausgamer529
ausgamer529

I think its great its pure fun for everyone

JCSBEARMEAT
JCSBEARMEAT

You gave MW3 a rehash of MW2 an 8.5, and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier a 7.5....wow sad times.

Kilo0311
Kilo0311

Just another mediocre Call of Duty game with bugs they will never fix, but charge you another $15 for more maps that should've been included in the $60 game in the first place. Modern Warfare 1 was the last good Call of Duty game.

njs0207
njs0207

Modern Warfare 3 isn't that horrible , it just has too much cheap stuff.

gay4pandas
gay4pandas

its really sad to me that fps games have come down to just call of duty or games trying to copy it.  I used to love modern warfare 1 and even loved playing 2. by the time black ops came out though I was just tired of it and wanting something new. since most fps games never make there money back other developers are scared to try anything different.

mxwonderboy121
mxwonderboy121

this game got old after the first week i got it..

cylon500
cylon500

Modern Warfare 3 might have the same familiar formula of MW2 but they did it because they know that mw2 worked, so they kept going with it and making the formula better which is awesome. Multiplayer is awesome Special Ops is awesome Campaign is awesome

GhostofWar75
GhostofWar75

There is not even a word for how bad this game is. Me and my friend put our copy's in the toaster. Im not even kidding.

watchdogsrules
watchdogsrules

@JFlame44 right about every thing except black ops and black ops 2, btw i have never played the 3 original CODs

Ezioprez9709
Ezioprez9709

@JFlame44 The bond series is almost flawless. Think about Goldeneye N64, Nightifre, Everything or nothing, From Russia with love, Quantum Of Solace, Bloodstone and Goldeneye for the Wii, DS, Xbox and Playstation. CoD is basically overrated and they just recycle the same things over and over again for a fast buck.

NinjaMaddy
NinjaMaddy

 @JFlame44 Doubt it, the idiots will just keep on buying them

DarkMajor21
DarkMajor21

 @gamefreak215jd  Thing is tho CoD has been using the same engine for quite awhile so unless the make there own the graphics can't get that much better.

Ezioprez9709
Ezioprez9709

@bmz13 Nintendo has more classics than Sony and Microsoft put together.

Sony: Ratchet and Clank

Microsoft: Halo

Nintendo: Mario, Zelda, Mario kart, Metroid, F-zero, Star Fox, Kirby, Ice Climbers, Gyromite, I could go on forever.....

gamefreak215jd
gamefreak215jd

 @jowzey i still have a question in mind :why do people hate MW3.i agree the multiplayer is not as good as BF3 but the single player campaign still rocks.So in away i like both the games.this Cod and BF decision has literally led to a social division.

Ezioprez9709
Ezioprez9709

@eddieham13 Just like the time when it said black ops declassified does nothing right but they added in a 'good' section.

jordan119
jordan119

its unfair to compare different game types or genres, its like saying "you gave Ghost Recon:future Soldier a 7.5 but gave Forza a 9"

njs0207
njs0207

It would be better with no cheap stuff.

bf3rocks23
bf3rocks23

 I never knew what the deal was with Black ops. But thats when Cod got old, in 2010.

 

gamefreak215jd
gamefreak215jd

 @cylon500 dude single player is no doubt awesome.most of those who called it a rotten game didn't play the campaign.they were disappointed with the multiplayer.can't blame them as every one usually expects improvements in the sequel.

LE5LO
LE5LO

@Ezioprez9709

Have you been under a rock the last 2 decades?:

Sony - Uncharted, God of War, Metal Gear Solid, Wipe0ut.

Microsoft: Gears of War, Fable.

No? 

Ice Climbers and Gyromite!? Are you serious!? Dude games have come a long way since the NES. If you could go on forever, then what would be next, another 25 year old game? :D 

jowzey
jowzey

 @gamefreak215jd I also have no idea why modern gamers like taking sides,BF3 has the maps and everything but who has the legacy for real,COD all the way so i also hope we keep it that way and those who prefer one game over the other should quit trashing the other,just saying man

Blade_Runner22
Blade_Runner22

 @jordan119 yet gamespot uses a universal rating system that is not divided into genres so... we CAN actually judge Forza against Ghost Recon, as unfair as it sounds. I think the goal is to measure the overall quality of the game experience.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 More Info

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  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 3 more
    • PS3
    • Wii
    • Xbox 360
    Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is the next chapter in the best-selling Call of Duty first-person shooter action series.
    7.2
    Average User RatingOut of 9716 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
    Developed by:
    Aspyr, Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games, Treyarch
    Published by:
    Aspyr, Activision, Square Enix
    Genres:
    Action, Team-Based, First-Person, 3D, Shooter
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language