“I’m going to do my best not to try and compare this game with Battlefield 3, not at all.” —TheRadBrad
I’ve completed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3‘s campaign now, wrapping up the story that began with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The campaign winds up feeling less like a game and more like an interactive movie: clocking in at around six hours, it’s a relatively straightforward continuation of the events of Modern Warfare 2, and to drive home the point that war is pointless, instigated by the madness of individuals, Modern Warfare sees the deaths of several major characters. The notion of “the will of a single man” and “stand[ing] alone” are central themes to this game; Makarov’s drive towards restoring the USSR’s glory and subsequent actions lead to the deaths of millions, and consequently, when Price finally defeats him at the end of Modern Warfare 3, the victory feels empty. Granted, extremists were bested and won’t be shaping the discourse of history, but their impacts nonetheless remain. This is a subtle reminder that events with far-reaching consequences can be instigated by a small group, and in contemporary society, the presence of highly efficient information dissemination systems (social networks in particular) means that seemingly trivial disagreements can erupt into full-fledged conflicts, with the opposing sides resorting to extreme means towards an end. When the conflict settles, one might be forced to ask themselves if the cost of “winning” was truly worth it: in Modern Warfare 3, stopping a fanatic extremist makes sense, but in real life, there are some battles, the so-called “good fights” that are meaningless to fight.
One of the key topics for discussion whenever Modern Warfare 3 is mentioned is how the game compares to its competitor, Battlefield 3. My experiences are quite consistent with the discussions that conclude both games can be enjoyed equally: Modern Warfare 3 is the more cinematic experience, featuring a superior campaign with familiar characters and incredible set-pieces. The campaign makes use of its atmospherics to present a bombastic, explosive story that is certainly eye-grabbing, even if it’s not the deepest story in the world. Moreover, there is the option of playing single-player survival and spec-ops games. These elements mean that Modern Warfare 3 can be highly entertaining even in the absence of other players, and vastly improves the game’s replay value. Being able to play against bots is something few games do these days, but it is sometimes fun to simply start up a survival game and see how long one can last. This aspect is particularly positive, since there are days where one might wish for a multiplayer experience without other human players (and E3 revealed that Star Wars Battlefront will indeed have such a mode). On the other hand, Battlefield 3 is superior with respect to responsiveness, handling, graphics and multiplayer experience. Modern Warfare handles a lot more sluggishly, and I found myself dying because of slower movement responses. It’s clear that the engine is a bit dated compared to Frostbite 2, and ultimately, the gameplay is smoother in Battlefield 3. This is more important in multiplayer, where being able to react and respond quickly is important.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Modern Warfare 3 picks up right after the events of Modern Warfare 2, with Soap being injured. After the prologue and first two missions, the story returns to Soap and Yuri. Soap is stabilised from his wounds, but Makarov’s forces show up, forcing Yuri and the others to blast their way out.
- One of the things I loved most about the first Modern Warfare was the maps set in forested regions Azerbaijan and the Altai Mountains. The terrain in Eastern Europe and Asian Russia has been of interest to me; there’s a pull about these regions that I can’t quite explain, although I don’t imagine I’ll be visiting these places for myself in the foreseeable future. Consequently, Modern Warfare is probably the closest it’s going to get.
- Some missions in Modern Warfare 3 appear to be modeled after the missions from Modern Warfare, following similar patterns of gameplay. Here, I’m equipped with a suppressed semi-automatic marksman rifle and a suppressed pistol; the mission is to find a cargo container Makarov is transporting. While the first sections of the level are stealthy, the latter half gives way to firefights.
- In contrast with Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3 has a far wider variety of locations in the campaign. London, Paris, Hamburg, Berlin, Siberia and New York are part of the campaign, whereas in the former, much of the game is set in Iran.
- The tactical knife is one of the weapon attachments that allows for quicker melee combat with the knife. Not available in Battlefield, this attachment enables for a more fast-paced play-style at close quarters. In the campaign, this setup is primarily a last-resort for close quarters engagements, although one cannot deny that it looks cool.
- This segment of Mind the Gap reminds me of the airport mission in Enter the Matrix: fighting through the London Underground was another exhilarating experience. Compared to Battlefield, the Call of Duty franchise emphases more diversity in its settings within the campaign. The downside is that individual missions are rather short and linear, which limits the possibility of exploring further.
- While Modern Warfare introduces the idea of hiding enemy intel (appearing as laptops) throughout maps of the campaign to encourage exploration, they distinctly feel like an after-thought more than anything. After fighting through the London Underground, the player exits near the Palace of Westminster, with an iconic telephone booth and double-decker bus appearing, as well.
- The Hamburg mission opens off with Black Hawks and an armada of hovercraft converging on a beach, reminiscent of the Charlie Don’t Surf mission from Modern Warfare. Frost starts with an M4A1 (ACOG sight) and an SMAW, but accompanying tanks will engage and destroy enemy armour.
- Similar to the campaign in Battlefield 3 and Bad Company 2, it is quite unnecessary to switch to weapons that the enemies make use of, since the starting weapons come with a plentiful supply of ammunition and usually have balanced stats. For a little variety, though, sometimes, I will switch to the other weapons for sheer amusement.
- One of the things that Modern Warfare 3 does, that is absent in Battlefield 3, is the traversal of the Paris Catacombs. The catacombs are part of the Mines of Paris that once supplied stone to the city, and the vast expanse of subterranean tunnels, but by the 18th century, necessity led a portion of these tunnels to be used as an ossurary. These tunnels are supposedly haunted by paranormal beings, although it’s difficult to feel intimidated with a good rifle in hand.
- The darkness of the Paris Catacombs soon give way to daylight again, and while it is possible to perform modestly well with the starting loadout the entire way through a mission, I find that sometimes, marksman rifles and semi-automatic sniper rifles can make it far easier to pick off enemies in the campaign.
- The cinematics in Modern Warfare 3 are undeniably large scale, and despite the older game engine, appears impressive nonetheless: here, sustained airstrikes brings the iconic Eiffel Tower down. Javelins haven’t changed since Modern Warfare, and are used here to blow some enemy armour away. When I first played through Modern Warfare, one of the things I immediately noticed was how vulnerable my character was to tanks. Prior to that, I was predominantly a Halo 2: Vista player, where I had access to a powerful rocket launcher that could take down tanks in a one shot and even lock onto airborne vehicles. Modern Warfare and Battlefield in general reinforces the idea that armour is difficult to dispatch while on foot, and experiencing this for the first time contributed to the immersion in the original Modern Warfare.
- A variation of the hybrid sight appears in Eye of the Storm: a red dot sight is attached to the RSASS rifle in conjunction with a standard rifle scope, making the weapon useful at moderate to long ranges. This approach resembles the canted iron sights of Battlefield 4, and as with the hybrid sights, were quite fun to use.
- While the shooting mechanics in Modern Warfare 3 are reasonably smooth, the movement system is quite stiff, and there were numerous points in the campaign where I died to grenades or enemy fire from getting stuck in the ground or because I was colliding with my squad-mates.
- This mission to Karlstejn Castle, set just outside of Prague, is to learn the location of Makarov. The castle is inspired by its real-world equivalent of the same name, which was founded in 1348 and presently houses the Czech crown jewels. This mission is a far cry from the castles in Wolfenstein, and although the mission begins with a stealth element, Yuri and Price eventually shoot their way out as the mission draws to a close.
- The M14 EBR is a semi-automatic rifle that Frost starts with in the Scorched Earth mission, and finds usefulness a short ways into the mission. One of those things about modern military shooters that can be somewhat irksome is the fact that enemies blend in with the environment, and I’ve had several cases where I died because I missed the last guy still standing.
- The multiple storylines of Modern Warfare begin converging near the end, as Task Force 141 and Metal work together to rescue the Russian President’s daughter, who was kidnapped by Makarov’s forces as a bargaining chip such that Makarov could gain access to the Russian launch codes. This penultimate mission is set in a Siberian diamond mine, and most of the sections are set deep underground.
- While it’s been one of my wishes to play a shooter set in Siberia (especially in the Kolyma area), the vast expanse of barren wilderness understandably would lead to some monotonous gameplay. This is about as close as it gets in Modern Warfare 3, as Metal and Task Force 141’s fight takes them to the pit-mining section, culminating in an elevator ride deep into the mine.
- The final mission involves donning a suit of Juggernaut Armour and making use of the PKP LMG to storm an Arabian hotel in the hunt for Makarov. It’s, in the words of TheRadBrad, the most badass mission in the campaign: the small arms that Makarov’s guards wield are pitiful and can be shrugged off quite easily.
- Once Price and Yuri reach the hotel’s top floors, Modern Warfare 3 turns into a long quick-time event. Compared to Battlefield 3, quick-time events are mercifully fewer in Modern Warfare 3. Thus, when everything is said and done, though Battlefield 3 has better gameplay and mechanics (especially in multiplayer), Modern Warfare 3‘s campaign is better, and the game also comes with better single-player extras. With that being said, I’m on neither side of the debate: I’ve played through both games and enjoy them both for their different merits.
With Modern Warfare 3 under my belt, the journey I began in 2012 comes to an end. What began as a curiosity in the Pripyat missions eventually became full-fledged interest in Modern Warfare, and while the games definitely don’t feel as smooth as contemporary shooters, the atmospherics and cinematics have aged more gracefully. For me, Modern Warfare 3 is a trip down memory lane, when I spent most of my days studying under summer skies and wondering what it would be like to experience Modern Warfare 3 for myself. I’m unlikely to touch the multiplayer, given that word of cheaters, quick-scopers and the infamous twelve-year-olds have reached my ears, but for what its worth, a campaign with memorable set-pieces and solo-play elements like survival mean that there is still something about this title to enjoy even in this day and age.