The two longest running arguments present in video game criticism are whether the medium will ever rise to the level of art, and whether video games will prove to be one of the driving forces in the entertainment industry.
“Call of Duty” has definitely proven that the medium solves the latter, although it certainly will never be a part of the former.
The newest entry in the series, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” made $450 million in its first day of release, making more money than “Puss in Boots,” “Immortals,” “Tower Heist” and “A Very Harold And Kumar 3-D Christmas” combined. It’s a blockbuster of the highest order, and there’s nothing stopping it from being a billion dollar seller by the end of the year.
For those picking up the game, at least they’re getting a high quality product. “Modern Warfare 3” reeks of polish. Despite running on a slightly revised version of the engine that powered 2009’s “Modern Warfare 2,” the new game is strikingly pretty, and is still able to deliver on the polish and fantastic set pieces that the series has long depended on.
It’s too bad the story falls apart. It’s more of the typical tale of evil Russians, kidnapped presidential daughters, nukes and invasions of New York that exists to do little but bring players to a series of stunning vistas to thoroughly destroy.
That being said, few are picking up “Modern Warfare 3” for the story. The meat of the game is in its multiplayer mode. Gone is the slower, more deliberate shooting of last year’s “Call of Duty: Black Ops” in favor of the constant bullet hell of automatic fire.
Multiplayer’s adrenaline rush is an experience into and of itself, with a host of new modes, guns and killstreaks keeping the experience lively, but the game’s addictive nature catches you with a constant reward system. Using certain guns enables leveling them up, unlocking new scopes, attachments and camouflages for your weapon of choice. It’s a bit of a step down from the instant gratification of buying and customizing your weapon in “Black Ops,” but the sense of constantly seeing more experience and more level ups is enough to turn a five minute gaming session into a five hour one.
But when everything is down to the basics, the multiplayer is still the same game you’ve played about four times before. It’s all about locating your opponents and quickly eliminating them while continuously pushing forward. It’s fast, fierce and fun, but I couldn’t help getting bored.
I’ve played these games for three years now and a few different maps, gadgets and modes aren’t going to make the whole experience radically different. Within a few hours, I’d figured out my favorite weapons, favorite loadouts and favorite maps, and I’m pretty much set. There’s an illusion of options and choices, but the game is already devolving into power-leveling and weapon tiers and the excitement of discovery and character building is suddenly gone.
If “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” is your thing, you probably own it already. It’s a competent, extremely polished shooter, with almost nothing to differentiate with previous games in the series. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, engaging or exciting, but at this point, wouldn’t you like to have something a little more ambitious?