I'm going to be completely upfront here with this review, I haven't been a fan of this franchise or genre. The idea of a military first-person shooter just doesn't appeal to me. I've never been one to play "war" as a kid, why would I want to play a glorified expensive version as an adult? Plus I don't feel like I fall into their target demographic, being neither a frat boy or an angry, angst-filled 14-year-old. I thought though, why not broaden my horizons? Plenty of people seem to like these games, hell, some folks buy consoles just to play them! Maybe there's something I'm missing, being that the last Call of Duty game I played was on the PS2 and had me storming the beaches of Normandy...although that could have been Medal of Honor, I dunno. It was a long time ago. Regardless, I'm sure you get the point, this is not my genre-- but why not give it a shot? I'm going to be open-minded about it. Maybe it's not as bad as I think.
Initially, I did have a little bit of fun, I mean, the graphics are good and the shooting mechanics are definitely solid. It's nearly impossible to distinguish your enemies from your squad mates (who have names like "Grinch", "Truck" and "Sandman"-- you know, stuff that only an 8-year-old would think is cool) though-- everybody just looks like grey army guys. The opening level takes place in New York, which to me feels like the developers just trying to be post-9/11 edgy, which is lame. Also, I can't interact with the environment in any way-- can't open the cupboards, flip switches, or mess with anything. It certainly doesn't help immersion any. The only way you can interact with anything either by shooting it or blowing it up. It's like I'm playing as a person who only has one verb in their vocabulary: shoot. Occasionally you'll place a bomb or give a guy a life-saving injection or something, but this just involves pushing one button. Why not have some sort of mini-game? Hell, even the generally disliked Quick Time Event would spice these moments up and make it feel like you are capable of doing more than firing a gun. You play as multiple characters throughout the campaign too, but since all they do is shoot, shoot, shoot, there's nothing that makes any of them feel any different from the others, from both a character development or gameplay standpoint.
The pacing is horrendous as well. It never slows down! You'd think that'd be a cool thing, I mean amazing action all the time, right? No. When you have over the top bullcrap happening all the time, you kind of get desensitized. I mean, when you get no downtime to calm down, it dulls the impact of the amazing moments. Give me a hallway to walk down where there aren't guys trying to kill me. Build some suspense and give me a chance to decompress and think about all the awesome stuff going on. There's no arc, it's just a straight line. Every good entertainment experience follows a given arc for maximum enjoyment. Here's the arc for the nearly universally acclaimed Star Wars: A New Hope (you know, one of the good Star Wars movies!):
See how it builds up and calms down, all while maintaining constant escalation. This is how you pace a game, movie, anything.
This is Modern Warfare's pacing. It just doesn't work-- it takes away from the cool moments, sets the base expectations too high, and just stays there the whole time. Give me some cooldown time, have me walk down a hallway and listen to some exposition from my squad mates, anything. I don't have the attention span of a gnat, I don't have to always be shooting something. If you want some great information about video game pacing (or any pacing for that matter) check out this episode of Extra Credits. (Which also gets credit for the amazing Star Wars pacing chart.)
It's not like MW3 isn't enjoyable though, you just have to straight up turn your brain off. It's the Micheal Bay movie of video games. If you just want to play a game where you shoot some stuff and things blow up a lot, it probably doesn't get better than this (except maybe Duke Nukem Forever-- at least it knows how dumb it is). If you're looking for an engaging plot or innovative and new gameplay experiences, you'd best look elsewhere. I can see the game's appeal, but it's just not for me. There is a lot of room for improvement though.
Title: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Developer: Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games
Platform reviewed: PS3
Released: November 8, 2011
PXT Final Verdict: 6.0/10