E3 2011

E3: Modern Warfare 3

| 8 Jun 2011 16:21
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After some hands-on time with the latest Modern Warfare, it's safe to say single player is more of the same. Thankfully, there is co-op and it is better than ever.

Single-Player

Modern Warfare 3 is louder, bigger and filled with more explosions than any Call of Duty before it. Shocking, I know. While the two missions presented at the show offered different setups and locations, they both culminated in absolute mayhem and bombast that has become the hallmark of the series.

The first mission, "Hunter Killer," starts with Frost (the player) and fellow soldiers scuba diving in New York City's Hudson River. After an atmospheric opening, showing off improved lighting that pushes the aging graphics engine to its limit, underwater mines and dead bodies hint at an imminent threat. Upon approaching an enemy submarine, Frost and crew plant a bomb on it and invade.

From this point forward the game plays out like Black Ops' missions: run through a series of tight corridors, as scripted events play out at every other corner. It makes for a very cinematic experience, but, as with Black Ops, there doesn't seem to be much variety in pacing or freedom in movement. Flashbangs are about as tactical as things get, in this demo. After some macho screaming and a missile launch, the player takes part in a tightly scripted getaway scene on boat. The fireworks on display, as massive boats crash and buildings in the distance explode, are impressive.

The second level, "Mind the Gap," plays out nearly identically. After a brief stealth introduction, complimented with constant radio chatter from A.I. teammates, the player is thrown into a firefight. At first, the level shows promise of recalling some of the larger battle areas in Call of Duty 4, but the player is quickly funneled through it. Each couple of steps marks a new checkpoint and scripted event.

The end of the level has its own chase scene, where the player's squad follows a subway car (!) in trucks (!!!) It's the classic, over-the-top set piece that CoD fans expect, but, at the end of the day, the player is doing little more than ducking and shooting. Each new tunnel marks a new checkpoint, wiping away any tension from the scene.

Players unsatisfied with recent CoD entries' restrictive level design and constant mayhem will be sorely disappointed by MW3: a title that might as well have demoed itself.

Spec Ops: Survival mode

In addition to co-op missions, Spec Ops will include a new Survival mode in MW3. At first glance, it seems like a basic Gears of War-esque horde mode. You and one partner kill waves of enemies, and try to survive as enemies increase in number and difficulty. By including elements of Nazi Zombies and multiplayer, Survival is elevated above your average horde mode and has the potential be an the most addictive CoD mode yet.

Like Nazi Zombies, the player begins with a pistol and obtains new guns by acquiring money from kills and spending it at a weapon crate. Not everything is so simple, however. Extra money can be earned by fulfilling specific achievements that change each wave. They vary from "get 10 headshots" to "kill 10 guys without taking a hit." Players can also obtain weapons from enemies, which is crucial in the beginning. Going up against 10 shotgun wielding thugs is a bit better harder than evading zombies.

In addition to a weapons crate, each map also contains an armory and support crate. The armory crate offers defense benefits, while the support crate can summon perk-like offensive attacks. One includes an air strike, while another calls in a back-up squad of A.I. teammates - particularly helpful when you want to distract a heavily-armored juggernaut.

Survival mode is dull and uninspired in name only. It's combination of everything that makes MW multiplayer great, funneled into a challenging horde mode. If every level is as well designed as the one I played, this mode could really be a time suck - a perfect game for those who want to zone out to a podcast and hardcore players that want to set a new record on a map.

In either case, it's the sort of open-ended, challenging experience I once got out of CoD player. It's just been put in a different place and, maybe, improved.

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