When Duty Redials…

Review Modern Warfare 3
MW3 is out and about, scorings its eights and nines and commanding the lives of adherents the world over—though, interestingly, the game has received something of a flogging on Metacritic, with the user score ranking a paltry 3.2 (Xbox 360 version) as of this writing.

Meanwhile, the game sold seven decazillion copies in the first ninety seconds after its release. True fact.

So, you understand: never mind that Metacritic score. The verdict is in, and everybody loves Call of Duty. As a registered and licensed Digi-Herald and Internet Chronicler, it pains me to inform you, dear reader, that your internet voice, and my internet voice, and the score of 3.2 on Metacritic do not matter. The score could be zero, and it would not matter. The gaming community voted with their wallets November 8—and if you don’t like Call of Duty, well, you lost.

Call of Duty is the President of Vidyagaems. Sorry.

Review Modern Warfare 3
I think the truth, though, is that everybody likes Call of Duty—even those who profess to hate it. Few actually pick up that controller and say “Nah, this isn’t any fun.” Call of Duty is fun. In fact, fun is pretty much all Call of Duty is, and maybe that’s where some of the ire comes from. If you play MW3, you’re going to have fun—you’re just going to have the same kind of fun you’ve had in the last four games.

If you’re someone who cares about videogames, and not just someone who plays them, it’s easy to watch a game sell more copies every year without doing anything new—and feel a little dirty.

You probably feel even worse when you buy the damn thing and like it.

You are going to like it, of course. You’re going to like it for the same damn reasons you did last year, because that’s what Call of Duty does with such laser-guided precision.

If you followed our coverage of Call of Duty XP, you already know the multiplayer has seen some significant tuning. There’s been some reorganization and balancing—especially in regards to killstreaks and encouraging support roles—that works out very well. Additionally, what new content there is—such as weapon specializations, adds another layer of depth to the increasingly customizable experience. They’ve refined that brutal heroine of a progression system into an even purer form. It’s designed to addict; everything is about rewarding players with a flood of tidbits, always demanding that they play just one more match.

Meanwhile, the revamped Spec Ops mode provides some extended playtime for those who wish to play co-operatively rather than competitively (get the unstoppable XBLA fourteen year-olds on your side, for once). Also, guess what? It has its own rewards system, too!

My understanding is that next year Activision will roll out a Call of Duty Lifer subscription package, which will include an intravenous feed of concentrated XP ooze, dispensed for each kill earned.

Review Modern Warfare 3
On the campaign side, the explosions are even explodier, the heights are even higher—and in one ludicrous sequence, the gravity is actually lower.

Of course, the plot suffers from more holes than a pair of crocs, and I think the desire to emulate the successes of the past has hurt it a little. There’s so much concern given to crafting set-pieces, that the setup is completely forgotten, subtracting weight and meaning from these moments.

Nothing is quite as harrowing or memorable as Call of Duty 4, but fortunately, not everything misses the mark. There are some cool novelties in the campaign, and the final moments pack the sort of punch that I’d been waiting to see for the entire ordeal.

Interestingly, I think perhaps Treyarch has the more advantageous position when it comes to crafting Call of Duty campaigns. Though their games are not etched with the same inhuman precision, and I feel do not quite enjoy the same support or reputation, they have the advantage of a little more freedom—something they exploited fully with Black Ops. Black Ops was a little off-center for the franchise; a little strange, mysterious—in the end, just a little weird. Secret conspiracies, brainwashing, hallucinations—it was new territory for the franchise; a risk that paid off.

It worked so well that, when all is said and done, Black Ops will stand alongside Call of Duty 4 as the most memorable in the franchise thus far.

Ultimately, the people behind the series have produced another genuinely good game—and I’m sure they will continue to do so. However, much like Halo in recent years, the franchise has ceased to be an innovator; it is no longer a trendsetter, now merely content to follow its own trends. It may be time for Call of Duty to stop the progress-wary navel-gazing, to look out and set the next trend. The genre just isn’t growing the way it was five years ago, so somebody has to do it.

Yesterday’s nine is an eight today, and every sequel wants to be bigger and better—but there’s only so far a series can go when the strategy for attaining that goal is doing the same thing you did last year, but doing it harder. “This year we’re going to Call the Duties even more” is a philosophy that can only work for so long—er, at least I think it is. We’ll see how the gaming public votes next year, right?

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  • EdEN

    Last CoD game I bought was World at War. I played MW 2 here and there with my cousin and really didn’t like it. Something was… off. Oh, I remember, you had to use a Dualshock to control it instead of pointer controls like on Wii! MW3 on Wii is actually fun. Might buy it next year.