Be warned: spoilers aplenty in our impressions of the latest Modern Warfare. If you want to play the game without spoiling the sequences within it, don’t read any further.
Call of Duty changed the game by introducing cinematic, scripted sequences right into the gameplay, and shooters have never been the same since. A lot has happened in the intervening time, though, and the first person shooter genre (even the scripted variety) is one of the most hotly contested in the entire industry. So it was with considerable interest that we sat down to have a good long look at one of the most anticipated titles in the coming Christmas period, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
The game, like those in the “Modern Warfare” branch of Call of Duty before it, follows the fortunes of groups of soldiers, all over the world, whose tales combine into a large overarching narrative. We were presented a hands-off demo that followed two different groups, each of which preferred a different style of combat – one stealthy, one that involved a lot of stuff exploding.
The first group was the one that is likely to be very familiar to gamers paying attention to news coming out of E3, as they’re the ones shown in the reveal trailer and the extended version that was shown at the Microsoft press conference.
They start off under water, diving with the goal of crippling a submarine that is currently (along with its fleet) bombarding an American city in an all-out attack. The objective is simple: get in, take control of the missiles and use them to take out the fleet. They do just that by forcing the sub to surface, at which point they switch out their flippers for submachine guns and get with the “shootin’ people’s faces off” that elite seal teams are so renowned for.
The inside-the-sub stuff could be any Modern Warfare game in a ship (aside from an awesome slow-mo sequence when you burst into the bridge), but what happens next raises the bar in terms of exciting narrative devices used in shooters. For reasons unknown, the exfil location (i.e. a helicopter) that’s going to rescue the marines is some distance away and the space in between is occupied by lots of (mostly exploding) enemy sea vessels.
While somewhat reminiscent of the Pearl Harbour sequences in other FPS games, the action on the water is still unique. Tearing away at speed, shooting pursuers in slow motion should they dare to chase, you must navigate the treacherous waterway (remember all those missiles you fired earlier?) and get to the exit. Yes, it’s scripted as all hell, but that doesn’t stop it being awesome to behold and thrilling to the last minute – even when you’ve seen it twice already.
The second mission started out more sedately, with the demonstrating player taking their time and sticking to the script, as they moved from building to building at a sea port, eliminating enemies with great stealth. For a while. What happened next is hard to express in words but, after a long, roving firefight with a good number of enemies, the team hops on the back of open-topped trucks and chases the fleeing foes who are in… a subway train. Hilarity (and copious cinematic violence) ensues, terminating in an awesome crash sequence that feels hectic and out of control.
In parts, you could definitely see the engine was stretched to the limit. It still looks great though, and was shown running on consoles. Battlefield 3 has not yet been seen running on anything other than a high-end PC, which is what the engine (Frostbite 2) is designed for, so comparisons to that (spectacular-looking) game are not yet valid - which is why we’re not making any.
The game also integrates heavily with the new Call of Duty: Elite system, which Angus will go over in detail shortly.
Were we impressed? Hell yeah. It’s shaping up to be an epic singleplayer experience. We can’t speak to the multiplayer (yet), however we were promised that, as per usual, this was still a big focus for the franchise. Whether this is better, worse or different than Battlefield is still far too early to tell – either way, it’s going to be a great Christmas for first person shooter players everywhere.
The Good: Spectacular, high-velocity action.
The Bad: Engine is definitely showing its age.
The Ugly: People hating on the game for no good reason.