The Modern Warfare 3 Journal: Day 1

As I stood in line at Gamestop in a queue of thirty plus people at 11 AM, I knew Activision had another hit on their hands. Furthermore, the thirteen year old kid trading in his copy of Battlefield 3 to help pay for the game was almost a metaphor for how the upcoming battle between the titles might play out.

Call of Duty has now become officially a perennial franchise, with a new installment out literally every fall. This causes critics of the series to poke fun at it, and make unflattering comparisons to Madden, where only minor tweaks and adjustments are put into each new year’s release.

But even with these jabs, it was still the case that each of the titles in the Call of Duty franchise were at least new games. Sure, the differences between Modern Warfare’s 1, 2 and last year’s Black Ops were hardly colossal, but there were notable changes that made the games feel like a somewhat new and exciting experience each time.

With Modern Warfare 3 however, the clock has run out. In its current format, it’s becoming clear that Activision has squeezed almost every drop out of this series that it can manage. I’ve always laughed along with the jokes about new COD games being glorified $60 map packs, but in the case of MW3, it’s an undeniable, factual statement.

It’s astonishing to me that somehow this game took two years to develop. Forget gameplay, which rarely, if ever changes. Even the goddamn MENUS are the same as Modern Warfare 2. The start screen, the mode select, the unlock lists, the challenges, the weapon and class select and even the damn loading screens are almost IDENTICAL to MW2, to the point where it’s almost  laughable. I mean, if you’re going to keep the actual game the same, fine, but recycling to this degree? It’s almost a slap in the face to fans, and even the loyalists are going to have to wonder how long this series can get away with changing less and less each go-round.

As this is a day one review, and I’ll have a few more installments ahead, I will say up front that I’m not in a position to judge every aspect of the game. So far, I’ve beaten the single player campaign, and spent about three hours in multiplayer, but in that time there’s little I’ve seen that makes this game stand apart from Modern Warfare 2. Worse maps maybe?

Single player is usually worth some sort of commentary, but this time, not so much. While past games have featured some truly jaw dropping moments, like a nuke detonating or a civilian massacre, there’s no one sequence like that which really stands out. Yes, there are thrilling, cinematic levels set in every corner of the world from New York to Berlin to Paris to Africa, but this is the problem with being the third (err, like seventh) game in a series. There gets to be a point where you just can’t top yourself any further, and one more crumbling landmark isn’t going to get the same kind of rise out of you anymore.

Though the levels are very scenic, gameplay is just simply mowing down waves upon waves of faceless soldiers while you’re using guns that have seemingly unlimited ammo and almost no recoil. It’s different in multiplayer, but the campaign is now easier than ever as you can literally snipe anyone at 300 yards with any weapon at all, due to the fact that kickback simply doesn’t exist.

The plot is as incomprehensible as ever, but the long and short of it is that World War 3 is moving from America to Europe, and somehow the terrorist Makarov is still at the forefront of all of it. After mulching through about 500 enemies before lunch, and switching back and forth between four different characters while doing so, there’s just no real connection to be found in these stories. The game goes for a few “oh shit” moments, but misses. Really, you’re going to orchestrate a sequence where I’m playing as a father with a video camera filming his wife and kid in London, and you expect me to be surprised when something tragic happens a few seconds later? Is that your “shocking content” moment you warned me I should skip?

Anyway, six hours later and I was through the campaign without more than a handful of memories to take with me. Then it was on to the part of the game where we’ll all spend a hundred hours or more: multiplayer.

But you know, I just can’t see myself doing it. Not this time. As I played the mode for the first time, there was no learning curve. None. It was like I popped in Modern Warfare 2 and the only difference was I had to stumble around some new poorly made levels. Even the guns feel exactly the same. Am I really going to put another hundred hours into leveling up, then hit the reset button and do it again two or three more times after prestiging?

Perhaps I wouldn’t feel this way if Battlefield 3 hadn’t showed me that there is another option out there. There’s plenty to be fixed in that game, don’t get me wrong, but it was just something different, which is all I’ve wanted in this genre. Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t just feel like the same old thing. It literally is the same old thing, and that’s not okay.

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39 Comments

  1. this is the first cod im not getting, i didnt want black ops but all the guys i play with had it, i was going to rent it for the campaign but after this review im not going to, thanks for saving me 10 bucks

  2. I’m just going to say it. The main, if not only, reason I continue buying these games is because everyone else does. I do think mw3 is better than 2, well at least the multiplayer, they seem to have fixed a lot of the problems I had and there really isn’t anything that has annoyed me so far. BUT I honestly wish they would just go back to the first modern warfare. Where basically all the maps were great and there were only three kill streaks and you couldn’t pick them. I may sound like an old man saying things were better in my day, but they honestly were. If they could just remake cod4 with prettier graphics and the ability to play online with multiple people on the same system I’d be happy as a pig in shit. They just need to realize that sometimes less is more.

  3. I don’t normally comment on the site (although I do read it everyday) but this article/review was the most honest thing I have read about this game so far. As someone that skipped Black Ops and recently bought Battlefield 3, I was really hoping Modern Warfare 3 would have something to bring me back to the series. I’ve been debating for weeks whether I should throw down $60 for this but I wanted to thank you for not making me waste my money on what I will now call from this point on a map pack. Now I can spend the money on something more important. Like gas. Or Assassin’s Creed.

  4. Like Jake I think I’m gonna wait till they start marking it down. I didn’t even get around to buying MW2 until a few months ago, so I don’t really have that compulsive need to get stuff immediately. I’ll end up buying this game at some point in the next 2 years, probably when COD8 is about to come out. I still play a few matches on MW1 and BO though I generally stick to capture the flag or domination. Team Deathmatch and Free-for-all left a bitter taste in my mouth when one person would camp to get their Huey and then mow down the spawn points.

  5. Well I agree with everything you’ve said, but the funny thing is I’m having a blast playing MW3. The maps do look like they spliced mw1 and mw2 together. But I don’t really care about all the negatives because I have Maybe 1 hour free time a day, so pick up and play online games like this and FIFA 12 are awesome.

  6. I like the people saying that they finally found an honest review while they haven’t even played it. I think they mean to say they found a review that reinforces their negative bias.
    Reviews are subjective. I’m not saying Paul’s wrong (I’m not even sure if I’ll get MW3, and have not played it, so I have no opinion) but to somehow imply that all other reviews are wrong, or ever worse, dishonest, is just ridiculous.
    If you have played it, and Paul’s is the first review that reinforces your opinion, then that’s awesome. That’s a reviewer to follow and help inform your decisions (and click on some ads while you’re here).
    If we want video games to be taken seriously by non-gamers then gamers need to stop acting like children and treating everything like a pissing match.

  7. @ Brian

    Apparently we have played it. This game is basically Modern Warfare 2 Redux. Just more of the same, and this is the first review I have seen that has pointed that out.

  8. @JB
    I guess I assumed you hadn’t played it much when you said you “passed on it.” If you spent a few hours playing it (which, by the way, is not “apparent”) and you agree with Paul, then like I said, that’s awesome. He’s a good writer and he works for a site I like.

    But I was also speaking to a larger problem in the community (and not necessarily here) of people that divide into camps over PS3 vs XBox or BF3 vs MW3, and then immediately hate anything on the other “side”. It’s just ridiculous and not really healthy or good for the industry when bias replaces honest criticism. Again, I am NOT saying this is where Paul’s coming from, I just felt some of that sentiment in the comments.

  9. @Brian

    I think there’s a general idea that most “mainstream” game reviewers have to give this game a 9.5 out of 10 no matter what, and they rarely criticize something so popular, either for fear of public opinion or the company getting pissed at them and taking away privileges (which does happen).

    But yes, I agree with you that auto-hate is rather stupid. There are good and bad things about both sides, something I learned when I’ve done things like finally buy a PS3 or a Battlefield game. There really don’t need to be these kinds of entrenched camps.

    Fortunately, for the most part, I feel this site is a lot more fanboy free than most places.

  10. @Sam

    “I honestly wish they would just go back to the first modern warfare. Where basically all the maps were great and there were only three kill streaks and you couldn’t pick them. I may sound like an old man saying things were better in my day, but they honestly were.”

    Although, I may agree with you, I think the reason the first Modern Warfare was so great is because it was revolutionary and a breath of fresh air. There’s no way these sequels can compare with it in that respect.

    However, I imagine that if Modern Warfare 2 came out first, and then they released the first one, everyone would be complaining about how stripped down it felt… and not in a good way.

  11. @ Brian

    Ok I see your point now. I hate it too when bias replaces honest criticism. To me it wasnt about BF3 vs MW3 or any alliegence to a certain side, but more on how MW3 is just sticking to the same formula and basically not creating anything “new”. (Even the menus are the same!) Its like getting a new Madden each year very little changes. This is the first and only review I have seen that pointed that out which is why I considered it “honest”.

  12. Bullpucky is what MW3 has come out with if you quit in the middle of a online match you cant get on until forever and they deny you the right to play wtf is that? please look this up and write an article about it this is some bulls**t. I had to leave to go eat dinner with my gf, then i come home and i cant get online because everyone who quits is being punished.

  13. I didn’t buy MW3 simply because I am bored with the way these FPS games are presented with Multiplayer. Like Paul said I don’t have it in me to get to level 50 and prestege over and over again for another CoD Title. And with .5% of gameplay being campaign then I just cant justify $60 if it doesn’t seem very revolutionary at all. Maybe if they sold campaign only copies for $7 I would be happy.

  14. I don’t disagree with the sentiment of it being very similar, but i would hardly say its just a map pack. The Killstreak were overhauled so that you can do assault (normal mw stuff), support or specialist. The other two work completely different than any other FPS. Leveling has gone crazy deep with weapon levels providing weapon specific perks, and they added the alot of the customization from BO. The day one matchmaking is lightyears ahead of where they’ve been and its seems like nothing is broken day 1 which wasn’t the case in BO or MW2. I’m no fan boy, i wrestled with the decision to even buy the game, especially since infinty ward was no longer apart of it. Though it is very derivitive of the last two the multiplayer has good new elements and i think has refined what was good and fun about the previous two installments. I won’t comment on the single player mostly cause i don’t care. But i just wanted to try to provide a counter-point as i think there are good things here.

  15. One thing I am curious about is, what exactly makes people prefer Battlefield 3 over MW3? Is it the vehicles? Because if that is the main reason, you cannot make the argument that MW3 is just a rehash of MW2, because I played Bad Company 2 and there were vehicles there. See, I get the impression that most people that chose BF3 over MW3 chose it simply because it’s NOT Call of Duty. And if you got burned by the series and don’t want to go back, that’s fine. But don’t tell me it’s because the game isn’t original enough for you; EVERY multiplayer based shooter is more or less the same from iteration to iteration with minor tweaks. I played Bad Company 2 then I tried the beta for BF3 and they were basically the same but BF3 had MUCH better graphics. So, you can go along and play Battlefield for the next couple years, but then you’ll either come back to Call of Duty or move to another new series. Me? I’m sticking with the devil I know rather than the one I don’t.

  16. @ Sam. No battlefield 3 is very different from bad company 2. I used to be a pretty decent chopper pilot but now I won’t touch them lol. But I am he’ll on wheels in a tank. The maps are bigger and better. There are more vehicle types more weapons and mods for each. So much has changed from bad company 2 and in my opinion for the better. But I will say that ea really has to work on their matchmaking that really is my only gripe.

  17. I feel sad on how much society demands from products nowadays. Can’t we just simply enjoy a good game? Do we have to rant about it just because it doesn’t bring anything new to the table? Ranting about the menu? I mean how does the menu even affect the gameplay?
    Have you actually developed a game on your own for you to justify how long it takes to actually develop a game like MW3? If you have bright ideas on how to improve the game why don’t you make one?

    Everybody is a critic. Just because you play video games doesn’t mean you’re an expert.
    I’ve played both MW3 and BF3 and I enjoy them both. And for those who feel the need to choose one of them, please go ahead and leave your stupid comments to your self and just enjoy your game.
    I don’t know why people have all these expectations. Our generation is just way too spoiled. And instead of contributing we just rant about the things we hate. No one is forcing you to buy it.

  18. @Marc

    “Do we have to rant about it just because it doesn’t bring anything new to the table?”
    Yes, people can feel cheated because they paid 60 bucks for little to nothing different.

    “Can’t we just simply enjoy a good game?”
    Yes, but why try selling us essentially the same game for the same price and pretend it’s something new? can’t we just enjoy the good game they already put out without them trying to sucker people into buying more of the same, or content that could be covered via expansions or DLC.

    “I don’t know why people have all these expectations.”
    Because usually when people come out with sequels to game things get changed around, for better or worse. Movies are a great example. sometimes you get legit sequels and other times you get a movie that’s nearly identical and loads of recycled material with a number tacked onto it. Activision is taking the latter route, when I think we’d all like to see them take the former.

    Being critical of something isn’t being spoiled. A lot of people are critical because they don’t like their beloved franchises being ran into the ground.

    “If you have bright ideas on how to improve the game why don’t you make one?” Because he’s a journalist/writer, not a developer? Just because he has a gripe with a game doesn’t mean it’s on him to show them how it is done. Are all movie critics not allowed to critique movies because they never made one before?

  19. @Draugr

    “Yes, people can feel cheated because they paid 60 bucks for little to nothing different.”
    No one is forcing them to spend 60 bucks on a game. And if you preordered a game without knowing what you might get you’re either a hardcore fan who will love it no matter how it turns out or you’re just naive.
    And maybe if people would understand how much hard work is done developing a game they would feel differently.
    Besides, how does the previous game which was awesome just become shit just because nothing “revolutionary” was added.
    I would feel cheated if it was exactly the same story, levels etc.

    “Yes, but why try selling us essentially the same game for the same price and pretend it’s something new? can’t we just enjoy the good game they already put out without them trying to sucker people into buying more of the same, or content that could be covered via expansions or DLC.”
    As long as it has the same great gameplay as the previous one I am not bothered by the fact that it’s similar. People rant about changes of gameplay. They did retain things that are obviously working and refined the rest. You’re acting as if you paid 60 bucks for an empty game case.

    “Being critical of something isn’t being spoiled. A lot of people are critical because they don’t like their beloved franchises being ran into the ground.”
    I think we’re far from this franchise being run to the ground.

    “Because he’s a journalist/writer, not a developer? Just because he has a gripe with a game doesn’t mean it’s on him to show them how it is done. Are all movie critics not allowed to critique movies because they never made one before?”
    Yes I think you should have some sort of expertise to critic a movie or a game. Do you let people criticize your work despite having no educational background whatsoever on your particular field? It’s like a patient telling the doctor what to do just because he has seen Grey’s Anatomy?
    Everybody is basically a critic. Just because you didn’t like the movie or game doesn’t make it shit. Maybe it should be considered that this particular movie was made for a specific group of people (e.g. teenager, kids etc.) and that it just isn’t his or her cup of tea. But Careers are being ended because of such reviews so yes I think there should be some level of expertise.

  20. Agreed Marc and Sam. I did enjoy the first BF: Bad Company, and might get BF:3 later on down the road. My hesitation comes from not really enjoying BF:BC2 (major letdown in so many ways).

    As for the naysayers of MW:3, sure, maybe it isn’t your cup of tea. If you didn’t like the first 2, you’ll probably won’t like this one either. Or perhaps you just don’t like the core mechanics, bugs, or other general large scale issue and that’s ok too.

    But to those saying this is an honest review, you wouldn’t know truth if it bit you in the ass. Even in your Forbes article, Paul, you complain about the menus being the same. Big fucking deal.
    That’s how in-depth both this article and your Forbes article go. That level of explanation might satisfy your supporters, but I hardly see how it differs from virtually any franchise in almost any media.
    The self-entitled bullshit with no positive change is more of a problem than the horde of MW diehards. You are in a position to avoid the game. That’s all the effort it takes on your part.

    Once again, to those in opposition of MW3, what changes (game modes, maps, weapons, visual design, etc.) would you have liked to see? Could these same changes apply to other FPS games? Why not play those other games if they already have said differences? Seems like a good compromise, imo.

  21. “Are all movie critics not allowed to critique movies because they never made one before?”

    Aside from the Pajiba folks, I say yes to that.
    This should apply double to Unreality, as the journalistic standards here are laughable.

    And Marc, much love to ya dawg. You’ve got proper sensibilities. I like that you don’t resort the easy default position that the majority of the comments fall into it. Kudos.

  22. @marc

    “But Careers are being ended because of such reviews so yes I think there should be some level of expertise.”

    If you think they are deciding who to keep employed based on Paul’s review then you should share your stash. I’m pretty sure they use sales to determine success, not critics. If they really do let the reviews decide employment I’m sure no one will get fired because their metacritic review score is quite healthy, User score is different, but who cares about what people think, they aren’t game devs, their opinion doesn’t mean shit!

    “And maybe if people would understand how much hard work is done developing a game they would feel differently.”

    Generally yes, but the argument here is that they didn’t put that kind of work into the game but are still asking to be compensated as such. The fact they insist on yearly releases, combined with the work we’ve seen, says to me that this isn’t the case. Recycled Engine and assets being the most glaring evidence to support this.

    “As long as it has the same great gameplay as the previous one I am not bothered by the fact that it’s similar.”
    “I think we’re far from this franchise being run to the ground.”

    Sure, but some people would rather spend their money on something else, and warning that there is more of the same to come isn’t going to scare away people like you, so who does it hurt? People looking for something new go elsewhere, people ready to spend 60 bucks on something they’ve been playing for a couple years with some tweaks are still free to do so, everyone wins.
    I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but when it comes to reviews they are a matter of opinion.
    If you don’t like the review, don’t come in here and critique and rant about it, like all those entitled, spoiled people would, just don’t read it, simple solution!

  23. Wahh! Finally an honest review!
    I don’t usually comment although like many other I read your awesome site everyday, this review is just really nice!

    I like this “let’s cut the cr@p” attitude you had

  24. @Draugr
    ” The fact they insist on yearly releases, combined with the work we’ve seen, says to me that this isn’t the case. Recycled Engine and assets being the most glaring evidence to support this.”
    You know what other “beloved” franchise does this same exact thing? Assassin’s Creed. Now don’t get me wrong, its a fantastic franchise, but it falls into those same pitfalls. Yet, a large group if people said they were skipping call of duty in favor of it.

  25. @Josh
    Agreed,
    I agree with this review, but I am still having a blast with MW3. A great game to pickup and play for an hour. The fixed a lot of the stuff to make multiplayer more balanced, and I really like the maps. The maps are much less frusterating, smaller, and more straight forward than either blackops or MW2.

  26. @Chi

    The maps are way way way way too small. I didn’t focus on that, but good lord, every single game is a complete shitshow where you can’t go for more then four seconds without killing or being killed.

  27. @Paul
    I actually prefer the smaller maps. Yes, they are hectic but since I don’t snipe I always hated getting sniped in huge maps like Fuel. And it keeps you on your ties and makes for much more exciting and not as one sided matches. Plus, they’re not THAT small. It’s not like playing shipment. Most the maps I’ve played are about the size of Terminal from mw2, which is one map I think you said you loved. I think one map about the size of afghan would be nice though. Hell just include Afghan in a map pack, that map was awesome.

  28. well i’ve never commented on anything either but after reading all the comments on Paul’s review I just wanted to add a little of my own.

    First: Paul I appreciate the honesty i agree with some ideas and dont agree with all of your thoughts.

    Second: I only play COD not BF because Ive had my issues with BF. I used to be a big gamer, not a huge gamer but putting in plenty of hours every week. Now Im married and focused more on my family so to say the least my video game hours are limited. So COD, MW1, 2, BO, or 3, is easy for me to pick up and put a couple hours in whether I’ve got friends playing online or not. Would i love to have vehicles to blow people of up with? OF COURSE! but im not expecting COD to try to add a lot of things mid stride in a game, im giving them some time. But my issue with BF is that when ive played it I always felt i was getting destroyed by other players that were playing with their friends. (btw my experiences with BF are with BF2) That seems to be one of the draws of battlefield, the more you can work together as a team the more you can dominate the game. so since i have very few hours to devote to any game i can never seem to connect with my friends to set up times to play BF together so i don’t bother with it. That’s just my experience with it.

    Third: I think the whole matter can be summed up with. If you liked the previous COD’s and arn’t looking for anything shockingly new then buy MW3 but if you are looking for something new and different then dont waste 60 bucks.

  29. @Paul,
    yea I use my old school counter-strike skills to hide and stay alive. I’m pretty good at not exposing myself to too many angles, so I usually have the least amount of deaths in the match. (I’m sort of a camper)

    @Guth
    Yea, pretty much sums it up, I was just looking for a new COD game, and didn’t care if it did anything new with the series. So hence my enjoyment, but I wouldn’t blame anyone steering clear of it.

  30. I just want to say that I’m pleased to see a diferent opinion from all those 9.5, 10 in the web. I think you point out things that all others reviews just decide to ignore because the game is “fun” but at what price? 60 bucks for a copy-pasta and DLC map packs for 15$. No Activision, you fooled me once, that won’t happen again…

  31. so i played both here is my opinon:

    bf3:
    singleplayer is ok but worst that bfbc2 (which was funny but crap compared to mw2)
    origin is a pain in the ass
    got alot glitches in mp so far

    mw3:
    singleplayer not as good as mw2 or eben BO .. just a decent story to put mw1-3 to an end
    install on steam was an even bigger pain than orgin is :O (4 hours of reinstalling because of steam@english but game install german)
    nearly no glitches @ mp BUT almost the same as mw2/BO (but still feels better than both atleast at pc)

    so i just play both but bf3 doenst make that much fun if you dont have 3 friends or more to play with and hope activison steps there game up for the next CoD by alot …

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