The Modern Warfare 3 Journal: I Quit

Read Journal #1 here first.

Despite what you’re thinking, this isn’t an angry post. The last time I wrote an “I Quit” installment to a journal, it was for Dragon Age: Origins, a game that was such a frustrating experience, I returned it to the store in a matter of days.

That’s not what’s happening here. This is a post born out of pure exhaustion and boredom, and me finally realizing that I’ve grown out of a series I used to love.

I spent my entire last journal entry for Modern Warfare 3 detailing how similar the game was to MW2, right down to the exact same menus and loading screens. Even though that’s exceptionally lame, It’s tough to berate Activision and (what’s left of) Infinity Ward for not changing much, as when you have a formula that sells $400M worth of product on day one, you don’t really want to mess with it.

So they added little tweaks here and there. A few new guns, a hybrid scope, a Juggernaut killstreak, and a slew of new maps, and then dusted off their hands and said they were done. To devoted fans, it’s the same game they’ve always loved, in part because more often than not, it’s literally the same game.

But something has shifted in my perception of this series with this latest installment. Though run, gun and die, has been the go-to playstyle for these games for years,  it’s especially noticeable here to a degree where more often than not, it’s more annoying than fun.

These maps have to be the worst set I’ve ever seen in a Call of Duty game. it’s not that the landscapes or vistas aren’t impressive, it’s that every single level is so damn small, it’s ridiculous and almost unplayable. The biggest maps would probably be in the small-medium range in a different game, and the small ones? You quite literally can’t take more than two steps without taking a bullet in the eye.

Trust me, I tried to have fun. I played through every mode, hoping that the bigger team games or objective based ones might have some secret larger maps, but none were to be found. I played the much lauded “Kill Confirmed” mode, which die-hard fans were calling “revolutionary.” I call it killing people, and running around to collect gold coins. There’s perhaps 5% more strategy involved, and it’s hardly the shakeup the series needs.

I’ve progressed up to level 38, and in that time I’ve seen people have prestige once or twice already, meaning they’ve been playing the game nonstop since release. There’s very little room to be a casual player in these games anymore. Every lobby is made up of 75% teen boys who come home from school and do nothing but play this game. I was good at the past few installments, but here I find myself getting demolished more often than not.

My growing problem with the COD series over the years has been when you die, it rarely feels like your fault. 25% of the time when you’re killed, you’ve lost a twitch reflex battle with an enemy as you both round a corner. The other 75% of the time? I’d classify those deaths as “unavoidable,” be they because you’ve been shot by a missile sent from the heavens, stepping on a landmine you couldn’t see or far more often, you simply walk somewhere and you get spotted before you can spot them. Most shooters allow you to at least try to sprint away from an out of sight ambush like that, but here you die in one or two bullets at the most, and never have a prayer if you don’t spot the enemy first, and most deaths come from someone you never even caught a glimpse of.

Another frustrating combat occurrence is the age old problem of “I totally shot him first!” This is the kind of thing where you’ll put a shotgun in someone’s chest, pull the trigger, and somehow you’ll end up dead without them even being touched. Then, when you watch the killcam, it reveals that you didn’t even fire at all, and lag was the main culprit for your death. This happens in a lot of shooters, but here where bullet damage is so high, it’s a huge deal who can get off those first few rounds. Have that account for about half the deaths in that 25% of twitch reflex battles I mentioned, and you have about 12% of deaths where you did something actually wrong.

If these numbers aren’t completely accurate, it’s at least what it feels like. These problems have always been around in COD games, but in MW3, they’re heavily, heavily amplified by the tiny maps, and are frustrating to the point where I’d much rather turn back to Battlefield, a game which has made me a convert.

Despite both being shooters, Battlefield and Modern Warfare have practically nothing in common. Though Battlefield is not without its flaws, it feel far less manic than MW3. If you sprint around blindly spray bullets at anything that moves, you’ll die, your team will lose and you won’t have any fun. Rather, it’s a mix of tactics of taking over bases and bomb sites, and the addition of vehicles, destructible environments and sprawling maps that makes use of both of those give the game a sense of epic-ness that’s missing from Call of Duty these days, especially with these microscopic maps that would take a Battlefield jet under a second to fly over.

Call of Duty is frustrating now because it’s both simultaneously easy and hard to play. It’s easy because the fundamental concept is to run around and shoot, with little thought put into class selection or tactical ways to approach objectives or utilize the help of teammates. But it’s also incredibly difficult because of unforgiving bullet damage and the propensity to die in completely unavoidable ways.

But past all this, the game is now just plain boring to me. Perhaps this is because between Battlefield and Skyrim, there are now far more appealing titles to be played, but the grind of MW3 is the same as it’s always been, and just not that interesting. I thought for a brief moment that I would avoid prestiging this time around, and simply try to master all the guns by racking up kills with each attachment and such. But as I started running around with the completely useless undermounted assault rifle shotgun, going 3-18 each game trying to get 40 kills with it to tick off a little box, I thought, “what the hell am I doing?”

Call of Duty used to be a fun game to pick up and play with a friend now and again, as you could mindlessly run around and kill for an hour or two and it would be fun. But now with Battlefield, which actually has you supporting and aiding your friend in combat, as well as developing strategies, it’s a clear alterative to walking around with your friend in MW3 knowing that at any second someone can spawn fifteen feet away and shoot both of you in the back.

I don’t begrudge the people that do enjoy Modern Warfare 3, and I know there are plenty of them out there. It’s just that after four games of almost exactly the same combat, I’m tired of buying a new one of these every year just to reset my stats and find a few minor tweaks. My annoyance is compounded by these horrendous maps which amplify all the problems this series already endures, and I’m sure as shit not going to trust that any DLC maps are going to be any better.

I just don’t really see myself playing this game anymore, which is why I signified that I’m “quitting” in the title. I might pick it up now and again, when I’m truly bored, but with 100 hours of Skyrim to go, and a litany of titles to catch up with from Uncharted to Assassins’s Creed to Saints Row, Modern Warfare just isn’t a priority anymore, and the grind isn’t as alluring as it used to be as I know everything will just reset next year.

Despite all this, Call of Duty is setting sales records year after year, and because of that, I fully don’t expect them to change. But if they want to retain once loyal customers like me, they’re going to have to look at what their competitors are doing, and try to evolve the series at some point. A new scope and killstreak set and a litany of Lilliputian maps aren’t going to cut it.

I’m done with Modern Warfare after about ten hours, and that for me signifies an unprecedented failure for the series, and I have a hunch many other former fans feel the way I do.

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  1. I gotta agree. I’ve been playing COD since the second one (talk about genuine awe) but everything feels the same, since modern warfare. The same tactics, the same killstreaks (although they got too overpowered in later installments) same everything. I don’t blame them for not changing what seems like anything, but I definitily don’t respect them for it.

    I’m starting to get the same feeling for assassins creed, they are the same game with minor touch ups. After 4 hours with the new one the only new things i can actively remember is the bombs, and the fact that its in the middle east (AGAIN). I’d rather wait two years for a great game then a year for a glorified game.

    I wish everyone made jumps from game to game like rocksteady did with batman. Everything about that game left me in awe.

    Luckily I rented the first two on redbox for $2 a piece, which is about the most I was willing to pay for COD. Bought batman the day it came out and still have fun with it a month in

  2. I think I may be done too. I’m still having fun, I just don’t have the drive to keep playing that I did with mw2. Then again I don’t really have the drive to play really any video games. Sure, I played uncharted and arkham city and they were great I just felt something was missing from the whole experience. I dint know if that’s because of a change in the games or a change in me. The other day I had a day off and rather than using my ps3 to play modern warfare 3 or assassins creed brotherhood that I still haven’t beaten, I used it to watch phineas and ferb on netflix. I think I am officially a jaded gamer. I was hoping the slate of great games this fall would excite me about games again, but it just hasn’t.

  3. Paul, your my new hero. Finally someone that speaks some sense and isn’t blinded.

    As it pertains to Call of Duty, I’m reminded of the old saying, “If everyone jumped off a bridge…”

  4. “Litany of lilliputian maps”… Best diction ever, in possibly one of the best written game articles ever. Summed it perfectly!!! Okay. Bye now. Dragons to kill…

  5. Great article.
    after playing about 3 hours i was left with the sense of nothingness. lame rewards were flying at me fast and furous, yet it wasn’t even fun.
    the “payback” strategy meant that players i killed were respawning in close proximity…mostly killing me from behind. it was a cycle of i kill you, you kill me, i kill you, you kill me, etc….
    and everyone is ghosted on the map, with the perks too easy to acheive.
    i was expecting advancment in the franchise. i might go back to black ops…or try battlefield.

  6. I’m kind of curious as to how much different this game would have been without the whole Infinity Ward/Activision fiasco that happened. If the majority of the game’s original creators had stayed around would it have been a better game?

    I’m not sure how much time Sledgehammer had to work with the gutted Infinity Ward on this, but I have to think that some time was lost in Modern Warfare 3’s production. And this lost time is what ultimately might have doomed MW3 to be jokingly referred to as nothing more than really expensive DLC.

  7. I haven’t actually played MW3 yet (just picked it up last night since a buddy bought it) but my biggest gripe about COD (and online games in general) is the balancing. I tend to be a little better than my friends, so if we play online we get paired up with people that are my level or above and my friends HATE it. It makes for a horrible experience for a casual player.

    @Sam: You didn’t like Arkham City? Maybe it’s because I only play 2 or 3 games a year, but that game is like crack for me. I got 100% in the story mode only to find out there’s the challenge mini games. I might never sleep again.

  8. Also, I tend to still think of the Modern Warfare games as COD4. Hence this is like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 3 and I actually don’t expect it to be that different. I guess I could see where people would be disappointed.

  9. I know it was really only a mention at the end of the article, but spend you time playing Saint’s Row (at some point). It’s just a mess of awesome. The game is designed for one thing and one thing only, to have fun.

    I just started playing it last night and it’s insane. Granted, I havent gotten Skyrim yet (looks amazing) and I dont have AC:Revelations, but I do have Arkham City and that got completely brushed to the side fo this game.

  10. ya i pretty much agree with all your points, but i’m still enjoying it during skyrim breaks 😛

    also, i love the survival mode in mw3, its a lotta fun, better than zombies, easy to enjoy for a little while like an arcade game

  11. @brian
    I thought arkham city was great. I just didn’t really enjoy playing it. I just have a hard time really enjoying games lately. I would rather sit down and watch someone else play because the stories are great I just think the gameplay can be rather tedious.

  12. I really don’t know what you were expecting Paul. Since Cod 4 the game style hasn’t changed, and the griping hasn’t changed. People that buy this game know what they’re getting into, but you act like this game was supposed to be some kind of FPS revolution. Now Battlefield is a game that caters to people with slower reflexes as you can usually see the enemy coming from miles away. But you should remember that these games are technically sports, and casual players suck because they don’t take the time to practice.

  13. Yeah that shotgun thing you posted is why I’m not too excited about the game. I do like the WW3 feeling the storyline gets a bit into it. That’s one thing I missed from COD games, feeling like you’re in the middle of an all out war instead of a bunch of sneaking around and little fights.

    Multiplayer however, I’m not excited. I got it mainly for survival, spec ops and story. Gears is so much better to play with other people.

  14. Paul, I think you are just getting older and these COD: MW games are staying the same age! But seriously, I’m loving MW3 even if it is more of the same thing. I don’t mind the smallish maps and run-and-gun play style. Honestly, I also don’t want to try or have the time to learn to be good at any other multi-player games at this point in my life (I’m 30).

    Preferences change as we get older. I used to only play JRPGs and platformers 20 – 15 years ago, fighting and sports games 15 – 10 years ago, and now for the past 10 years, FPS and WRPG games. I’m sure there are a ton of other gamers out there that followed similar gaming paths. It could be that time again for our preferences to change.

  15. Banko,

    Casual players suck because we have jobs, girlfriends, wives, kids or other responsibilities that allow us not to play for 7 hours a day and learn the perfect spawn kill locations or glitches that allow me to hide inside a building.

    I haven’t played Battlefield yet, but Paul has a valid point. It’s why I stopped buying Madden. Same damn thing every single year with minor changes and updated rosters. Might as well be a higher priced DLC.

  16. @Nick

    The misuse of ‘you’re’ in the first paragraph of the second page immediately disqualifies this from being “possibly one of the best written game articles ever”.

  17. My main complaint about MW3 is actually the new game mode, kill confirmed. It is the epitome of what you are saying, and anyone who is a halfway decent gamer will feel my frustration. Since your team only gets points if you collect the dogtags (gold coins as you put it), the entire game mode basically becomes run-and-gun. It’s set up for noobs, and it is really difficult to excel at it. You either play the game mode as it was created, or you slink off to some corner and snipe people for a high K:D ratio, while gwetting the least amount of points on your team.

    I know I went in depth talking about a game mode in a game nobody seems to like, but I had to explain my main frustration. The games aren’t stagnating, they’re degrading. The game designers made a mode SPECIFICALLY FOR NOOBS. Except, everybody is playing it because it’s one of only two new game modes. Kill confirmed might as well be played in the big, white, empty loading room from the Matrix with how much skill it requires to play. Have everyone run from opposite corners and try to kill each other in an empty room, it’s the same thing.

  18. mw3 is just god awful to play, no strategy just random mindless gameplay, you would have to be nuts to really dedicate a lot of time to the game. the jig is definitely up, you can only recycle the same thing so many times. its predecessors were random but they havnt got a patch on the latest installment.

  19. The lag in those fast twitch battles is my main gripe with the game. I never had a problem with it in the previous games nearly as much as I have with MW3. Maybe my connection has just gotten worse?

    The maps are ABSOLUTELY better than Black Ops, but take a back seat to COD4 and MW2. I wish they’d have a map or two that were more open (Wasteland, Overgrown, Derailed), but the little kiddies that only like run and gun would probably vote it off anyways.

    Regardless, I’m still having fun with it. I’ve got a solid K/D so far, and I actually have a good friend that plays this game so I’ll likely stick with it for awhile.

  20. Spot on. I had a week to burn and got MW3 and I really dislike it. Haven’t played the campaign yet and I feel I should do that before I return it and get BF3.

    And yet I can’t help but realize I did the exact same thing with Medal of Honor last year…

  21. I agree with this post, its just a glorified MW2 map pack. Game has lost its spark, just seems the same ole same ole, arguing teens, no team play, just people wanting to go solo and get there killstreaks so they can level up faster and prestige. One of the reasons I prefer BF3 over MW3, bigger maps, more team based objective, just seems more of a polished well round game vs MW3. I dont really want to say BF3 is more of an “adult” game but it, in a way, is. I find it far more enjoyable. I played MW for a good week after its launch and I was done with it, sold it for $10 less then I payed for it, coudlnt complain about losing $10. I know how things depreciate. However..Im loving BF3 and dont see me quitting that any time soon. Right now tho, Skyrim is taking my life away every chance I get.

  22. All I heard was, I suck at the game and I hate it. I am loving this game. It’s not nearly as camp friendly as previous COD games were, so run and gun is much more viable in this game. Also with the new strike packages, the game focuses a lot more on gun on gun (personal skill) than who can get the best killstreak. The maps are definitely an entirely new beast. They take some time to get used to, but once you do, you will see a big increase into ur overall performance.

  23. I’ve been debating for the past few weeks about whether I would get this game or not. I finally played it today at a friends house and it was the EXACT same game as MW2. I dominated (because I have been playing BF3 for the past three weeks) and got tired of it after 3 minutes. I am interested in the MW story though. But this article describes what I have been saying since BFBC2 came out two years ago. Glad to hear some people have stopped drinking the COD kool-aid.

  24. @Neil, thank you.

    I could care less about the article, as it’s just more pointless diatribe (not much has changed since last time I was on this site).

    But since it appears that there are a lot Battlefield fans, I would like to know how BF3 compares BFBC2.
    I did enjoy the first BC immensely (both the campaign and MP), but the 2nd one was a ridiculous nosedive in virtually every aspect.
    Ultimately, I want to know if BF3 go back to glory of BF2 and the 1st BC?

  25. As a self-proclaimed uber pro Counter-Strike player, I was over Call of Duty before I even played it. Why relearn on thumbsticks a game that I already played for years on a PC? I had NEVER played ANY Call Of Duties before I purchased Black OPS, and my infinite frustration of dying immediately and endlessly made me return it to GameStop after about a month.

    I tried, godamnit. I really, really tried. But the learning curve was so steep, and the game is so over-saturated with people who are already L337 at it, that the experience was akin to trying kick water up hill. Or punch a waterfall. Or being water-boarded. Or some other thing with water that’s fucking frustrating.

    After I maxed out my level and unlocked everything, my friend asked me “Why havn’t you prestigued yet?”

    BECAUSE FUCK YOU, THAT’S WHY! Do you have any idea how not-fun this was to play, just to get a decent gun and worthwhile perks?

    The author nailed it perfectly in his example of trying to get 40 kills with a shitty gun just to tick off a box, and getting killed by god-knows-what (or, this is just me getting out my newb frustration).

    After Left4Dead, Bioshock, TeamFortress, and other, more creative titles, playing a Team Death Match with a basic, modern machine gun just seems silly and boring. Stop playing this over rated game, people, and we can all move forward.

    Also, RCXDs are the bain of my existence.

  26. I might play it more if I could use my own profile in splitscreen mode with my teenage son (who actually bought the game – I only bought BF3 so soon after release because a friend did). It’s also tough to switch between BF3 and this because of the drastically different feels to the targeting alone. p.s. – Thanks for this site.

  27. I forgot to mention I think COD should have “ripped off” Battlefield’s squad deathmatch mode (instead of Crysis 2 or MGS’s confirmed kill bit). Having three other small teams out to get you is the sweet spot for chaotic gaming goodness where shooters are concerned.

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