E3 2011: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

By Andrew Yoon, Jun 09, 2011 9:50am PDT

QUICKTAKE: The Call of Duty franchise is such a known quality that it becomes difficult to find new words to describe it. Like its many annual predecessors, Modern Warfare 3 continues the franchise's penchant for Hollywood-inspired action, amping it up to new levels of astounding unbelievability. New sequences shown at E3 remind us why the franchise is a blockbuster -- sometimes literally -- while new multiplayer provides reliable, but not particularly inspired, fun.

THE DEMO: Activision presented two demos for Modern Warfare 3. The first, a non-playable demonstration of the single player campaign, introduced players to some of the explosive sequences set on the game's global stage: New York and London. While the New York level was previously shown at the Microsoft conference, the London level surprised us with an absurd chase through the Underground. You chase a rampaging subway car, hijacked by terrorists, while avoiding oncoming trains, only to derail it in a destructive sequence that would make Michael Bay jealous.

The second demo offered hands-on time with the game's new cooperative Survival mode -- essentially, Call of Duty's take on Horde mode.

DETAILS: Here's a sure-fire way to ensure you'll enjoy the Modern Warfare 3 campaign: don't ask any questions. Riding a Jeep, chasing after a speeding train in London's Underground, there were all sorts of questions that came into mind. For example: why hasn't train service stopped since the obvious intrusion in the system? Certainly, the computer-controlled driver wouldn't need to make such daring hairpin turns to avoid crashing into an oncoming train if someone had called this in. A few minutes in, as you race past a crowded station filled with civilians, I couldn't help but think "why are these people still here? Shouldn't they have evacuated long ago?" And then more thoughts crossed my mind. "If New York City was destroyed, how is the global economy still running? How are people on the Tube, acting as if nothing happened?"

These were, of course, the wrong questions to be asking. I should've just turned off my brain and enjoyed the spectacle that was playing out in front of my eyes. As the gunner jumps out of cover and starts firing into the speeding train, I should've enjoyed the cacophony of gun fire and clanking metal playing through the demo room's surround sound system. As the train gets derailed and tumbles through cement pillar after cement pillar, I shouldn't have questioned the structural stability of the tunnel. Instead, I should've just accepted the fact that what I saw was absolutely awe-some.

Activision wouldn't show off the game's competitive multiplayer mode, instead giving us the opportunity to see more of the upcoming Call of Duty Elite subscription service. I chose to play the new Spec Ops mode, Survival, instead.

It is a very traditional Horde mode that brings in progressively more difficult waves of enemies over time. While in the first round, you face a small handful of shotgun-equipped baddies, the later rounds introduce soldiers with better load outs, dogs, poison gas, helicopters, and the heavily-armored Juggernaut soldier. When dynamite-strapped dogs chew on your face, you know you're in trouble.

I definitely had fun playing with another person. We got to round 20, at around 30 minutes of gameplay, before we were both gunned down by a mob of soldiers. What makes Survival so much fun is that the core gameplay of Call of Duty still remains fun, regardless of how absurd the campaign may become. I enjoyed the Call of Duty-isms added to Survival: for example, a separate XP tree that allows you to unlock better weapons specifically for use in co-op. There's also an in-match store you can access that allows you to buy more ammo, new weapons and attachments, and other perks using money you earn throughout the rounds. The money encourages skillful play, rewarding bonuses based on headshots, killstreaks and killing many enemies in a short period of time. You can spend that money to buy turrets, mines, grenades, and even an AI-controlled squad of bodyguards. Given how quickly the challenge ramps up, money is absolutely invaluable in Survival.

While straightforward, Modern Warfare 3's Survival mode is intelligently designed. Once again, the addictive XP system, and rewarding in-game challenges, made me want to play even more. Apparently, the record for E3 so far was reaching wave 24. That's a benchmark I know I want to beat.

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