One area where Modern Warfare 3 is staying the same is in its visuals. The series is starting to show its age a bit in the textures, but the Modern Warfare series has always been making a trade off of fidelity for a smooth 60 fps. Even with buildings collapsing and squads of soldiers on screen there is not a hint of slowdown, and commendably the game runs it all in-engine, hardly ever takes away all your control for what would otherwise be cutscenes in other series. You could make the argument that aiming in slow motion and pulling the trigger a few times is not much more involved than a quick time event, but just that extra level of involvement or how you always have camera control during the "oh-shit" moments goes a long way to keeping you invested in the gameplay and not focused on the individual textures.
Not that Modern Warfare 3 really needed subtle ways to keep you attention; the game's single player mode is still a blockbuster spectacle. The missions do feel a tad formulaic with Act 1: sneaking or transport to area, Act 2: rising action and small engagements, Act 3: the shit hits the fan and usually results in a thrilling chase or escape, but at the time it's really easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of it all. From skittering across the deck of a sinking aircraft carrier while you fire at exploding mines on another ship to an urban street to street shootout during a sandstorm, the game all but barrels you over with new and exciting set pieces. The story even does an admirable job of propelling you from one to another and calling back to previous games, even if it can't really break from the already set "go kill the super-villainous terrorist" formula. The biggest issue with the single player campaign continues to be its sparse length. While it's a blast from start to finish, the five-hour campaign length leaves you wanting more in both the good and bad sense, especially if you're the sort that's not interested in multiplayer.
If you are looking for something to do after the single player and don't want to fight it out competitively, Modern Warfare 3 continues to expand on the Spec Ops cooperative modes. These little bite-sized missions will rank you on your performance, and there is often a clever amount of effort to have them mirror or run tandem with the campaign, sometimes having you take control of the very enemy you previously fought against. These missions will also award experience for Spec Ops new mode, Survival, which, just like the multiplayer, will unlock new weapons and bonuses. Survival is your typical horde defender style gameplay, but with the Modern Warfare spin on it. It's not quite as tightly crafted as some other shooter's iterations, but the variety of calling in air strikes and buying upgrades still keeps it quite entertaining.
Bottom Line: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is much like its predecessors: a bombastic but brief single player campaign coupled with laser-focused multiplayer.
Recommendation: Unless you've started feeling fatigued by the last few iterations of this series, you should pick up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. There's enough variety and new features to keep the experience feeling fresh despite being grounded in what's worked before.
Justin Clouse wishes to point out that comparing only the multiplayer Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 are roughly equal.
This review is based on the 360 version of the game.
Game: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Developer: Infinity Ward
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)