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A Modern Warfare Twice Played [and How I Survived the Midnight Pickup]

I’ve been a big fan of the Call of Duty games since Modern Warfare 2. I didn’t have a console before then (I’d been holding out with a pS2) and summarily died, over and over again, when I tried playing with friends. When I bought my first 360, though, I knew I needed to find out what everyone loved so much. The game grew on me and I played it for the better part of that year as my “only have 20 minutes” entertainment of choice. Black Ops came out the year after with some brave new ideas but the same, aging engine and gun play that often felt more like a whimper than the concussive blast of high caliber rounds. I played CoDBLOPs for about six months before growing tired of the looseness in the controls. It missed something vital and hard to discern but in a game like Call of Duty, the guns need to feel good — Black Ops’, well, didn’t. So it was with some hesitancy that I stopped by GameStop last night to follow through on my pre-order.

Allow me a brief aside to explain the process of buying the game. It wasn’t typical.

Imagine my surprise when I arrive at 11:45 to see a line of hundreds stretching down the sidewalk. This might not seem noteworthy if you live next to a big store… but this wasn’t a big store; it was a very, very small store next to many other, larger ones in the city. As I made my way to the end, I passed a crowd that would have devoured a young woman — had there been any. The one woman I saw in line was a very disturbed looking mother with two small children (nine and ten years old small… at 11:45 at night… to buy a murder simulator). The only other woman was an excited teenager who leaned out her car window holding her copy of the game, shouting, “woo! Modern Warfare 3!” to which a man in sweatpants and gold plated teeth replied, “What’s that, you want to suck my [expletive deleted]? You want to suck all our [expletive deleted]?” The energy drink holding 18-30 somethings surrounding him — fellow customers, not friends — laughed and nodded their agreement. A man in front of me discussed with his friend the best way to get a girl to put out. Empty cans were left on the sidewalk, cigarette smoke floated through the air, and all around me was echoed the words “fuck” and “fucking.” When I finally got to the front of the line only 30 minutes later, I was told that I’d need to get a wrist band and return to the end of the line. Even though I was already at the counter, already paid, already holding a receipt, and looking directly at a stack of PS3 copies. The teller was having a rough night (I wonder why) so I let it go and got back in the rapidly decreasing line.

The game is a disappointment. It’s fun, sure, and worth the money if you’re a fan of the series. The multiplayer, however, feels like one big map pack for Modern Warfare 2. The art assets look exactly the same, movement and control feel exactly the same. Activision could easily have passed off MW3’s multiplayer component as an expansion and called it a day but I suspect they wouldn’t have seen such extraordinary sales if they had. The only noticeable differences are that firing rate and recoil have been adjusted making each weapon feel just slightly different than how you remember it.  Kill streaks are now broken into playstyle-specific groups (Assault, Support, and Specialist) which helps spread out the killstreak rewards to the less killstreak-y. For all intents and purposes, however, if you got your fill of Modern Warfare 2, Infinity Ward has given you very little reason to buy this game.

No, I haven’t tried co-op yet, but I’d like to. PSN ID: GameByNight.

I’m tempted to announce now that Battlefield 3 has finally won the battle of the first-person shooters, except the sales won’t bear it out. Honestly, that’s disappointing. Where Battlefield 3 feels truly like a next-generation shooter, Modern Warfare 3 feels distinctly last generation. The blurry, washed out textures that impressed us two years ago now look, well, blurry and washed out. Modern Warfare 3 launched 14 hours ago and it already feels old. Congratulations, DICE. I hope next time around sales match the quality of the end product.

But that’s exactly it, Modern Warfare 2 WAS a quality product and so is Modern Warfare 3. The core gameplay is still tight and fun in all the ways it’s ever been. Infinity Ward has improved on many of the issues players had with the previous game and MW3 is the best in the series because of it. If you like Call of Duty, this game is a must buy simply to keep up with all of your friends who will be playing it. Purchasing this game was a forgone conclusion for many of us. That’s a testament to how rock solid playing online is.

If you’re not already indoctrinated, though, or if you played MW2 and were tired of the extra-fraggy, air support laden match structure, you’d just as well save some money and buy another game. If you’ve never played a Call of Duty, again, save the money and get MW2 first. As an expansion, MW3 is wonderful. As a sequel… let me put it like this: Modern Warfare 3 is to Modern Warfare 2, what Fallout: New Vegas is to Fallout 3. Take that for what it’s worth.

Oh, and I learned what the message “T for D” means when sent over Xbox Live. For shame, teenagers. For shame.

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