Posts Tagged ‘ Series: Call of Duty ’

Review: Modern Warfare 3 [3/3]

   Another small step forward for gaming as an entertainment medium.

Modern Warfare 3 picks up where the blockbuster Modern Warfare 2 leaves off. The series villain, Vladimir Makarov, has succeeded in instigating a war between the United States and Russia that acts as subterfuge for his own agenda. Soap and Captain Price return to stop him and to seek revenge for other events that unfolded in the series’ previous games. If you’re a fan of the previous games, then MW3 will not disappoint. Infinity Ward (with the help of Sledgehammer) have polished the series formula to a shine that culminates in a tremendous final showdown with Makarov that is both an excellent finish for the series as well as one of the highlights of the genre.

For those who are only now jumping into the series: the player is dropped from location to location around the world as one of several different soldiers in order to witness and participate in spectacular battles. The experience is often compared to a roller coaster ride based on the linear structure of the stages and the dramatic events that unfold as the player moves along them. The player’s job is to utilize the weapons and artillery to make their way with allies through enemy targets to the end of the stage. Each stage stands independent of others and the player’s performance and decisions on one will not have any impact on the others. The variety and weapons and vehicles, in combination with unexpected twists and turns will keep each stage entertaining and novel throughout the game.

The Modern Warfare series continues to break entertainment records. I’m sure that’s in large part due to it’s multiplayer component which refines and builds upon the combat mechanics of the single player campaign while introducing competitive goals rather than simply getting from point A to point B. It also introduces a survival mode that tests the player’s skill against waves of increasingly difficult enemies. Both of these modes introduce options for the player to make decisions about how to arm themselves and prepare their defenses which almost becomes a separate game in its own right. But whether you are playing Modern Warfare 3 for it’s single or multiplayer modes the game as a whole represents one of the best game packages of the year that takes the simple foundation of the FPS and builds a layered and multi-faceted experience that is pushing gaming into the mainstream’s consciousness.

Rating: 3/3

See also: TrailerOfficial SiteMore thoughts at Ruminatron5000

Buy it at AmazonRent it at Gamefly


Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops [2/4]

Note: This review only covers the single player campaign mode.

Black Ops is constructed from a collection of set pieces strung together by a character driven plot centering around operative Alex Mason.  Alex is being held captive by an unnamed force that is trying to coerce him into recalling what has happened to him over the past seven years.  Each memory he flashes back to becomes a level that the player must re-enact before returning to the interrogation, where the story continues.  Set in the 1960’s, Mason memories shift from Cuba, to the gulags, Vietnam, and many other Cold War locations.  The mortar binding all of these events together, in case it wasn’t clear, is shooting guns at people who are doing the same at you.  The world is walking on egg shells, and Mason has found himself in a situation that could tip the Cold War in favor of the Soviet Union.  Black Ops doesn’t attempt to construct an alternative history per se, but it suggests to the audience that the game’s events could plausibly occur without the general public ever knowing.  This premise is stretched to its limits, and may prove to be too much for some players to continue buying into it.  Then again, most audiences aren’t playing Black Ops to engage in an interactive tour of history.  This approach allows the game to focus squarely on what the events mean for Mason as a character, as opposed to Modern Warfare’s set pieces being the main events in and of themselves.

The game is polished to a sheen.  No detail is left out; the textures, lighting, and animation are all crafted well enough that the player won’t be seeing scenes and characters as polygons and pixels, but as walking portraits.  And with the absurdities of the plot set aside, many of these levels are almost life-sized dioramas (or at least appear convincing enough to be) straight out of the era.  The player doesn’t need to think twice before becoming immersed in the scenes.  The campaign offers solid first person shooter game play mechanics.  Running and gunning feels as polished as the graphics do.  Lining up shots and picking your targets feels smooth and provides excellent feedback.  And there’s a suitable variety of weapons to meet every gamer’s taste.  The fundamentals of Black Ops couldn’t be any more solid.  But fundamentals don’t make a game, and the experience must arc or progress in some meaningful way.  Alex Mason serves as the catalyst to this end, but his character doesn’t provide enough depth for the audience to explore.  Nor do the levels offer a clear sense of differentiation beyond their appearances: snow level, jungle level, Russia level, etc.  Most of these locations end up blurring together as a slide show of backdrops for repeating the same level: move from Point A to Point B; shooting everything in between.

Black Ops’ Cold War backdrop ends up hindering the experience, as the player becomes just a second-hand witness (at times, a third-hand witness) to historic events.  It can be pretty incredible to watch as the Tet Offensive unfolds, but too often it can feel like the game is just recreating scenes from famous movies, at points, it’s practically stealing from the source material it references.  What it boils down to is that Alex Mason has little impact on what is going on around him, and the player has little invested or put at risk as part of his conflict.  By the end, Mason’s role in the story is reduced to a more conventional America (good guys) vs. Russia (bad guys) plot.  And since it’s pretty obvious that (spoiler alert!) the Soviet Union lost the Cold War and there is little doubt that there will be any earth shattering events at that level.  The plot’s strength lies in Alex Mason’s story which, while it’s deeper than for past Call of Duty protagonists, just fails to be all that compelling.  The series’ transition from sheer spectacle, to character driven plot is awkward and somewhat haphazard.  The campaign looks great, and plays well enough, but you aren’t going to find yourself getting lost in the experience.  If you’re playing Black Ops, you’re probably playing for the multi-player mode, which has significantly more to offer.  The campaign serves as a good place to get your bearings and learn how to play the game.

Rating: 2/4

See also: Trailer, Official Site, More thoughts at Ruminatron5000

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Review: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 [3/4]

Two years ago I started hearing about Call of Duty 4 and how awesome it was.  The game barely made it on my radar at the time though because I wasn’t spending a lot of money buying or renting games.  I also didn’t have high hopes for a military themed FPS.  Then last year I started to hear more about what exactly was good about it: characters, scenes, game play, etc.  I played a bit of the multi-player mode at a friend’s place and got hooked on that.  But it was only after all the hype for Modern Warfare 2 that I decided to rent Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare for myself.

I was impressed, it definitely exceeded my previous expectations and I began to understand why Modern Warfare was hyped so much.  One of the best things to me was that it felt more like Metal Gear Solid (1998) than recent Metal Gear games.  Metal Gear Solid was a game about intense military predicaments in a modern setting.  You really felt like something was on the line if you screwed up, and the near-futuristic tools made a for a fascinating, yet still realistic, experience.  From Metal Gear Solid 2 on, Metal Gear became more about itself as a phenomenon and was less concerned with what it originally accomplished.  In other words, it became recursive and bizarre.  Sure, Metal Gear was still “about” war, but in an abstract way filtered through the lens of Hideo Kojima.  That’s not a bad thing, but I never felt the same way about the sequels the way I did about the original game.  I’ve always been a little bit sad about that.

Modern Warfare took me back there though, albeit without supernatural boss fights and a lot less sneaking about.  I really enjoyed the characters and the generally cinematic feel of the games.  It really is like being in the middle of a movie, and simultaneously on a battlefield.  Unfortunately, the ending (to the first game) while awesome, was also far too abrupt.  And the battlefield was an easy place to get lost in at times.  It became obvious at times that nothing was going to happen until I rushed out and became the bullet magnet.  That was especially annoying when I didn’t know exactly where I should rush to.  I felt like a red shirt from Star Trek.

These issues seemed to be minimized in Modern Warfare 2.  Infinity Ward appeared to have fully capitalized on the linear nature of the game.  Battles were more clearly directed, and the cinematic quality has bumped up a notch or two.  These “movie-moments” made the game for me.  Sometimes you’ll find yourself shooting enemies in slow motion, other times reacting quickly to an unexpected event, or just observing your surroundings as a significant event unfolds.  They punctuate the storyline and provide a concrete sense of climax to different scenarios throughout the game.  And having these moments set against some incredible locations with a great soundtrack really makes the game a first rate experience.

Modern Warfare’s plot is convoluted.  Since I’m a fan of 24 though, that was less of an issue for me, but others will definitely find themselves confused.  That said, the overarching plot definitely benefits from the sequel’s contribution.  It leaves plenty of room for another sequel, but there was a stronger resolution when compared to the first game.  I was also impressed by the impartiality demonstrated in regards to war.  I was expecting things to be two-dimensional as is generally the case with WWII FPS games.  There are definitely villains, but they aren’t villains by virtue of being a citizen of one country or the other.  It’s not perfect, but on the whole, it’s otherwise more thoughtful than I had anticipated.

Rating: 3/4

Buy it from Amazon, Rent it from Gamefly

See also: Trailer, Review for Erie Entertainment