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The Bar is Set High for MW3

… as if that wasn’t clear already, this being a Call of Duty game we’re talking about. I’m absolutely thrilled that the Call of Duty series is back in Infinity Ward’s capable hands, though I’m definitely curious to see what kind of influence Sledgehammer Games has on it. Obviously, the developers need to polish Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 to a high level to live up to the expectations. In my mind, a huge part of this is using the very best of the last two games in the series, Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops, and very importantly, recognizing and fixing the mistakes of each. I’m sure the game will inevitably sell many millions of copies, but let’s get to the specifics on what MW3 should learn from its predecessors.

This is going to get a little long, so get comfortable. For each category, I’ve given which of the previous games I feel did a better job, and some related commentary:

  • Style (Winner: Modern Warfare 2): The Modern Warfare games have a subtle, inexplicable “007” quality that Black Ops lacks, as well as more likable characters and emotional depth. Yeah, Black Ops has a nice conspiracy storyline and some cool gadgets like the ballistics knife and RC-XD (remote car with attached bomb), but with the exception of some separate sections like Zombies, I feel it takes itself a little too seriously. Modern Warfare 2 had the humorous titles and emblems, and the impressive tech that’s just not available in the 1960’s era of Black Ops. There’s just something special about shooting down a Harrier with a Predator missile, or commanding the weaponry of an AC-130.
  • Music (Winner: Modern Warfare 2): Hans Zimmer – ’nuff said.
  • Extra Game Modes (Tie): Modern Warfare 2 challenged players with the Special Ops set of game modes, and Black Ops included Zombies and the Wager Match modes in multiplayer, like Gun Game and One in the Chamber. These atypical game additions go a long way to add some variety to the game. We’ve already seen the trailer for Survival Mode in Modern Warfare 3, for which I am enthused.
  • Game Design and Balance (Tie): This was a tough decision, since I probably enjoy the Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer experience more overall, but it’s clear that they each made mistakes. Modern Warfare 2 suffered from some unfortunate exploitation of weapon and perk combinations, such as the infamous “noob tube” (grenade launcher with Danger Close perk) and the speedy knife combo. I felt the level design of Black Ops was nothing to write home about – perhaps even subpar – and the perks and weapons seemed like they could use some tweaking. For example, sniping feels significantly less useful and effective.
  • Game Management (Winner: Modern Warfare 2): Black Ops had a number of issues around players spawning. For instance, spawning in front of an enemy is bad. Spawning three or four times in a row in the same place and/or within a matter of yards of where you were killed is bad, and so on. I try not to be terribly harsh with my reviews, but I gotta say, matchmaking in Black Ops is pretty sad too. In Modern Warfare 2, close games are not uncommon. In Black Ops, games where the best players are all on one team happen much too often, and truly close games are rare. Based on their performance with previous games, though, I’m confident Infinity Ward will deal with these items appropriately in its upcoming title.
  • Split Screen Online Multiplayer (Winner: Black Ops): Obviously, as Modern Warfare 2 did not support multiple players online from the same console, Black Ops wins this one. There’s a bigger view and better atmosphere with a single player on a screen, but supporting split screen doesn’t diminish that because players still have the option. Playing with a friend in the same room is a lot of fun and a big plus for Black Ops. I should mention, though, that if this is somehow detrimental to the quality of networking code or online play, then it might be worth leaving out.
  • Oh My Goodness, the Lag (Winner: Modern Warfare 2): Modern Warfare 2 had its share of lag, like any online game. But, seriously, the biggest problem I have with Black Ops is that it is so horribly inconsistent. Unless I find out that this is due to some terrible random damage element in the design, I’ll chalk this up to greater-than-average lag. I get the feeling that Black Ops tries to smooth out or cover up the lag, but lag exists nonetheless, leading to frustration.
If Modern Warfare 3 takes the best of its predecessors on all of these points, I feel it will be a very solid game. Of course, in addition to recognizing the best and worst of the previous titles, Modern Warfare 3 ought to bring something new to the table. Come November, we’ll get to see how they do. What do you think of the comparisons here? What do you think Modern Warfare 3 needs to do in order to raise the bar? Let us know in the comments!
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  1. September 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm

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