High Octane All the Time Doesn't Create Excitement
Ok, so here is the problem with Modern Warfare 3, and truth be told this isn't really that much of a problem. It is exactly the game we are expecting it to be. The mechanics are the same, the story is the same, heck even the game sequences feel scripted. The problem with this though is that we have walked this path before and when you have someone screaming in your face for five hours straight you begin to just eventually become numb to them. The impact of high intensity full on explosions is only really felt when you have slower moments to let your mind comprehend the gravity of the situation. Unfortunately you never have a slower paced moment in this game. You just jump from high octane sequence to high octane sequence.
MW3 is nothing short of a crazy roller coaster ride. You once again run around the world going from crazy scenario to crazy scenario watching iconic locations get blown up. In MW2 it was the White House. In MW3 it is the Eiffel Tower. The one surreal piece of artistry that MW2 was able to pull off that MW3 doesn't was the sequence in the single player campaign where the player was fighting through the streets of suburbia. There was nothing quite like that before and the juxtaposition of the "every day" with the hell of war was an effective story element at the time. MW3 however just does not have any of that impact and instead walks through such similar levels I often found myself forgetting which game I was playing. It was like a bullet point list of what should be in a first person shooter:
- Forest Level - Check
- Desert Level - Check
- Driving Sequence - Check
-Water Sequence - Check.
Mechanically this game hasn't changed from the last one. If you like your down the sight shooters than you are playing the game that perfected it.
Now, oddly enough I have have some slight issues with the multiplayer. The feel of the guns in this edition seem to have changed from MW2. There seems to be an extra "chunk" when the guns fire and they seem a bit heavier. The overall speed of the multiplayer is there as usual, but there is now an extra layer of minutia with the additional perks system this time around. Many people had some issues if they tried to jump into MW2 for the first time due to its complexity and I can only imagine how some player's eyes might glaze over as they fall into a fit trying to figure out the details of all of the customization here.
Map design seems to have taken a definite turn towards the complex as well. While the maps are beautiful and intricate, they mostly feel smaller with much tighter corridors and angles. Several of them have multiple levels to them and again you can see where the complexity may have been taken just a bit too far. I often found myself a bit lost and ultimately frustated from another head shot out of a corner I couldn't see.
MW3 I believe finds itself in an odd position at this point. On the one hand it is one of the fastest selling games ever and at launch weekend I found 1.2 Million people on Xbox live simultaneously playing. A good percentage of those people are most likely gamers, but casual MW players. The design of this game though definitely has focused on the more hardcore MW crowd. The details of managing your character are deep and with the new elite system Activision is definitely clamoring for a particular audience. I have heard the discussions of turning this game into a "sport" and may be these design decisions in the game can make it so for the hardcore player. The question though is where does this leave the average player? Halo was able to get around this problem by implementing a filtering system for people to sort the types of people they would like to play with. In traditional sports I am not precluded from playing a pickup game of basketball with my friends because an NBA player might jump in at anytime.
Unfortunately MW3 lumps clans in with the average 35 year old guy who just came home from work and wants to get a few hours of gaming in. This is where the matchmaking system falls a bit short in my honest opinion. Not only is there no way for people to filter their play style, but I often found myself being matched with gamers who had 30,40,50+ higher rankings than me. How that can be when there are 1.2 million people online seems odd and like a slightly broken matching system.
Overall the hardcore gamers I think will continue to love this franchise, but the question is where are the "average" gamers going to end up with this a month after launch. Are they going to be left in the dust of frustration or will a sytem come along to allow them to match to people of their skill level or play style.