|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC|
|Dev: Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games|
|Release: November 8, 2011|
|Players: 1 - 2+ Online|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Robert VerBruggen
It's an odd-numbered year, and that means it's Infinity Ward's turn to release a Call of Duty title in November. This time, they have help from Sledgehammer Games (a brand-new Activision studio) and Raven Software (the solid but unremarkable team best known for making lackluster sequels to Id Software games). The game will reportedly be called Modern Warfare 3, and the developers are aiming for a "bug free" release with Metacritic scores above 95.
Just this weekend, the first significant details about the new title surfaced. Much as the last Modern Warfare title stoked controversy by asking the player to gun down innocent civilians in an undercover terrorist mission, Modern Warfare 3 is going to hit close to home. The antagonisms between Russia and the U.S. have spread, and through various characters, you'll fight in what is essentially World War III.
In what is either a coincidence or a sign that the leak contained very, very recent additions, SEAL Team Six—the team that (apparently) killed Osama bin Laden—is mentioned in the game. But that's far from the only reference that bears on current events. In a scene that's sure to evoke memories and protests, one mission involves a Russian invasion of Manhattan that starts at the Hudson River and culminates in a firefight outside the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S.S. Intrepid might even be destroyed during the battle. London, which like New York has been the target of terrorist attacks in real life, will also be the scene of a battle.
New York won't be left alone in the multiplayer, the area Raven is developing, either. One map has you fighting to the death in Brooklyn. All in all, there are about twenty maps, according to the leak, though some may be eliminated or packaged as DLC instead of sold with the game. Besides Brooklyn, they include Mogadishu, Paris, and Lambeth (a district in London).
While the most controversial elements will probably take place in the U.S. and U.K., Modern Warfare 3's fifteen missions will be truly global in scope. The single-player mode takes you through Russia, India, Africa, Germany, the Czech Republic, and the United Arab Emirates. You'll play a variety of roles: protecting a top-level Russian official during negotiations with the U.S., gunning down enemies from a tank, and bombing ground targets from the eerily quiet safety of an AC-130 airplane. We hear that this story might be the last one for at least one major character, and that there will be a new U.S. character named Sandman.
Special Ops will make a return as well. As of now, there are five maps for the "Survival" mode (think horde mode): "Carbon," "Dome," "Seatown," "Radar," and "Village." There are also seven missions: "Civilian Rescue," "Flood the Market," "Invisible Threat," "Little Bro's," "Out of Africa," "No Fly Zone," and "Wing Man."
Aside from the recent leak, which is admittedly extensive, there isn't much information available on the game. We've heard rumors of more destructible environments, but we're not sure to what extent yet.
It's unclear whether Modern Warfare 3 will look dramatically better than previous entries in the series. What few screenshots have been released have inspired some disappointed reactions—and some unflattering comparisons with, for example, Battlefield 3. While Battlefield 3 uses the new Frostbite 2 engine, Modern Warfare 3's developers have continued building on Infinity Ward's IW engine, a modification of Id Tech 3 that was first used in Call of Duty 2 six years ago. Texture streaming and other features were added by the time Modern Warfare 2 came around, and while the developers claim that more improvements have been made for this iteration, the early screenshots of MW3 don't seem to showcase any of them. We're hoping that these leaked pictures aren't indicative of how the engine will be performing when the final version hits stores this holiday season.
The Call of Duty series has a whole lot of momentum behind it, and a lot is riding on this forthcoming title. Activision and Infinity Ward are taking some risks here, not only in courting controversy, but also in giving so much control to an untested studio (Sledgehammer) and a studio that has spent most of the last twenty years remixing Id Software games (Raven).
Will this be another record-setting title for the franchise? Sledgehammer certainly seems to think so. It's exceptionally gutsy to announce that you expect your game to get a 95 on Metacritic, especially when the insanely popular Modern Warfare 2 came in slightly below that. We hope they can reach the bar they've set, but if they want that kind of adulation, they'll need to pull off some true innovation in the crowded FPS field.
CCC Contributing Writer