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Critical Consensus: Modern Warfare 3

The Call of Duty juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down

Is Call of Duty simply a first-person shooter? The Guardian's Keith Stuart has just finished playing Modern Warfare 3 and he's not so sure.

Activision's fearsomely popular franchise has changed a great deal since it was conceived by the talented, largely unproven team at Infinity Ward. Back then, the intention was, in a strange way, to bring history to life, and everything up to Call of Duty 3 was tinged with a solemnity that seems utterly alien to the series now.

From the astounding success of Modern Warfare on, however, the tone has become more hysterical; the willing suspension of disbelief more essential to meeting the experience on its own terms. Stuart calls the third game in this half of the Call of Duty juggernaut "a science fiction RPG," and one that tells its story with more skill than either of its predecessors.

The Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer hive mind has set the benchmark for action set-pieces in this generation of games machines

Keith Stuart, The Guardian

"Although the action darts across the globe from the US to the Middle East, via Africa and Europe, the bridging sections explain almost all of it well, and we have a cogent mission plan," Stuart writes in his five-star review.

"John Price, meanwhile, is confirmed as Call of Duty's finest human creation, and the coda to his juddering character arc is perfectly judged and surprisingly cathartic."

One particularly uncomfortable misstep involving a tourist family in the wrong place at the wrong time on the London Underground is branded, "an uncomfortable and unnecessary failure," but Stuart is more than willing to forgive a bit of cack-handed sensationalism for set-pieces of this high quality.

"Really, Modern Warfare 3 is a game about epic mise-en-scene, and without a doubt, the Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer hive mind has set the benchmark for action set-pieces in this generation of games machines."

"The Infinity Ward engine is far from cutting edge - the overall look of the game has not moved on enormously since Modern Warfare 2. But the vision, the choreography, the sense of scale and detail - they are awe-inspiring at times."

It was a regular broadsheet love-in for Call of Duty this year, as The Daily Telegraph 's Ashton Raze meets the Guardian's five-stars with five of its own. Modern Warfare 3, Raze gushes, is, "comfortably the best Call of Duty campaign yet," honing the series' formula to the point where it now works "flawlessly" - even those moments where the developers appeal to the brain as well as the stomach.

"Modern Warfare 3 excels in what it does because it's abundantly clear that its developers knew exactly what they were making. They understood the pacing, the problem with choke points, the need to keep things constantly fresh and frenetic in a linear, plot-based shooter. As a player you're catapulted from one scene to the next, with time to take everything in and enjoy the ride but never time to languish... It's quite a draining game, but in a hugely satisfying way."

"There are brief moments of reflection, the sense of loss and rage and futility conveyed surprisingly well for a game which is all about shooting people in the face... The goal here seems not to shock but to impress, but the game isn't afraid to take the occasional time out to remind you that yes, war isn't very nice."

Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.