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Review: ‘Modern Warfare 3′ hits all the right notes

By Larry Frum

“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3″continues the franchise’s tradition of high action, detailed fighting and a highly competitive multiplayer mode while still trying to let players play the way they want.

The latest in the wildly successful series hits all the right notes in both its cinematic single-player campaign and its intense multiplayer mode. They also bring back the “Special Ops” mode from “Modern Warfare 2,” combining the best of both.

The single-player campaign, while short, takes you hopping around the globe to major cities in the world’s most powerful countries. Instead of battling in traditional hotspots (i.e., locales like Afghanistan), the story puts the player in Manhattan, London and Berlin to name a few.

Each city is richly detailed and the combat, against opponents run by a smart artificial-intelligence program, is intense. The pacing from city to city varies based on mission and storyline presented in each location. One city will be frantic while another city might be a bit slower. But all are engaging.

There are some unexpected, and tragic, moments played out in the single-player campaign’s story. But they combine to bring the “Modern Warfare” story to a satisfying end. I wish it would have lasted longer, but the plot flowed nicely.

The “Special Ops” mode takes the intense AI from the single-player game and adds elements that are usually found in multiplayer action. Creative strategist Robert Bolling said the development team wanted to give people who normally only tackle the single-player campaign the opportunity to experience some of the rewards only found during online multiplayer play.

“We noticed there were a lot of experiences that you were missing out on if you only played single player or, vice versa, you only played multiplayer,” Bolling said. “We wanted to find a platform that allowed the type of player from each of those to have those shared experiences rather than missing out because it wasn’t their style of play.”

Sixteen missions tie in to the campaign. Along the way, players earn credit for achievements like kill streaks and customizing weapons. There’s a progressive ranking system that lets even the most “lone wolf” player climb up the leaderboard. The Survival mode is particularly grueling, with wave after wave of opponents coming after you.

The core of the multiplayer action stays pretty true to the franchise’s roots. Huge battles, lots of action and an experience-point system keep players involved and interested.

Most of the modes remain the same with one new additional mode. Collecting tags from dead bodies adds a cool twist to straightforward killing of an opponent and actually promotes teamwork, something that’s lacking from time to time in multiplayer action. There are 16 new maps to set the scene of your victories.

Bolling said there are 30 million players who have played “Call of Duty” online and a new Elite program will help provide stats, tips and bring together the franchise community without dividing them among consoles.

He also tweeted on Day One that the game’s makers have already had to ban gamers from leaderboards — and from playing altogether — for trying to play unfairly or artificially boost their rankings.

While the multiplayer mode hasn’t changed much, it never really needed to. The “Modern Warfare” franchise has a great track record of addictive online play that remains enjoyable and exciting.

Fast and furious multiplayer action, a cinematic single-player campaign and a Special Ops mode offering the experience of both takes “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3″ to the top of the class. At least until the next one comes out.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3″ is available now for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It is rated M for mature due to blood and gore, drug references, intense violence and strong language. This review was done using the Xbox 360 version.

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