Most people who know me know how much of a Call of Duty fan I used to be, until they started pumping them out every year with no substantial improvements. Call of Duty 4 was probably the last game in the franchise that I genuinely enjoyed, and this was largely on my Xbox 360 rather than a PC or the Wii. Modern Warfare 3 is the first Wii Call of Duty game that I’ve had the chance to play, and while I wasn’t expecting the full experience that you’d find on a PC or on a high definition console, it’s still got its own shortcomings (and let’s face it, so does the franchise in general).
Modern Warfare 3 aims to provide an end to the story established by the first two Modern Warfare games. Personally it seems a little bit odd, as the second game that links the first and third together was never released on the Wii. Following Delta Team’s insertion into the Russian invasion of New York, Modern Warfare 3 sees players experiencing the action from multiple perspectives, including those of Soap, Price and newcomer Yuri. A crux of the story is told through obvious CNN-esque mock-ups of the news itself, which is a good idea but still feels rather unimaginative. Still, it’s not really like the story matters at all—Modern Warfare 3’s story is not all that interesting but instead serves to provide a backdrop for all the game’s setpieces.
The high definition versions of the Call of Duty games have always looked rather nice, and run quite smoothly too. Unfortunately, the Wii version is not anywhere near as good as it could be. Not being a true showcase of what the Wii can do, but more of a mid-range title. Some of the areas do look great though, taking the player through Paris, London and even New York City, and while they aren’t as well detailed they do a great job at keeping the scale intact. What’s most odd, however, is just how visually inconsistent the game is and how dark the game is, most probably to hide some of the visual inconsistencies. The biggest problem here, though, is the game’s textures. They are just abysmal, and when they’re not popping out they look incredibly low resolution and it gives the game just a bit of a rough look. The game also struggles at keeping a constant 30 FPS, as it throws explosions and car chases at the player while also peppering all kinds of intense firefights throughout the missions. During the cutscenes and general gameplay, the game does have some very nice facial animations, to be fair.
As with previous games in the series on the Wii, the game makes a good job of motion controls to provide a very intuitive aiming system. Sure, the developers have implemented a lot of auto-aim, but the pointer itself does work great for all of the weapons while on foot. It doesn’t use MotionPlus for 100% accuracy, but it still is so much more precise than the Classic Controller Pro (which Modern Warfare 3 also supports). The control system is fully customisable as well, and while the pointer itself works great to control the weapons, when we jumped onto mounted weapons they didn’t seem quite right to control. I gather this was to illustrate how hard it may be to move a heavy turret around but it still felt very strange to have one turret that was almost completely ignoring our commands to another that was ridiculously sensitive.
Video footage from ShotMyEye0ut1. We couldnt find a single screenshot.
In terms of the actual gameplay itself, Modern Warfare 3 is very similar to previous Call of Duty games on the Wii. Players must navigate through waves and waves of enemies (through many different locales) to further progress the (lacklustre) story. And really, that’s it. Herein lies the biggest problem with Modern Warfare 3 and one of my biggest issues with the franchise in general: the game utilises the “magic line” design of gameplay. What I mean by this is that enemies will flow out until the player crosses a certain checkpoint or “magic line”. This kind of game design forces the player to just cross the line as soon as possible just to get a short moment of respite. This feels rather lazy and detrimental to the gameplay. The whole campaign, though, is quite an intense and thrill-filled fun ride, with a few levels throwing the player behind remote control gadgets just to break up the monotony.
The campaign itself is rather short, and quite possibly one of the shortest campaigns ever seen in the series, clocking in at around six hours. This problem is further exacerbated by the difficulty of the game, or lack thereof. It was pretty hard to die in Modern Warfare 3; the game simply doesn’t provide a challenge and the “magic line” design choice that I spoke of earlier makes it quite easy to “turn off the heat” when things get a bit hectic. Of course, it wouldn’t be Modern Warfare without having a rather comprehensive multiplayer mode both online and off. The multiplayer in Modern Warfare has both its own positives and negatives. The biggest surprise here is that the Spec Ops mode has finally debuted on the Nintendo Wii, but only half of it is here. The Survival mode, while fun, clearly stood in the shadow of the Mission mode and only the former has been included. It is quite fun to co-operatively take on enemies wave after wave together, though for some really weird reason there’s no offline split-screen option which seems like a really obvious omission.
Actually jumping online, the game is really fun and enjoyable when it works, but this is incredibly rare. First off, the game is quite unbalanced due to the two different control schemes, to the point where it’s quite easy to tell which control method someone is using just by how fast and responsively their character is moving. With regards to the mechanics underlying the online play, mostly everything has made the jump to the Wii, though there are some kill streaks missing from the game. The missing of these kill streaks makes the game a little bit more different with more of an emphasis on running and gunning rather than a slow and more tactical approach. The apparently controversial death streaks are back, with most of them rewarding players who die often. While I understand the need for this component, it does feel a little bit rough to reward the players who are performing worse.
Without a doubt, the biggest disappointment with Modern Warfare 3 is the amount of lag there was when we were playing around. The lag is quite bad, to the point where at times it affects the gameplay. If the player loads into the game before the level catches up, a weird glitch happens where the player can actually move through walls, which is a cool advantage to have but also an incredibly unbalanced and broken foresight. Hopefully a patch will remedy this problem in the future, though the problem only happened to me once or twice. In terms of the actual system behind the gameplay, there is only voice chat supported for the Headbanger headset and none for Wii Speak at all, which is perplexing. Additionally, the rather “hyped up” Call of Duty ELITE service is not compatible with Modern Warfare 3 on the Wii, which apparently isn’t a Call of Duty game. Still, the stats provided in-game are comprehensive. Another disappointing element is that the friend/ally code exchange system that was present in Black Ops has been removed from Modern Warfare 3, which is an incredibly annoying step back from what we were given in previous games in the series.
The online multiplayer has quite a lot to unlock and do, including perks and levelling up. Weapons themselves can be levelled up by using them more and more. This system encourages the player to use certain weapons and “create” their own type of character, but also discourages experimentation which is something I don’t really like in a game. I know I said it before, but it is still quite disappointing to see Modern Warfare 3 get the cold shoulder with regards to Call of Duty ELITE.
The game’s sound design is great—all the effects for the weapons have been well designed to actually give them an appropriate and realistic feeling of weight and power. The voice work is similar to the console versions, and most of the dialogue is delivered, but the repetition of in-game dialogue is where the game’s sound design really lets itself down. Your team members all belt out the same annoying lines throughout the whole campaign; it would’ve been nice to have some extra lines recorded. The soundtrack itself is a bit grating against my own personal tastes, employing quite a few heavy metal tracks though by the end of the campaign I never wanted to hear another guitar track again.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is a pretty competent shooter that manages to move most of the content from the HD versions across, albeit in a bit of a compromised manner. The gameplay itself is fine, but the biggest issue here is the content itself. The campaign is too short, the online does not perform as well as it could and the graphics themselves could be better for what the Wii can do. It’s hard to say whether Modern Warfare 3 is worth your time, although if Activision gets started on a patch to make the online more bearable, it could be one of the most active online games on the Wii. In its current state, it’s fairly decent but just falls short of being in the “above average” category.