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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Hardened Edition

Score: 94%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; 2 (Spec Ops); 4 8 (Free-for-All); 8 12 (All Other Online Modes); 12 18 (Ground War)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Shooter/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

A week or two ago, Activision invited us to Palm Springs for the opportunity of playing through Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3's Single Player Campaign, plus the chance to play as much multiplayer and Spec Ops as we could possibly handle. Does Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 live up to the hype? You bet.

In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, they've taken the full scale battle to America and much of what you see is in ruins. In the Single Player Campaign, you'll start off in a razed version of downtown New York, but you will also travel to London, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Prague, Hamburg, Paris and even a diamond mine in Siberia. Each location is beautifully rendered, from the dark warehouses in London with the glittering city twinkling in the distance, to the iconic streets of Paris, complete with all of their charm, despite the battle going on. In Somalia, you'll hear flies buzzing around as you make your way through the dangerous streets, and you'll even have to contend with an epic sandstorm, which you can see building in the distance. The game is definitely pretty, even though war is not.

The multiplayer maps include all of the areas you'll visit in the Single Player Campaign, plus a lot more including humid villages, neon-lit Asian marketplaces and sand-covered wastelands.

Sound is spot-on, be it the bullets whizzing by your head in high def surround sound splendor, or the game's voice-overs which, once again, excel. Voice actors run the gamut and include Timothy Olyphant, Bruce Greenwood, William Fichtner, Kevin McKidd and Idris Elba and all do a fantastic job. The background music consists of sweeping orchestral scores and rousing battle tunes to get your blood pumping. It will definitely give your home theater system a proper workout and sounds best played LOUD.


Russian warlord Makarov is back once again as a thorn in America's side, and this time, he's got the Russian government convinced that an American C.I.A. agent was responsible for the mass slayings of citizens in the Russian airport from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. In a surprising move, the Russian military has begun attacking not only American cities, but European cities as well, over the course of the game.

When you begin the Single Player Campaign, which lasts about 7-9 hours played on Normal, you'll start off playing as Sgt. Derek "Frost" Westbrook in America, but you'll switch between Frost and S.A.S. Burns, plus Yuri, a Russian who is always teamed up with Captain "Soap" McTavish and Price, both from previous games. You'll even play for a time as Agent Harkov when you are tasked with protecting the Russian President during an airborne kidnapping attempt. Your missions will widely vary and can be anything from patrolling war-torn streets in search of a terrorist responsible for chemical attacks, to the aforementioned mission where you try to prevent a kidnapping, to taking down a jamming tower at the NYSE, to outrunning a sandstorm while hunting for Makarov, to even disabling a nuclear sub in a New York harbor. There are times when you will once again take control of a Predator drone, or a UGV (unmanned ground vehicle) and these are always fun. Sometimes you'll act as Nikolai, the pilot, and you'll have to take out threats on the ground to assist the ground troops. Although the missions are fairly linear, it felt like you had a little more freedom of movement in certain areas, which is nice.

Multiplayer brings back all of your favorite game types like Free-For-All, Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, Sabotage and Domination, plus a few new kids on the block. Kill Confirmed and Team Defender are the new game types and both are great fun, but Kill Confirmed is a blast. Here, you will collect dog tags from killed players. If you kill someone, you snag their dog tag, but if a member of their team gets to it first, you are denied that tag. The cool thing is that denying someone their tags after a killing affects each team's XP, not personal XP. Just make sure that you aren't the battle fodder that continually gets killed and causes your team to lose. Team Defender is another new mode and here, team members rally around the one team member who snags the flag. They do everything they can to protect him and to hold onto the flag.

One of the things that is markedly different in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is the new direction that Killstreaks have taken. The idea of getting rewarded for doing well is still there, but Kills are no longer the only way to achieve "Pointstreaks." This means that you can enjoy the benefits of these bonuses even if you're not the player with the most aggressive, direct, heavy damage gaming style. From the start, you'll have your choice of Assault Strike Packages (for the Aggressively Forward Players) or Support Strike Packages (for those who are more likely to support other players, camp or use more subtle tactics). Assault Strike Packages should be familiar to those who played Modern Warfare 2; you get things such as Predators and helicopters and your streak resets when you die.

Support Strike Packages, however, are new and are different from the Assault Strike Packages in that they don't reset on death. The rewards you gain from Support Strike Packages are more support-oriented, such as UAVs, Counter UAVs, SAM Turrets, Gear Drops and Booby-trapped Fake Gear Drops. Since the support pointstreaks don't reset on death, less skilled players can more easily achieve these streaks.

Once you've built up some experience, you can get access to a third type of Strike Package: the Specialist Strike Package. These are designed for expert players, and allow players to select additional perks that can be activated as they progress in a Pointstreak. These perks last until death.

New game modes for private matches include Infection, where the infected members kill enemies to recruit them to their side; Drop Zone, protect an area for Team Points and Care Packages; Team Juggernaut and Juggernaut, where one player wears the Juggernaut suit and everyone tries to kill them to become the new Juggernaut (this mode is a blast); plus Gun Game and One in the Chamber return.

Spec Ops is back with a really fun co-op mode called Survival Mode. Here, two players band together to fight off waves and waves of enemies, starting off easy but progressing to damn near impossible. Just as in standard multiplayer, there are 16 playable maps and this is a great place to learn the maps, as well as brush up on your skills to prepare for online. Geck0 and I had hours and hours of fun in this mode. In fact, we went through an entire wave of enemies never once firing a gun. We simply let the sentry guns and claymores take the heat. Priceless! Mission Mode is also co-op, but has you running specific missions that will open up as you progress through the Single Player Campaign. The downside to all of this is that you both can't gain XP unless you both have unlocked the maps and missions. In other words, if you have progressed further than your buddy, you can both play the maps, but it will only help you.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 offers their standard four levels of difficulty: Recruit, Regular, Hardened and Veteran. I played through the entire game on Regular and found it to be a little easier than Regular typically is. I also played select levels on all of the difficulties and found that Recruit was just really easy and should only be chosen if you've never played an FPS or you simply want little to no challenge at all. It takes a ton of shots to put you out of commission and enemies die pretty quickly. If you move up to Hardened, enemies will take a few more shots to kill and you will heal slower, but I still found this difficulty pretty comfortable and now that I have my hands back on the game, I plan to play through it again on Hardened. Veteran has traditionally been a difficulty level I have stayed away from. In the past, within minutes of being in the level, I was usually shot down. On Veteran in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, I was able to last through the entire level, only dying a handful of times. I could say maybe I am getting better, but I think they have simply dialed back the difficulty to make things more accessible to more people.

Of course, when playing online multiplayer, your level of challenge will depend on those you are playing against. However, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is now designed to reward different types of players and different skillsets. Rest assured that you will be placed in matches that have rankings appropriate to your skill level.

Even so, if you're not a major online multiplayer FPS player, then you'll probably want to get some practice before throwing yourself into the foray. Playing through the Single Player Campaign is definitely advisable, but for some practice that helps you learn good teamwork skills, grab a friend and play some Spec Ops, either over Xbox LIVE or on the same console in Split Screen mode. In Spec Ops, you can practice coordinating with another player, splitting coverage areas and managing just your tasks, as well as learning to make the best use of the various weapons and upgrades. I found that a few hours in Spec Ops helped me get a better grasp of weapons and some tactics. Eventually, however, you have to brave the multiplayer games to improve your online skill. Some things can only be learned by doing them.

Game Mechanics:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3's control is as easy as ever and works as the standard for FPS games. You'll move around using the Left Stick and adjust the camera with the Right Stick. Running is accomplished by pressing down on the Left Stick, but for some unknown reason, it often caused me to throw a flashbang grenade, much to the chagrin of those with me. (LB) and (RB) are used for throwing flashbangs and grenades, while (LT) and (RT) are used for aiming down the sites and shooting. There are hundreds of guns to choose from, and as always, you simply need to snag one left behind by a dropped enemy. Ammo is pretty easy to come by and if you can't find what you are looking for, simply grab a different gun.

The new kid on the block is Call of Duty: ELITE, which is COD's new online service allowing you to become completely consumed in the world of Call of Duty. Here, you can connect with other players based on your shared preferences, you can compete in exclusive competitions, watch exclusive programming, and you can work on your performance in game by checking out every aspect of other players (read: rivals) stats, even down to the loadout the used in the match where they kicked your ass. One cool aspect is the ability to go to the ELITE website during the day while you have some downtime, whether it be at work or even on your phone, and tweak your weapons loadout on the go and then "push" them to your game. When you go home and get ready to play the game, it will be there waiting for you. Anyone can join and participate in ELITE, but those who opt for the premium membership will get even more benefits, like all of the DLC included, the opportunity to participate in contests to win sweet prizes and they'll also be able to earn Clan XP. Check out the link below for a full rundown.

Overall, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 teamed up with ELITE is poised to be the next great FPS. The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Hardened Edition comes not only with the game packaged in the collectible Steelbook Case, and a full year of COD: ELITE with Founder Status, which includes all of the upcoming DLC, but also a limited edition Field Journal containing all sorts of goodies about Shepherd and the Modern Warfare series, and finally, the exclusive Special Ops Juggernaut Xbox Live Avatar Outfit. It's the ultimate gift for your hardcore Call of Duty fan.

If you've been following the series, you won't be disappointed. There's a fun romp to be had in Single Player and lots to come back for in Multiplayer. It's a must-have this holiday season.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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