Preview: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Another year, another Call of Duty. That’s something most gamers count on as the months roll on by and we near November. At E3 2011 we were treated to a behind closed doors and hands-off look at the much-anticipated Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 thanks to our friend Neil with Activision. As we passed through the backstage area rife with food (gone in the fifteen minutes it took us to see gameplay) and funneled into the small, dark room with the high-definition display in the center, we knew we were in for something exciting. Something so exciting we couldn’t even take pictures or video, despite half of the gameplay being displayed at Microsoft’s press conference and now readily available all over the internet. Something…modern.

Our demo guide chose to play on Veteran, eliciting many a jeer from the peanut gallery, as all of us know the challenges the hardest difficulty can bring. He breezed his way through the demo previously seen in said Microsoft press conference, the infamous “Hunter Killer” level, demonstrating a SEAL team diving through an underwater NYC subway tunnel. When all was said and done the mission was a success, having meant for us to plant explosives on the tail of a Russian submarine. When subby go boom, SEALs were to breach the sub for exclusive missile launch codes, much like journalists at a press event clamoring for the “scoop.” Fairly quiet to begin with, the demo moved along quite smoothly, despite being early preview code, and showcased explosive sound, cinematic score, and the frenetic pace we’ve come to expect from both development teams, fragmented as they have become. Once the mission culminated in an explosive boat chase ripping through the tides, you simply had THAT feeling: “yep, this is Call of Duty.” Despite witnessing this demo prior to E3, I still wanted to see more. Luckily, there was another piece of the game yanked out of context and available for spectators such as myself. How I itched to get a feel for the controls myself. Good lord, could you still sprint? I certainly hoped so.

We powered on to see “Mind the Gap,” very much resembling previous stealth outings in the games before, remember following Cpt. Price’s every order, doing as you were told, in an effort to stay alive and not to jeopardize the entire mission? Yeah, that’s exactly what happened here, leading me to wonder if every single release from those precious early moments in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, where it all began, would echo those special memories? In any case, this level began much more slowly than “Hunter Killer,” though showcased a gorgeous urban area meant to investigate an enemy base with trucks and loads of contraband. Yeah, unlawful stuff. When the prized van we were sent to investigate turned out to be just another empty van, the proverbial excrement hit the motorized rotor, giving way to one of the most action-packed chases I’ve seen from the series so far.

As a few of the baddies crept into the lower levels of a subway, we took to the underground to chase them, except we decided to commandeer trucks rather than wait for the next train ride. This high-octane scene really brought the thrills, and left me wondering if our demonstrator was actually driving the truck or if this were an event mainly left up to soldiers to aim at the enemy during what would essentially be a quick-time event. In any case, it was big, loud, and full of that prideful all-important Call of Duty feel that you can’t help but get annoyed with, but leave your mouth open wide in amazement at the same time. How do they do that?

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is familiar, but somehow feels bigger than ever. And though you know everything is going to be the same as it ever was, you can’t help shake the thought cemented in your head: it’s gonna be large and in charge. And we’ll all be playing it on day one. Seriously. Hopefully on our own without yet another PR guy showing us how it’s done, because man, that stuff gets old!

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