The "Call of Duty" franchise has become the most polarizing video game series of this generation, with its annual releases somehow managing to both shatter sales records and draw the ire of a select group of gamers.
But whether you love it or hate it, there's no denying that "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" is the best the series has had to offer.
That's not to say that "Modern Warfare 3" breaks new ground, because it doesn't - especially with its single-player campaign.
The campaign picks up where the story left off in "Modern Warfare 2," with the United States under siege from a Russian invasion. The campaign is chock full of the same epic set-piece moments that "Call of Duty" is known for, but the overall formula remains relatively unchanged from previous games. "Modern Warfare 3's" campaign isn't bad -- I really enjoyed finally getting some closure after seeing this conflict play out over multiple games - but I couldn't shake the "been there, done that" feeling.
While the campaign is solid, the main attraction of "Modern Warfare 3" is its suite of multiplayer modes. Having spent dozens of hours playing multiplayer in each of the previous "Call of Duty" titles, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect with "Modern Warfare 3." I was wrong.
"Modern Warfare 3" improves upon what was already an addictive multiplayer experience by adding new strike packages and perks, new game modes like Kill Confirmed, 16 original maps that allow for multiple play styles, bringing back the excellent Spec-Ops co-op game mode, and by eliminating the game-killing cheese that ruined both "Modern Warfare 2" and "Black Ops." I've already had more fun with "Modern Warfare 3" in a month than I did in a year with "Call of Duty: Black Ops." In fact, this game may soon replace the original "Modern Warfare" as my favorite "Call of Duty" title ever.
This holiday season, fans of modern military first-person shooters have two superb options - "Modern Warfare 3" and "Battlefield 3." While the ultimate choice between the two boils down to personal preference - do you like fast pace of "Modern Warfare 3" or the grand conflicts of "Battlefield 3"? - you really can't go wrong with either game. As for me, I'm giving the nod to "Modern Warfare 3."
"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3"
Developer: Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Games
Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 ($59.99)
Rating: M for mature