Modern Warfare 3 Isn’t An Un-Game, John Walker. You Are An Un-Player (And That Is OK)

Modern Warfare 3 Isn’t An Un-Game, John Walker. You Are An Un-Player (And That Is OK)

On Wednesday we posted this, an argument from Rock Paper Shotgun’s John Walker claiming that Modern Warfare 3 was an “un-game with a core of nastiness”. We asked Brendan Keogh, of Kill Screen magazine and Edge fame, to respond…

Dear John,

I don’t think we’ve ever talked before so I want to begin by saying that I have utmost respect for your opinions and for the endlessly awesome writing you produce over at Rock Paper Shotgun. You are an alright guy!

With that in mind, I have to say something in response to your alarmingly negative editorial on Modern Warfare 3. I say “alarming” as, reading your post, it seems as though we played completely different games. Modern Warfare 3’s single-player campaign is currently sitting atop my Favourite Game of 2011 list. Bar none. I found it exhilarating, dramatic, and heart-pounding. I was fascinated with how it directed me so beautifully through its set pieces — I always did exactly what I was meant to do without feeling coerced. I finished the entire game in one sitting, not including the few times I had to take a break to slow my heart palpitations and stop my hands from shaking. I know we game critics aren’t meant to use these words but gosh darn it my experience of Modern Warfare 3 was utterly visceral and utterly immersive.

So I want to be clear, I am not saying that you should love the game because I love the game. You are more than welcome to dislike it. It would be a sad, sad world if we all loved and hated the same games.

But there is something in your critique that rubbed me the wrong way. Something I couldn’t let pass by without remarking on. Your issues with the plot and the cliché Russia-bad-America-good scenario are totally valid. I have not experienced any of the glitches you mentioned in either of my playthroughs, but perhaps that is because I played on 360, so I won’t challenge you on that.

No, it was something else. Something in the way you seem to use player freedom as a metric for the game’s quality (or lack thereof). Something about how you classify Modern Warfare 3 an “un-game”, as though it has (or lacks) attributes necessary to be a videogame. I could not disagree with this more and, as such, I don’t say what I am about to say lightly: something that might shake broader videogame criticism to its horrible, player-centric core…

You, sir, played the game wrong.

That’s a pretty big claim, I know. Not only that, it is a provocative claim. Is it even possible for a game to be played “wrong”? Isn’t the player always right? Isn’t that the beauty of videogames, that the player gets to decide what to do, and that they have the freedom to make choices and do whatever they want?

Well, no.

We humans sure do like to think we are the most important thing ever (remember when we thought the entire universe spun around us?). As such, it is easy to think the player is the be-all and end-all of everything in a videogame. Of course, when we do put ourselves at the centre of things, we tend to miss what is actually happening: a much more complex relationship of player and videogame.

Us videogame critics do it all the time. We always talk about how important it is for the player to be able to do whatever they want and have freedom and make choices and all that. We always say “emergence” as though it is inherently good and “linear” as though it is inherently bad. But think about it. What actually makes videogames pleasurable has far less to do with freedom or mastery or control and far more to do with being controlled.

We play videogames by participating with them as equals, not by becoming some god-like master over them. We enjoy entering a game, suspending disbelief, and voluntarily giving in to its limitations and restrictions and doing what is asked of us. This is as true of Modern Warfare 3 as it is of Minecraft.

In this vein, you mention how you are baffled that the Modern Warfare 3 player doesn’t want to be the hero or the leader but merely the follower. In your player-centric critique where freedom is seemingly paramount, you are bewildered that people can get any enjoyment out of following orders. That’s because you were too busy trying to master the game when, really, to enjoy Modern Warfare 3 you need to participate with it. You need to do what it asks you to do, when it asks you to do it.

And if you can bring yourself to do this, Modern Warfare 3 is an absolutely breathtaking experience. Each level is so perfectly, carefully paced and scripted so that you always have just enough control over what is happening to forward the events of the plot. And sure, that plot is absurd, but you feel so engaged in it, you feel so present in it that its absurdity hardly matters while you are playing.

But if you don’t participate with the game, if you stubbornly refuse to do what the game asks of you, how can you expect to enjoy it? The beauty of the Modern Warfare series is that, unlike so many other linear games, it doesn’t lie to you. It never pretends you are in charge. “Follow this man!” say Nikolai and that is exactly what you do. You aren’t calling the shots. You aren’t in charge here. You are following orders. You are just one man participating in a conflict much bigger than yourself. In short, this isn’t about you.

And for me, that was thrilling. I gave in to the game and I did what it told me to do. I followed. I kicked down doors. I took cover. I manned the gun. I held position. On several occasions, I died. To bastardise something Edge Magazine’s Feature Editor Jason Killingsworth said on Twitter, I got on the rollercoaster and I didn’t once stop to wonder where my steering wheel was.

You, on the other hand, played it wrong. What you have essentially done is walk out onto a soccer field with a cricket bat and gotten outraged when the referee told you you couldn’t use it. Certainly, you are more than welcome to try to play Modern Warfare 3 any which way you want. Go for it. Further, you are certainly entitled to not enjoy the kind of participation Modern Warfare 3 requires of you. That is all fine! But labelling it an “un-game” simple because you refuse to cooperate with it is patently unfair. And saying it is just “brainless fun” for “consumers” because it doesn’t let you feel special with some arbitrary amount of freedom is simply insulting.

Modern Warfare 3 isn’t an un-game, John, you are an un-player. And that is okay! You own the game; do whatever you want with it! But when you un-play the game, when you refuse to suspend your disbelief and to participate with the game in creating the kind of experience that game requires of you, you can hardly criticise the game for not working.

So this is what I ask of you, and of all videogame critics and players alike: stop using “freedom” as a metric for a game’s quality or, even worse, for a game’s gameness. Every game is a dance between player and code, but that doesn’t mean the player always gets to lead. A game that leads the player can be just as meaningful, significant, intelligent, stimulating or exhilarating as a game that lets the player do whatever they wish (within the games confines). The player is not the centre of the equation, and neither is the game. It’s the interrelationship between the player and the game that matters most.

Brendan Keogh once sat through an entire 48-hour Game Jam in Brisbane, just to watch himself die. You can follow him on Twitter here


  • I get that a cinematic rollercoaster is great fun every now and then. But the major problem with MW3 is that it was terrible at being that cinematic rollercoaster, even in comparison to its predecessors. Pacing was shot, scripting more invasive than ever, and the link between those set pieces even flimsier. MW3 isn’t just a crap game, it’s a crap entry in the Modern Warfare series. I have quite a bit of respect for some of the things that Modern Warfare 1, 2 and Black Ops attempted. I have no respect for MW3.

    • I agree. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all previous Modern Warfare games, along with Black Ops, but MW3 is probably the only one out of the series that’s left a bitterness in my mouth. I enjoyed the set pieces and whatnot, but there was something lacking in the game. Same with multiplayer – I just can’t seem to get into it. I know it’s the same formula as before and I enjoy it, but MW3 just has something I don’t like.
      It’ll be interesting to see if Treyarch become better at making COD games than IW. In my opinion, Black Ops is still better than MW3.

      • I agree with both of you, but I’m more angry at the fact that we got soooooo Ripped off by it. It was supposed to be a GOOD game and all they did was take MW2 and edit the maps and guns. Infinity Ward got extremely lazy with this one!

        • Yet, it’s the highest grossing “call of duty” game within the first 24 hours simply because of what it is.

          I’ve played battlefield longer than i have played cod, but i don’t want you to think this is a fanboy comment. Far from it. I loved call of duty – the first 2 “modern warfare’s” that is. But at the end of 2, i got a bit tired, and when i saw this game, it looked more of the same.
          Now that being said, i’m scared to try modern warfare 3 because i don’t want to waste a weekend playing a short campaign with more of the same stuff. I’m not putting the game down – i would’ve loved to play a good sequel, but that’s the reality of it.

          That brings me back to my original point. The only reason people are flocking for this game is for what it is – a “call of duty” game. Every man and his dog went ballistic over black ops, and now look. Same thing.
          I read a comment during obama’s campaign stating that people will always (in the back of their minds) vote for what he is, rather than who he is.

      • one thing that everyone is forgetting is go ahead and look at your mw3 case you’ll find out that treyarc actually worked on this infinity ward was put on there just cuz some people would be like omg its not them better buy something else and trust me i’m not saying mw3 is the best cuz i felt they could have done alot more for the time it took. i can agree multiplayer is a little rough on the edges too.

    • Even though MW and MW2 were good titles, speaking in terms of their single player campaigns, they weren’t video games. I’m not entirely sure that John Walker was getting at this point when he made his critique of MW3, but they are interactive cinematic experiences. Much the same way as edutainment titles are incorrectly called serious games, in that they are interactive learning environments. You are acting out your role to get to end game.

      You are not playing, because you aren’t exploring the game space. You are following the path laid out for you and will experience nothing more than the narrative set in front of you. Pace is dictated, arsenal is dictated and so is progress, just as it would be in a film. The major difference being; that you are the one pressing buttons to interactively make the character do what you and he are told.

      That’s not to say that these experiences are invalid, as else I may as well go and say the movie industry is worthless, or that reading a book is pointless because you can’t amend the story to suit your own preferences, or at least not within the confines of that title. Interactive cinematic experiences have their worth so long as they are understood as such.

      I’ve not played MW3 so I cannot comment on how successful it is at accomplishing that criteria, but if what you say is true then even IW themselves are probably unsure of what it is that they are trying to achieve anymore.

    • Agreed! I used to love the CoD series until they became a mainstream product, they should terminate the Modern Warfare monikers while its reputation is still good because I dont think they can pull of another MW4 without evolving.

      I WANT A MILITARY SHOOTER IN AN OPEN URBAN ENVIRONMEN, SMART,ADAPTABLE A.I., SEMI-DESTRUCTIBILITY. (not the entire building coming down orgy kind of destruction).

  • It’s not a crap game, it’s just a mediocre game. Single-player wise, at least.

    I was really disappointed with the pacing. In the first MW there was a great balance between action and stealth, whereas here the action is way over the top, and the stealth is just weak.

    Remember All Ghillied up? What a great stealth level. There’s been nothing that comes close in the past two games.

    • This. For rollercoaster rides, CoD4 had a fantastic balance of holy shit urgent action and slower paced stuff, while keeping an overall lid on it’s story and cast. It was, and is, a campaign that I happily play again.

    • All Ghillied Up cemented my love of CoD4. Nothing before or since has been as spectacular. I am currently sporting a Cpt Price Mo for Movember 🙂

      • All Ghillied Up was my favorite COD4 mission 😀 I used to play that incessantly right to the end. I remember using the 50 cal sniper rifle and firing at different times, to see if I could take off more than his arm etc. Turns out no, but hey it was major fun trying. COD4 was a great game, MW2 was a good game imho, I loved both campaigns, both had levels such as ‘WOLVERINES!’ which were memorable and had great setpieces, but I just can’t get that same feeling with MW3. It kinda feels… vanilla?

        • what i like about MW2 is that it makes you feel like you are your character…and then kills you in first person.

  • “You need to do what it asks you to do, when it asks you to do it.”

    Also commonly known as a QTE, and most critics hate them. Just look at reviews for Travellers Tales’ Jurassic Park game!

    I think Johns point was that the MW3 has turned the FPS into a fancy QTE. Press “E” to use this now!
    Press left mouse button to fire this now!
    Shoot at this now!, then this!
    Fail to follow those prompts, and you’ll fail, or nothing will happen.
    Wow look at how cinematic this all was! Oh what’s that? You were too busy following all those prompts to notice?

    • Strangely enough, that also backs up the un-player comment but not as the author intended. An un-player un-plays the un-game.

    • I agree. The MW series has become a joke. It’s designed for the dull minded masses, those who also like to paddle eachothers arses with bats. This also probably explains why it is so damn popular too.

      I can’t wait for the MW4 storyline set on the mobile island fortress of Tasmania as the Russian ultra-nationalists put it into a 2 year orbit around the USA (through the Panama canal) threatening to fire off a barrage of nuclear missiles at each major US city.

      • Dude, pissed off Tasmanians of Russian-Ultra-Nationalistic descent hellbent on taking revenge on the world that ignored and ridiculed them?

        I would play the shit out of any game with a story like that.

  • I think there’s a similar point to be made about the Uncharted series – you’re not given freedom to do whatever you want to do, you’re being led from point to point to do the things the game wants you to do, and most of the fun is in playing those events.

    Having not played MW3, and not being a particularly big fan of FPSs in general, I can’t judge it. But I think it should be assessed for the type of game it wants to be, not the type of game it “should” be.

    • So… an Uncharted is an Ungame or is it just being played by an Unplayer?

      This is Understandable, if a little Understated.

    • I could also say Star Fox 64 (Yes I went there) could be judged the similarly to MW3. Even though Star Fox 64 is considered by most people (and by that I mean 90 to 99%) to be better than MW3, it still is linear, has a lot of set-pieces, and doesn’t give you as much freedom as a lot of other games. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, because it is really good, it just means it’s linear.

  • Personally while i didn’t find MW3’s campaign bad i didn’t find it good neither. I thought that while the terror plot and all that etc was ok for COD game i didn’t really like what they did with certain characters and for that reason i thought the campaign was the worst of all the MW games.

  • I agree with most of this article, as it takes a fairly even handed approach to understanding what’s really going on between a player and a game. Throwing terms like ‘immersive’ and ‘linear’ as stickers for good or bad grades oversimplifies things too much I think. So it’s good to see a write up of the ways in which restrictive game mechanics can actually be enjoyable. And really, no game gives complete freedom. There are always restrictions. Take away those restrictions, and you don’t have a game.

    On my actual experience though, I enjoyed the single player campaign. It’s popcorn movie stuff, but it was fun. using big guns, blowing stuff up, butchering loads of enemies.. all in a days play right?

    Yes the stealth was lame by comparison, but overall, was my experience still fun? Yes! Ground-breaking? Hell no. Innovative? Say what??

    On a side note, I really enjoyed playing as the Russian protective service guy trying to save the Russian president. They probably could have done way more with that, but still good to see it in game anyway.

    • Resident Evil 2 il primo capitolo della serie al quale ho gcaioto, ed attualmente il mio preferito. Senza dubbi. Premesso questo, la mia opinione una: per quanto il comparto grafico sia notevolissimo per il Wii, la moderna mania di creare sparatutto su binari odiosa. Ok, una categoria di gioco che piace, senza dubbio. Ma non per Resident Evil. Per chi si chiedesse il perch (non credo molti, ma comunque mai dire mai), ricorderei al mondo (e alla capcom) che resident evil un alternanza di zombie lenti e macchinosi ed enigmi, enigmi, enigmi. Ed proprio quest’altalenarsi di gameplay (nonch la tensione onnipresente) che dava spessore alla serie. Ora riducono tutto ad uno spara e ammazza. Banale.

  • While this response is appropriate and well thought out…

    I’d have to say that THE BEST games out there are not a lead/unlead dance but a free exchange of interesting and varied actions and reactions.

    It is far more rewarding and meaningful if you have a direct impact on what happens in a game. It is easy for a game that is throwing EPIC things at you to overload you as a player and cause you to not care about outcomes in the game as it is in your face scripted.

    For example: A player shoots an enemy and the enemy falls off a railing vs. A player shoots an enemy prisoner while he desperately tries to escape jumping fences.

    The first being pointless where the second is an emotional, really bad situation to be in.

    Old Call of Duty games had emotion and some meaning brought out through purposeful music and pacing of the game itself. They were varied and responded to your actions in way that MW3 simply does not do.

    WM3 seems schizophrenic , just like Battlefield 3 in that it’s on 110% all the way through the game :S

    I think the developers of these franchises need to rethink there reasoning of choosing to make these games so choiceless from a player’s point of view.

    I’m no talking about turning them into RPGs or anything like that but having some really emotional responses needed from the player would be great!

    Such as:

    “Do we take enemies as prisoners?”
    “Do we blindly follow orders, even if the outcome is bad?”
    “Do we use inhumane weapons because it is a means to achieve a cause?”

    And finally I think that they need to focus more on the clear senselessness of war and not on the “rah, rah, its us vs. them” attitude.

    • I agree with this one. You need the down moments. One of the greatest rock n roll records ever made only had 6 great songs out of 12 on it – half of the songs were stupid and emotionless and about childish shit. The other half were emotional and gut wrenching and this was emphasised by the self-consciously silly other half. I mean, if you were making a record you would think “we need the BEST 12 songs EVER”, but really… if those other songs work in context somehow with these silly songs, the point may be driven home in a way that it never could. Perhaps this is a pretty peculiar example, but I think it’s somehow relevant to games. I really have enjoyed the MW series, though I understand that the horse has been kicked many times already that it’s starting to become the same ol’ thang – and these games just throw action at you constantly – everything seems like the most important thing EVER. I think you need that ‘down’ time to reset the intensity, otherwise it’s going to leave as much of a mark on you as Transformers 3 did.

      (Also that album I was referring to was Let It Be by the Replacements. One of the greatesetttttasdajsdgfaklsdjg GEDDIT)

      • “Battlefield 3 in that it’s on 110% all the way through the game :S”

        No, it is not I have not played it all yet but I have already run into several sequences where not a single bullet is shot.

        But equipping your knife to kill the rat instead of a QTE would have been better game related choice.

  • Great writeup mate.
    Nothing wrong with a linear game, sandbox is great too but it’s good to have that variety. Hell, even QTE’s are great when used correctly.

  • Oh it’s on now, tie their right wrists to each other and hand them broken bottles Beat It style!

    Personally I find my taste lies somewhere between these two men (whoa that could be taken out of context), while I find the MW campaigns exciting and fun in bursts, I’m constantly annoyed at the rigid structure of levels and the inability to react with your environment, ESPECIALLY opening doors.

    This was my favourite line though: “It would be a sad, sad world if we all loved and hated the same games.” Too true. And Dynasty Warriors is awesome, so there.

  • Look i hate to be simple but he didn’t like the game, so why is this even necessary? Do you really think people are that stupid they read John Walkers article and thought “Hey he’s 100% right i’m going to change my way of thinking”. It was nice to have a different opinion put in front of us, so why do you have to criticise it? We all know what people who enjoyed the game thought(I’m one of them) so why do you need to pick apart his comments? Sorry i just feel this whole comment is totally uncalled for. Perhaps this could of been done in private? I dont know maybe thats just me. Also fellow commenters just like this article it is an opinion so dont flame me with you’re wrong because… i’m well aware why you think i’m wrong, i wrote this comment.

    • Look i hate to be simple but he didn’t like the article, so why is this even necessary? Do you really think people are that stupid they read Brendan Keoghs article and thought “Hey he’s 100% right i’m going to change my way of thinking”. It was nice to have a different opinion put in front of us, so why do you have to criticise it? We all know what people who enjoyed the game thought(I’m one of them) so why do you need to pick apart his comments? Sorry i just feel this whole comment is totally uncalled for. Perhaps this could of been done in private? I dont know maybe thats just me. Also fellow commenters just like this article it is an opinion so dont flame me with you’re wrong because… i’m well aware why you think i’m wrong, i wrote this comment.

      • If youre going to be a journalist and write editorials bashing the biggest game of the year you better be able to handle a polite, well thought out response. How is it disrespectful to say “i respectfully disagree”? The point of putting a response like this out there is to address both sides rather than letting one bias opinion float around like that. Sure, the guy might not have liked the game, but many people loved the game and bought it and play it for hundreds of hours.. Anything that can accomplish that is a game, plain and simple. Was the game overblown and stuffed with too much action? Id have to agree, but if someone is having fun while playing, I consider it to be a game. He is attempting to break the game down into the basic concepts of being an “un-game” and yet he uses Half Life 2 as an example. HL2 and MW3 are the same thing on the most basic level, it is the pacing and set pieces that make the game what it is. On the most basic level, even in half life 2, I still have to move toward the next objective, shoot the next wave of enemies, repeat. There may have been some down time in HL2 to explore, and some puzzles added in, but that all comes down to pacing and content, not actually being a game on a basic level. In that sense MW3 is a game.

        • nicknock100 on October 20, 2011 i think that No otcnury for old men’ would be cool just so long as you play as the bad guy with the MEATY shotgun cuz well watch the film, i think its very good AND the bad guy doesn’t die so the Game has an ending to it without the player going through all the effort just to find out he dies anywaybtw, the shotgun is AWESOME!!!!!!

  • Fanastic to see editorials as high quality as this one. Walker’s was also high quality but I personally think Keogh has nailed it.

  • Ypu just can’t make the “your playing it wrong” argument. If someone does play the game wrong, it tge games fault for failing to convert the games rules to the player, or having teles that are arbitrary. John highlughted that this game is guilty if the latter, its never clear why your following our why you can’t open doors withiut the games permission. You don’t even come close to responding to the points raised.

    • Surely you can’t be serious?
      It IS NOT the job of the game to mold to the style of the player. Granted, some do, but games have different styles. If you want a game where you get drive the narrative and control the outcome find a game that lets you do that.
      COD isn’t one of those games. People are perfectly entitled to dislike it, but to say it’s a bad game because it doesn’t conform to your play style is ridiculous.

      • But i see this in reviews ALL THE TIME. Gamers who love just nintendo or sega or one particular branch of the tree always pan games that arent their style. Fuck ive known people who couldnt touch anything that wasnt a japanese rpg and branded players who played non JRPG’s as brash idiot jocks.

        A game should be judged on how well it stands up to its predecessors and how it has helped its genre and perhaps how well it has brought people into gaming itself. (all things i think that COD has done fantastically) Not by whether or not the reviewer likes that type of game.

      • That’s not what I’m describing. Games shouldn’t pander to the audience, but we should have moved beyond arbitrary (or ill-defined) rules by now. Having to wait for guys to come open a door for you is immersion breaking. I haven’t played the game, but it didn’t sound like John went out of his way to break the game, he just played it faster than the game wanted him to. That’s arbitrary.

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with set-pieces and pre-scripted events, but if they’re done right, you mostly won’t notice it. Your guided to the correct behaviour. If you need an example, look at the ending of HL: Episode 2. Hardly anyone realised the end sequence was scripted without being told. This is the distinction I’m making.

        • He played the game faster than the game wanted him to play it? So every time I run ahead of an NPC who walks slower than me and I have to wait for them to advance, we consider it an “un-game”? Well then, lets also consider Skyrim an “un-game” considering how I had to wait for NPC’s all the time to trigger quests chains to continue on after starting them and such. And once again, a game people consider to be the greatest FPS of all time, Half life 2, you still had to wait for Alyx Vance to unlock doors for you at certain points, and youre the almighty gordan freeman with the gravity gun FFS. Gimme a break, realize that all of the things youre griping about with COD are present in some capacity in all of the games you play, its just that COD is the target because it stays the same.

  • John Walker is a scruffy-looking nerfherder.
    The “game” of Call of Duty is not in deciding where to go, what doors to open, or indeed who opens the doors – you “win” by strategically (or not) eliminating all enemies in your path; you “lose” by dying.
    You’re not here to engage with the world, you’re here to engage with the dudes shooting bullets at you. The story is simply part of the (awesome) backdrop that makes the experience enjoyable.

  • You know, this is an interesting article. The original Dues Ex probably remains my favourite game of all time, and it’s because I really loved the experience of being able to approach the situations in the games in practically any way imaginable.

    At the same time, I can also get a good bit of enjoyment out of more linear experiences by, yes, essentially just sitting back and doing as instructed. More rigidly confined games can work too. I never really thought about the core implications, though, of the differences and, more interestingly, the similarities in these playstyles. In both cases you’re working with the confines of the game to try and have an enjoyable experience, just sometimes they’re broad and other times, well, not so much.

    As an amateur gaming journo I’ve always endeavored to focus on whether or not it was any fun to play above all else when talking about games, and I guess that’s the point this article is stressing in a roundabout way. And to take into account, when I didn’t enjoy something, if it was because the game was poor, or simply not to my tastes. For example, I really didn’t care for Oblivion, but I’d never say it’s a bad game – it has some flaws, and it has a whole lot more things that simply aren’t for me personally.

    Speaking of taste, thought this article might’ve wanted to address the concerns in the original article about shock value for the sake of shock value, seemed like a core part of that article.

    I also think your assertions that John is an un-player are about as harsh and unnecessary as his claims that MW3 is an un-game. He’s just a different kind of player, more suited to a different kind of game.

    But all in all a good read.

  • I loved it, I think it’s by far the best campaign out of any FPS this year. I love COD and Battlefield but I personally find the BF campaigns embarrassing. I really struggle to finish them. Don’t get me wrong, I still find BF3 a great game for it’s intcredible multiplayer but campaign wise MW3 definitely wins out of 2011’s FPS releases’s in my opinion.

  • I still think I’m with John on this one, but for entirely different reasons. I don’t care if I am the lead protagonist in a game or not, but the ever increasing game design restrictions (quick time events, linear hallways, follow objectives, do this/do that etc) employed by developers today I find both boring and unimmersive. You combine this with what I believe to be degrading gameplay mechanics (chest high walls, mandatory cover systems, regenerating HP, two weapons only, FOV of like 60, retardedly slow movement and game speed) and you start to see how every AAA FPS game in the last 1/2 decade has degraded into the exact same game, over and over again. It feels more like I am fighting the game than playing the game. This video pretty much sums it up:

    I’ve recently picked up Serious Sam 3, a game that will ultimately go unnoticed by most of the populace, and have had more fun in this than I have in any FPS game in the last 1/2 decade. That’s because it is actually a FPS game, and not a follow-linear-corridor-manshoot-quicktimeevent-10hrcinematic ungame.

    But you are free to your own opinion.

    • Serious Sam. Seriously old-school fun. I whole-heartedly agree! I’m stuck at the massive battle with one of Mental’s transport ships though… I also want to try the 16 player co-op.

      • If it’s the battle I am thinking of, you need to find a balance between shooting the monsters running/firing at you and shooting the orange lasers beaming down new enemies. This is pretty hard when it keeps moving around and headless kamikazis are running at you from every direction. I recommend waiting for it to stop moving and start teleporting, firing 2-3 rockets at a teleporter and then switching to the assault rifle for a few seconds of followup damage. Then start swearing madly as you try to mop up the 30 or so enemies you have been ignoring 🙂

        Funny how there is usually so much more strategy to oldskool shooters even with their apparently brainless and simplistic gameplay …

  • “Modern Warfare 3’s single-player campaign is currently sitting atop my Favourite Game of 2011 list.”

    Brendan Keogh and Kotaku, brought to you by Activision and Bobby Kotick’s Dick… Ramming review sites since 2009.

    • This is a really unfair comment, can’t someone have their own opinion without people claiming they have drunk the kool-aid or being labelled a hater?

    • Really? Did you even read this well thought out and well argued piece? Disagree, but not like this, and if you must, do it elsewhere. We don’t like this kind of crap here

      • Am I really the only one who likes games to be innovative and not the same shit every year? Does no-one see what CoD is doing to other games? Lets see…

        -Bioware has alienated its core audience (and even blatantly said this) and tried to make their RPGs more like shooter-action games
        -Most FPS games now have a generic storyline where America gets attacked, most of the time it’s by Russia
        -FPS games all share the same mechanics in one way or another (aiming down sights, going prone, killstreak bonuses)
        -Developers have been discouraged to make new games better, instead we get games that are essentially the same as the last

        Why reviewers gobble this up is beyond me. I find the thought of reviewers not being paid off when it comes to this very hard to believe.

  • Firstly, why is this article full of typos? Someone call a proof-reader!

    On-topic: I can’t really agree with you, Brendan. As both you and John have described it, Modern Warfare 3 sounds like it so -desperately- wants to be a movie rather than a videogame. I don’t think it’s fair to say that John “refused” to suspend disbelief, or chose to not participate with the game: it seemed to me that he was unable to do so, as a sophisticated gamer. By “sophisticated”, I don’t mean to suggest that John is some lofty, snobby elite, but that he’s been trained to expect different things from a game than he found in Modern Warfare’s latest installment. Player freedom is of course not the only metric worth examining (lest Garry’s Mod be the best thing ever), but it certainly -is- worth counting when reviewing a piece of fundamentally interactive media.

    • Why can’t a game be half cintematic? It’s happening more and more lately with better graphics anyway.
      Here’s one for your…. what is the definition of “Game”?
      I dont think it’s fair for a critic to fire up a game, expect freedom, and review it badly when it has none.
      It all comes down to expectation. Play the game for what it is, for what it’s supposed to be.
      If it’s got an awesome story, follow the story. If its all about rollercoaster action, get on the rollercoaster and enojy. If its about exploration then go explore etc. It’s like critisizing GTA for having bad aiming or repetative melee combat…. it’s just not what it’s all about.

  • “stop using “freedom” as a metric for a game’s quality or, even worse, for a game’s gameness.”

    Too fucking right. Remember games like pong, space invaders, tetris, or even pac man? These games have far less freedom than call of duty, yet they’re heralded as classics. What people need to stop doing is buying a game expecting a sandbox, and buy a game expecting a game. Customization, choices and open worlds were NEVER a foundation for a good game, as those aforementioned gaming classics prove.

    • No one was expecting a sandbox.

      I think your belief of foundation for a good game is inherently flawed mainly because there are many a great game based on those foundation. Hell the entire elder scroll’s series has been.

      What people are expecting is the ability to actually play the game instead of watching an interactive movie about a soldier who walk’s down hallway’s from set piece to set piece. Shooting when the player tell’s him to.

      Why can’t we have some tactic’s. why can’t I even attempt to fight my way into the castle. instead of just following price’s lead.

      It is still the same location still the same enemies. The only thing that changes is my approach. And it’s the kind of thing that gave shooter campaign’s replayability.

      I mean hell use Halo as an example(i haven’t played any of the 360 ones) so i’ll stick with Halo 1. It had a story, it let you play through each area using your own tactic’s. Want to run headfirst into that building with a pistol and assualt rifle go ahead.

      want to utilize that sniper you found to pick some off first before you do that go ahead.

      As opposed to MW3 which is heavily choreographed to ensure the player is always where the developer expect’s them to be so they can trigger the next part of Set Piece Extravaganza.

      Hell Pac-Man is in a way one of the ultimate freedom game’s your shown a level layout your shown where the power up’s are and it’s your choice how you enact your plan to get them all without getting killed by ghost’s.

      • You did not even just right that…

        Anyway, John Walker wrote something that shows he actually Gets It. Why lambaste that? Fact is, he’s right. Call of Duty is nothing more than as asset tour, holding your hand the entire way and sometimes letting it go so you can whack a few moles. It is not a game.

        You do not have to prepare before taking on the ‘challenge’.
        There are not multiple ways of defeating said ‘challenge’.
        There are not even multiple types of challenge.
        There are very few abilities at hand.
        Even on the higher, err, ‘difficulty’, different skills are not required.
        There aren’t even multiple success states.

        It requires no thinking. You say to criticise “…it’s (arguable) glorifying of war or the complete lack of female characters or the implausibility of its plot if you wish. You can even talk about how it is or isn’t well paced and how the set-pieces are or aren’t well directed…” but NONE of these things actually relate to how it is as a game (I long for italics).

        It’s not about freedom. It’s no about “sandbox” (GTA is guilty of many of the things CoD is). It’s about giving the player meaningful choices and not forcing them down a pathway. If Tetris and Pacman could do it, why should modern games become more cinemersive than, I dunno, interactive?

        CoD is a Shaky Cam movie with the bare minimum of player input. And for God’s sake, the multiplayer is awful too, let’s not kid ourselves.

        • “It is not a game.

          You do not have to prepare before taking on the ‘challenge’.
          There are not multiple ways of defeating said ‘challenge’.
          There are not even multiple types of challenge.
          There are very few abilities at hand.
          Even on the higher, err, ‘difficulty’, different skills are not required.
          There aren’t even multiple success states.”

          None of these are fundamental requirements for a game. You cannot un-game a video game just because it doesn’t play how you want. You are clearly looking for a different game, that’s all.

      • Well, by the sounds of it, everyone was expecting a game full of freedom, but cod games have never been about that. So, I ask, why was anybody expecting anything more than an interactive movie?
        And besides, it’s not the gaming community at large that decide how a game plays, it’s the developer. If you don’t like the games the developer makes, then why are you playing them? Obviously there are plenty of vocal people out there who dislike the way cod plays, because it’s now how THEY want it to play. Games are not supposed to personalized, games are made how developers want to make them. The choice of whether or not people want to play it is up to the player. Yes, CoD is a bit like an interactive movie. Is that a bad thing? The answer to that question is subjective, because there’s this thing called an opinion.
        Why can’t you fight up to the castle instead of following Price? Because that’s the way the developer wanted to develop the game. I could ask why we can’t piss on our enemies dead corpses and wield inflatable sex toys as weapons and still questioning the limits of the game in the same way you are.
        What you’re asking for, is not call of duty. What you’re asking for, is a different game.
        You’re asking “why did you make me play call of duty”, and the answer to that question is “you played call of duty because you chose to”. The developer, nor the publisher, nor anyone else ever said “HEY GUYS, THIS IS AN INCREDIBLY OPEN WORLD GAME FULL OF CHOICE AND SHIT”.
        Call of duty has always been about walking down hallways from set piece to set piece. Why are you questioning the fact that *this is what the game is*? You’re vocalizing the fact that call of duty is call of duty (shock horror, right?) and not a completely different game. That’s like going and buying a sports game, starting it up and thinking “HOLY SHIT I’M SO PUMPED FOR THE GREATEST ACTION RPG OF ALL TIME”, playing it, and then bitching that the game doesn’t let you cast fireballs.

        “It had a story, it let you play through each area using your own tactic’s.”
        Who says you can’t do the same in cod? You can run in, hipfiring every little shit you see, or you can go in slowly, methodically, picking off people one by one, you can flank enemy positions if the level design grants you to do so, and in general there are many flanking opportunities, or you can sit back and snipe. You can’t pretend like there are any more tactics in other FPS games because that is completely untrue. Sure, Halo might feel larger in CoD in terms of scale, but in the end, you’re still shooting people from point A to point B. If anything, the only thing that makes Halo different from CoD is the fact that enemies have much larger health pools in Halo.
        And don’t pretend like Pac-Man has any more choice than CoD. Sure, you can choose to pick up power ups, just like you can choose to man mounted weapons, pick up other weapons, teabag fallen enemies, etc.
        So pretty much, your reply is entirely flawed, and it honestly makes you sound like you have never played a call of duty game in your life. I couldn’t care less whether you have or not, whether you thought the story was garbage, whatever. The fact is that you’re all bitching that call of duty is call of duty, and not your own open world choice filled personalized experience full of freedom, which nobody has ever claimed the game to be.

  • I still have been unable to finish the campaign. Just lost complete interest. Same with Black Ops. These 2 CODs have been the only ones I cannot bring myself to play through the campaign. And unlike most people that purchased MW3 I actually brought it for the campaign due to hating COD multiplayer.
    While I did enjoy what I have played so far, up to paris, the game just leaves me feeling empty. Cannot really explain it any better. Guess I will get around to it one day, when I’m bored.

    • You summed up my thoughts here. I loved MW1 and 2s campaigns and flew through them. I was really excited about MW3 but every time I sit down to play I get 20 minutes in and just turn it off uninterested. I can’t put my finger on it but there’s just something missing / wrong with it? Maybe its too much of the same MW2’ness or maybe the lack of juxtaposition that makes the constant extremeness just feel mundane. I don’t know but there is something lacking for me.

  • I agree with the article. I havent had a chance to finish the single player yet. But from what i have done – i’ve found it entertaining and exciting. I’m happy to admit that so far MW1 and MW2 have done a better job at sticking in my memory, but that may just be because they were groundbreaking in their time.
    For all the people who hate the MW3 campain, go compare it to the BF3 capaign. There is an example of everything single player should not be.

  • The “you played it wrong” argument can’t be really used.
    You play the game the way you want to otherwise it isn’t a game. If you are told to “press this to do that otherwise you will die” then it becomes more comparable to being told “if you don’t press play your movie won’t turn start”.

    If you play a game you shouldn’t be told “this is how your going to play it”. If you are told this, whats the point of holding a controller in your hand, the controller is your way of telling the game what you want it to do. You play a game the way you want it to be played. There is no wrong way to play a game and if that game doesn’t satisfy you then is that your fault? Because thats what i read from this article. That it IS your fault if you don’t find the game enjoyable.

    A few questions to the person who wrote this article:
    Why shouldn’t freedom be used as a criteria for judging a game?
    What is a game without freedom to do what you want?
    If not freedom to do what you want in a game, what did make you play games in the first place?

    • “I’ll take this one Ken”

      Firstly, I think the point of the article was that freedom shouldn’t be used as a means to dismiss a game, when player freedom was never designed as part of the game. As someone else as nicely stated we’d then be denigrating classics like Space Invaders and Pac-Man when those games have zero player freedom. I don’t think you can simply just say that a linear game is an un-game, because it is just a type of non player freedom game.

      For your second question, a game without freedom to do what you want is just another game. A different style of game, but a game non-the-less. God of War does not allow player freedom, as you control Kratos in set environments with a static camera, yet you can not claim this isn’t a game. The campaigns in games like MW3 and BF3 fall into this category. They may not be great, but they still offer you an interactive experience, yet they just may not be for everyone.

      I can’t speak for Brendan, but I play games for the experience and because I enjoy them. MW3 offers a different experience to, say, Skyrim because of its tightly scripted narrative but it still provides opportunities for small amounts of freedom in most scenarios. Of course this is limited generally to which gun do I use in each scenario. The story will never change despite your actions and it’s not meant to. Which means the game may just not be for some people who do want that greater degree of player freedom.

  • It’s a marker of diverging styles and tastes in gaming.

    There are mega successful ‘create-your-own’ content/story games, games whose narrative that can be wholly independent of the player – Minecraft and Skyrim for example. You can play alot of Skyrim without engaging the overarching plot line or narrative, and indeed, weave your very own instead. ‘Open-world’ is a term used to often describe these games.

    And then games like CoDMW3, which have a narrative that cannot be separated from the gameplay. That is, if you play the game, then you are experiencing the narrative also; you cannot play CoD and avoid the story (ignore it by all means however). These are often called ‘linear’ games, or more loosely ‘story-driven’ games.

    ‘Linear’ used to be a bad word, used negatively in review summaries at the end of PCPP and Hyper, but it has mostly shrug off the negative connotation now, as ‘movie-like’ and ‘cinematic-experience’ are now not just descriptions of sections of games, but are a genre in their own right (not even talking about Heavy Rain here – God Of War and Alpha Protocol could rightly be included in this) embraced in its shadow.

    To the authors point though, I don’t think ‘freedom’ was used as a metric of quality. Instead, it is more that when a game ties its gameplay to its story indistinctly, if either of those let the gamer down (the story sucks or is unintelligible, or if the gameplay is weak, poorly designed or just not fun) then that game will collapse. Accordingly, CoD has always failed me as the ‘trip-wire’ approach to set pieces is a godawful cheap piece of programming that completely breaks the game for me.

    In games that don’t tie them together (Skyrim), the story can be rubbish but the gameplay lives on (and I’d wager there are a number of people who have sunk many hours into Skyrim but couldn’t tell you the first thing about its plot). Ergo, ‘freedom’ (the seperation of gameplay and story) becomes almost a third pillar of criteria to judge a game on – can you have fun while the gameplay or story sucks?

    This is to say nothing of what constitutes ‘gameplay’; a horrible muddied word that has come to encompass so many things it is almost meaningless. But for the above argument, let us assume it means no more than the core components of games; graphics, solid predictable controls and believable (as distinct from realistic) worldly interaction (physics).

  • I lost a paragraph in there somewhere (further explaining the ‘freedom’ was nota metric in authors article, but it can be used as one etc) – I blame the giantbomb podcast for distracting me!

  • in my opinion it’s an un-game because it’s too focused on it’s set pieces and directing the player. Instead of letting the player control the experience.

    They can still have a narrative without shoe-horning us into hallways.

    The game want’s us to watch a movie instead of play a game while being part of the story.

    hell the part’s the highlight’s this the most in my mind.

    When you take control of the civilian. I knew what was going to happen next i think everyone did, yet because technically that civillian doesn’t know your just forced to stand there. It would have made more sense if they said we recovered this video near one of the gas sites.

    And the underwater section. I tried to go over a pipe near the end of the section, because there were mines below the pipe so going over the pipe seemed logical. except the game didn’t want me there and actually failed me for falling behind because there’s no reverse on the vehicle and it doesn’t like grinding down to go below the pipe.

    The whole sequence exist’s solely to show a flooded tunnel with some floater’s in it. And then show the sub drive past. There is no game there. It’s merely interactive camera movement

  • The action is good but the plot and voice acting was horrible. I just couldn’t get into the characters. When Soap died I didn’t feel any emotion from price.

  • No, MW3 is an un-game. You see it’s all down to perspective. Respect each other’s. I honestly like both reviews, John’s and yours. Keep up the good work.

  • Bravo.
    I am bewildered when peolpe critise the game for the elements that i love.
    But now i know why, its because they played the game wrong.

    • or to be that guy.

      Maybe the element’s suck and perform the developer’s intention and your enjoyment from those element’s is down to you playing the game wrong.

      It’s all opinion 😀

  • I almost never agree with Walker on anything, but he’s absolutely right about this. Every Modern Warfare “game” has been a complete and utter exercise in non-interactivity. They more or less represent the exact opposite of what we have, trans-historically, understood as a “game”. There is no systemic interaction, there is no consistent ruleset for the player to manipulate and be manipulated by – there is only scripting. It’s a movie. A movie where you occasionally get control of the camera. I don’t think Modern Warfare – and anything that follows its central philosophy, such as the Uncharted series – should be considered games at all, and it amazes me that there are people who eke enjoyment out of them. I mean, they’re not even good movies.

    There are numerous first-person shooters out there that offer the same aesthetic experience – that is, the whole modern military shtick – while actually being games, with emergent interactions and dynamic action, and genuine non-directed strategic gameplay. ArmA II is probably the most recent one.

    Oh, and the notion (as posted in the comments) that classic videogames like Pong and Space Invaders are less interactive than Call of Duty is ludicrous. In those games, the player is given complete freedom of movement and interaction within the ruleset provided. This is not the case with Modern Warfare, where control is often actually taken away from the player.

  • I aim the gun

    I shoot the guy


    The author obviously don’t grasp the fundamental principles of what makes a game, let alone a video game. The author is entitled to enjoy MW3 for what it is, but it is not a game.

    • “A video game is an electronic game that involves human interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device.”

      Electronic game? Check.
      Human interaction? Check.
      User interface? Check.
      Visual feedback? Check.
      Video device? Check.

      Holy shit, you’re wrong!

      • Wow, my expectations were pretty low for Kotaku, but that devastating riposte really takes the cake. I WENT TO DICTIONARY DOT COM AND THE DEFINITION KIND OF BROADLY SUITS MY CONFIRMATION BIAS SO THIS ARGUMENT IS ~OVER~

        Anyway, yeah, enjoy your completely on-rails non-interactive overpriced trash. I thought the gaming community had given up on this stuff after Dragon’s Lair, but apparently not.

        For the record, the OED defines a “game” as “a form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules”. There are no rules in MW3, and there is no competition (against a computer opponent) within those rules. In fact, in many cases, the game simply ends if you refuse to do exactly what it tells you to do so as to further its turgid adolescent “narrative”.

          Actually, I went to wikipedia.

          “Anyway, yeah, enjoy your completely on-rails non-interactive”
          Proof of lack of mobility? Proof of lack of interactivity?

          “overpriced trash.”
          Subjective, and thus irrelevant.

          “I thought the gaming community had given up on this stuff after Dragon’s Lair, but apparently not.”
          Pointless personal reflection, thus irrelevant.

          “For the record, the OED defines a “game” as “a form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules”.”
          Try searching for “video game” next time, or maybe you already did and realized call of duty fits perfectly into that description.

          “There are no rules in MW3,”
          If there are no rules, then it couldn’t possibly be the “completely on-rails” game that you described, because restriction of movement would technically be a rule. Also, you’re not allowed to shoot allies, so there’s another.

          “and there is no competition (against a computer opponent) within those rules.”
          If there is no competition against a computer opponent, then that implies that you cannot die, which is untrue.

          “In fact, in many cases, the game simply ends if you refuse to do exactly what it tells you to do”
          If you refuse to *FOLLOW THE GAMES RULES* (see what I did there?), then yes, you lose. Many games do this.

          “so as to further its turgid adolescent “narrative”.”
          Subjective, and thus irrelevant.

      • “Electronic game? Check.”

        It’s not a game.

        “Human interaction? Check.
        User interface? Check.
        Visual feedback? Check.
        Video device? Check.”

        You just described a DVD menu.

        • Proof that Call of Duty isn’t a game?

          “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (abbreviated as Call of Duty: MW3) is a first-person shooter video game”
          Ripped straight from Wikipedia. I guess that makes it a video game!

          • So many smart-arse remarks, and yet you still fail to deliver any valid points on why call of duty should not classified any less of a videogame than, say, half life.
            It’s okay, I understand. No matter how many snide remarks you make, I already know you’re wrong just as much as you do. You know that (as much as it pains you to openly accept it) call of duty is a video game. We both know you’re just on the call of duty hate bandwagon because it makes you feel edgy and cool. It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone. You can continue your incredibly important life of bashing on a video game just so you can say “lol hey everyone look at me i hate something that’s popular, i’m so fucking special”, and I continue will enjoy my fun video games. Because sometimes some people find it fun to follow a game’s rules and run from set piece to set piece and shoot people, and sometimes it’s fun to play games whose rules are completely undefined – or at least, not completely defined – like Skyrim or Witcher 2. That’s the beauty of choice; there are just so many different kinds of videogames designed to cater to different kinds of people in so many different ways. But then, you have asinine people like you who don’t understand the difference between personal opinion and fact, and think they have enough big words to make up for their lack of any real substance behind what they’re touting as “fact”.
            Protip: you’re actually not better than anybody else just because you think differently about a matter that is totally subjective.

          • Actually, I made my point early on – you’ve been looking at nested definitions of “video games” and “electronic games” without addressing whether MW* classifies as a “game” in and of itself. It has no consistent ruleset, there is no competition within that ruleset, at no point is the player an agent within that ruleset, and at no point is the non-player (that is, the computer) an agent, either. You are funnelled from setpiece to setpiece without any role in the proceedings, occasionally Shooting The Man where the narrative dictates it, and if you attempt to deviate from that script at any juncture, the game simply ends. As I said, it’s Dragon’s Lair with Guns. It’s the equivalent to playing chess, but only being able to make the exact move a person hovering over your shoulder tells you to do at every juncture. WHITE PAWN TO K3! DO IT! NOW! OKAY FINE GAME’S OVER START AGAIN

            Keith Burgun described MW* and games like it (Uncharted, BF3 single-player, and even, to a significant extent, Half-Life, too) as “asset tours”, which is the perfect description. You’re not actually playing the game; you’re just being dragged along from asset to asset and kind of gawking at the tremendous visual spectacles the designers have been able to create. As an asset tour, I’m sure MW* stuns, but as a game, it’s honestly not even in the running.

            I’m not trying to be “edgy” – I find the suggestion completely asinine. As I said, I have no aversion to military-themed videogames, and am a huge fan of ArmA II, which is actually a game. You should give it a whirl.

          • “It has no consistent ruleset, there is no competition within that ruleset, at no point is the player an agent within that ruleset, and at no point is the non-player (that is, the computer) an agent, either.”

            I’m not sure if you’re aware, but call of duty fits in to your description of a “game” no less than any other game, ever. From Pacman to Zelda to Elder Scrolls to Minecraft. Not even ARMA II can be considered a “game”, by your definition.

            You know, you could define horses to have a foundation of brown in colour. Does that mean black horses are not horses? No, it just means your definition is so very, very wrong.
            That is a metaphor; replace horses with videogames and you have your dicky definition of a videogame; the one that has been pulled out of your arse only so you can falsely attempt to better your argument.

            But at any rate, even if your definition is wholely wrong, call of duty still fits into it. Prove me wrong.
            -no consistent ruleset, evidence?
            -no competition within that ruleset, evidence?
            -at no point is the player an agent within that ruleset, evidence?
            -no point is the non-player an agent, either, evidence?

            If there is no rule set, then how can you argue about the restrictions imposed upon the player?
            Being hand-held in games has absolutely no detrimental impact on a videogame’s level of “videogame-ness”. In fact, it advertises itself as a military shooter. Do you know what you do in the military? You take orders. I know, holy shit, revelations! It does not punish you for not following them, contrary to your misguided belief. It just places you in a very impossible situation – just like when you try to shoot all the people on your way into the castle instead of following prices orders of keeping silent. If you shoot someone, everyone becomes alerted. You don’t immediately fail, you just have to make do with your failure to follow the order.
            It does not tell you “TAKE THE PAWN ON A4 WITH YOUR KNIGHT, GO ON DO IT”, that implies it tells you exactly who to shoot, exactly when to shoot them, with exactly which weapon to shoot them. It simply guides you from place to place. It tells you where your next objective is and allows you to carve your own path toward it. There are a few segments where this is not the case, such as the few and far between ‘on rail’ segments (of which I only recall one or two, brief ones mind you). It’s a form of structure for the story telling, to lead you to the next plot point. You can argue all you want that it’s a DVD and not a videogame, but DVDs always end up the same way. Every time you play a videogame, everything happens differently. Maybe in cod, you don’t make so many choices which impact the plot the to a large extent, but you still do things differently, every time you play it. The game never claims to be some massive open world where you can roam around and do quests for farmers and collect gold and become teh gr8est blacksmith in all the land or some shit. It is a videogame with a structured narrative. That’s all.

            You whine that you have to follow the games rules in order to progress, and yet you say there are no rules to follow. But have you played ANY games… ever? Every game ever made cock blocks you in some way or another if you don’t follow the goal of the game.
            PacMan – if you don’t collect the dots, guess what? Game over.
            Zelda – if you don’t use a certain weapon or item on a certain boss or enemy, you cannot kill it. The game forces you to do specific things in order to progress. If can stand there hacking and slashing your sword all you want, but some bosses simply will not die. Guess what? Game fucking over.
            Skyrim – what if I don’t want to capture the dragon in the whiterun castle? Well, I guess you’re never going to see the credits roll then, are you.
            Minecraft – what if I don’t want to mine blocks? Well gee, that game sounds like a fuckload of fun.
            ARMA II – what if I don’t want to fire a javelin at a that armored tank? Why can’t I throw rocks at it until it sparks a nuclear explosion? WORST GAEM EVAR!
            As you can see, call of duty is not the only game to punish you for not wanting to follow the rules. The fact is, every game ever restricts the player with how they can progress. I’m sorry, but this has been going on forever and ever in videogames. Just because call of duty does not allow progression when you don’t want to follow the WAY it wants you to progress (again, like every game, ever), does not make it a non-videogame.

            And I have played ARMA II, I have both it and Operation Arrowhead on steam. Good videogames, but they are no more videogames than call of duty.

            Anyway, I didn’t bother to proofread any of that, so if any of it doesn’t make sense, you know why.

  • “The player is not the be-all and end-all of video games”. I have never ever read anything so fatally incorrect and stone cold wrong.

    • Janus tells it as it is. I suppose Brendan is just saying that MW3 is a perfectly serviceable piece of entertainment for the lazy and hungry consumer, but it is far from a real game.

  • Why do I hear Apple saying “You’re holding it wrong.” when I read this?

    The article seems to be a little contradictory. Brendan criticises John for “Playing it wrong” and follows up with the idea we should be meeting a game half way. However, he then goes on to say that you should do exactly what the game says, when it says and only then will you enjoy it and have fun.

    Now, I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure that a relationship in which only one side dictates the terms of what will be tolerated is pretty one sided. You’re only having fun because it told you you could have fun. It’s the Uncharted 3 review all over again. Once you try to do anything outside of the script, it stops being as fun.

    Games do, as Brendan says, lead you down a path, but it’s the ones that do so while still giving you the illusion of being the one that’s making the decisions that are the good ones. It’s leadership 101. A good leader can give a command while letting the other person feel like they made the choice, otherwise the person will feel like they’re always being ordered around.

    Then again, maybe I’m just playing Brendan’s game wrong.

  • Kotaku, with this, you have lost a reader.

    I don’t care if you post positive reviews of a game I hate. I don’t care if you reject a game I love.

    These things are opinions.

    But when you repost this drivel….

    I have never in my life seen so many game reviewers defend their positions so vehemently, and in this repost, a reviewer against another reveiwer’s opinion.

    For all you reviewers…. Say it like it is. It is your opinion. People disagree? Say ‘It is MY opinion, not yours.’ Don’t give an essay (like every reviewer who gave this game a good rate) has done, saying that everyone who hates it is wrong/a BF3 fanboy.

    Goodbye Kotaku, it’s been and off/on relationship, but the downhill slide is not worth this rubbish article.

    • Review by Anonymous for Rating: My girl likes the sunods but the cord is to short. Its Talking Telephone OK but that’s it. Nothing to die for.

  • They killed Soap. That alone destroyed this game for me.

    The original InfinityWard would NEVER kill soap.

    As you all probably know, 95% of InfinityWard (who made the first two Modern Warfare games) quit or got fired. So it was a COMPLETELY different company that made this game, which clearly explains why it sucks so much.

    This is akin to MGM studios firing all of their movie writers and hiring all new writers, then those writers killing James Bond in their very first movie. A complete slap in the face.

    I wish they could just take this game back, and remake it without Soap dying. It is absolutely disgusting.

  • I don’t understand how people can be dissapointed with MW3 considering it turned out exactly the same as everyone thought it would? MW2 arguably ‘fixed’.

    IMO it’s MW2 with more ‘bullshit’ but whatever.

  • What you guys and girls who are defending this article and game are not getting is that the whole idea of a game that ‘plays’ like MW3 is what is wrong. MW3 is but the latest (and arguably the worst) example of the decline in video games. I guarantee shit like this and Uncharted will get nominated and win all the GotY awards (which are entirely invalidated as a result), while games like Bastion will be relegated to “best downloadable/indie game” absolute. Worse, a game like Frozen Synapse won’t even get.a mention. it’s all big budgets and marketing, not the actual worth of a product as a GAME.

    • What is wrong with how Cod plays? What I don’t understand is why people think this linear, interactive movie is just a current phenomenon. Heck, Nintendo makes a killing off of it, just look at Super Mario Bros., Metro, Zelda and Starfox. All of these are linear, and act just like Cod: move from
      one scene to the next to activate a cutscene. (Good job Mario, but the princess is in another castle!) And I don’t see how this is inherently worse than any other method. For example, if you like Bioware, linear but storydriven RPGs, you will be disappointed by Bethesda’s open-world approach, as it feels like it lacks ambition, and exists just because it can. Consequently, if you like Bethesda, you’ll be disappointed that Bioware has a linear structure, forcing you to play as a pre-set class and never deviating from what they want you to do.

      • And to add to what I said: why don’t gamers complain that, in order to beat a Zelda dungeon, I HAVE TO use whatever boomerang/gadget I unlocked in the preceeding dungeon to beat the Dungeon Boss? What if I didn’t want to use the Gale Boomerang/buy the potion? Well, guess what, you’ll be seeing a game over screen for quite a while. Another example is Mario Galaxy. What if I didn’t want to solve the puzzle the way the developers have? What if I have a better way? Well then, no Gold Star for you an continuing with the mission. Or with Mario Bros. What if I didn’t want to jump on Goombas? What if I want to backtrack? Then GameOver. This can be applied to every video game created. (Even Bethesda. Remember The Heist in Oblivion. You HAD to shoot an arrow while standing on a pillar to trigger a cutscene, otherwise you could never beat the Thieves Guild). The reason being is two-fold: all games have a story to tell and all games are built with limits. The only way games have been able to tell a story is through force, forcing us gamers to do something so as to move on. And this leads to limits. Games limit what we can do, because that is the only way to enforce the story into the gamer, and ensure that we follow what THEY want us to do.

  • Can someone explain to me why an american family are on holiday in london while their homeland is being invaded by russians? Such a pathetic exploitive move from the developers. Tom francis of PC Gamer siad it best in his review of the last call of duty, if these guys want to make a movie that badly just go do. when you decide to make a game come back

  • Yeah, having not played MW3 or Black-Ops yet, nor having read the original RPS article this responds to I can already kind of get where both sides are coming from.

    I actually enjoyed the campaigns for all of the CODs I’ve finally mustered up the boredom to try out. But they really are mindless fun. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s apparent that the guys behind this monster franchise aren’t trying to win over anyone on an intellectual level.

    The pacing and sheer scope of what’s happening in most of these games seems like it was engineered with the sole intention of being able to hold the attention of sugar-filled, ADHD afflicted 13 year old.

    I think the main gripe detractors COD isn’t that games like this exist, it’s that the market sees the giant dollar signs lingering above franchises such as COD and all suddenly rush to make new IPs that basically rip it off or change the direction of existing IPs to appeal to COD fans, alienating their existing fanbase who usually tend to find more enjoyment in things that are a little more cerebral and a little less throw-away.

  • I think Brendan has jumped the gun here and missed the point of John’s original article. (John replies again over on his blog.) He’s not criticising MW3 because it’s linear; he criticising it because even given the confines of a linear shooter, it removes not just choice, but interactivity. I mean, I like a linear B-shooter as much as the next guy – recent ones I enjoyed include Wolfenstein and Singularity, hardly Deus Ex-style example of emergent gameplay – but I gave up MW1 single player in sheer annoyance.


  • Wow, this entire article is based on a straw-man argument. None of this really fits with what John -actually- said.

  • To me it looks like your just trying to master over poor old John, Have you ever thought that people are sick of being choiceless in Campains?

    The main reason I love Battlefeild Bad Company campaign (Not 2) is that it was massively open and you could decide which path to take, which angle to attack, weather or not you would use a tank, or truck or walk.

    It provided that choice which we all crave in video gaming, It allowed us to plan an effective attack plan, which works great with BC’s multiplayer which is based of the same, choice of Attack.

    Whilst I am constantly disappointed at Call of Duty games, as the all just go: Here’s a small area to fight, no you can not go inside buildings of vehicles and you can only run and gun, otherwise your banned for not being a tool.

  • “We play videogames by participating with them as equals, not by becoming some god-like master over them. We enjoy entering a game, suspending disbelief, and voluntarily giving in to its limitations and restrictions and doing what is asked of us. This is as true of Modern Warfare 3 as it is of Minecraft.”

    Had to quote that.

    Because here’s the thing about it:

    Yes, even something like Minecraft, of course, has rules and limitations that you must adhere to. Every single game does. BUT. Minecraft AT NO POINT ever, EVER tells you “NOW YOU MUST BUILD THIS NETHER GATE AND ENTER IT. DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE.”. You have the freedom to choose what you want to do WITHIN THE GAME’S LIMITATIONS. This is important.

    And it’s not just Minecraft, obviously. Alot of the best games ever do exactly that. The original Metroid, for instance. How boring would it be if you HAD to explore the many tunnels and rooms in a specific order just because “ZOMG GOTTA DO DRAMATIC CUTSCENES!!!!!11”. It probably would have been utterly terrible. I can think of about 50 squillion other games that would have suffered horribly from using the same dumb approach as MW3.

    Hell, even really early FPS games like Doom or Wolfenstein got it right. Yes, you went through the levels in a specific order; but within each level, you could explore as you please, handle situations as YOU deemed fit, not as the game ordered you to. MW3 cant even get right something that Wolfenstein mastered.

    Un-game indeed.

  • I completely disagree with the author. MW3 is an Un-game for the exact same reason that every COD title has been an un-game since COD4. It’s the EXACT same game with a few extra skins, models, and tweaks. Well I shouldn’t call it an un-game but it’s nowhere near as good as the author of this article is saying.

    Likewise I do not comprehend why soo many people like it. I just don’t have the capability to understand why people can consistently spend $60 a year on the EXACT SAME GAME. It really is. IW and even Trey here lately have had absolutely no creativity, no innovation, no drive, no nothing when it comes to the COD series. This series has just become one big huge way for the company to say “We only want your money. We don’t care about you, video games, or even what video games mean as an entertainment medium.”

    Now I know every single COD fanboy and probably even the author of this article are gonna flame me from here to kingdom come, but if you sit back and think objectively, you know I’m right. Every game since COD4 could have been a DLC expansion at the most, and a skin/free mod at the least.

    I haven’t seen innovation, creativity, art, or anything else in the COD franchise since COD4. The only thing that even comes close to that in COD is Zombie mode from COD W@W and Black ops. But one mode in a game does not make justify what they’ve done to this series.

    • Sorry for the second post but I wanted to add more and I don’t see an edit button.

      Now that’s not even speaking about the atrocities they’ve committed with the PC versions of these games. I can’t even begin to describe how disgusting the PC version of MW2, and MW3 are. Blackops to a lesser extent. Activision, Trey, and Infinity ward should have a permanent injunction against them, barring them from every writing code for a PC based game again. Even today MW2 has got to be the worst PC game I’ve ever played. Now that’s just speaking purely from a technical point of view in terms of all the bugs, the lack of dedicated servers, their “IW.NET,” etc. When a modding/hacking/piracy group has to create dedicated server software just for the legitimate customers to fully enjoy the multiplayer with the best quality experience possible, you have a huge, HUGE problem. that’s when you need to seriously reevaluate why you are in the gaming industry.

  • “Each level is so perfectly, carefully paced and scripted so that you always have just enough control over what is happening to forward the events of the plot.”

    Whoa, what? “Perfectly, carefully paced”? Uh, sorry, but I don’t think you actually understand the concept of “pacing”. Pacing implies troughs and peaks in the action, difficulty and story. It implies intelligent variance designed to elicit specific emotions and responses from the player.
    Pacing is NOT delivered by non-stop explosions and a ceaseless barrage of gunfire. It is not delivered by one ham-fisted plot development after another and a series of constant and pointless character deaths. That’s what MW2 and MW3 offered. Their pacing is non-existent.

    In terms of single player, MW3 is a better experience than MW2, but that’s not a high bar. It also falls well short of MW1. RPS is right on the money – it’s a testosterone laden spectacle lacking substance. I enjoyed the ride, but as you stated yourself, that’s what it was, a ride. There was a distinct lack of control or agency and it felt more like an vaguely interactive special-effects-reliant plot-lacking action blockbuster. You might be on a sensory overload high while playing the game, but afterwards you’re left with a flat empty feeling with few memorable highlights that make you think “Wow, that was a great game.” It’s a short, flashy, but ultimately disposable ride.

    If, based on its single player component, you feel like this is the best game of 2011, I contend that you have indeed lost sight of what makes a game, in fact a game. I’ve found Australian Kotaku articles to be on the money in many cases… but in this instance, you’re way wide of the mark.

  • i feel like the problem with MW3 is that the campaign is too consistent. most levels are in some city somewhere thats being ripped apart by russians. that said, I think that infinity ward really focused on the multiplayer aspect of the game since that is the most popular. the campaign could have been much better, but i would rather have amazing multiplayer than amazing campaign.

  • MW3 do not worth the money!
    I really disapointed with the game, and I placed my angry at metacritic.

    Bad graphics, horrible sounds, maps are recicled from other COD’s, the Menus of the game, are the same. So I have to say, why people pay $60 for a game, that has the same engine, with the same GUI. Nothing new… Bad for COD franchise.

    I wont buy COD anymore if they launch. And I already know they will launch another one in 2012.

  • I agree with this article, and well put Brendan.
    MW3 has a thoroughly entertaining campaign, some very challenging Spec Ops and the best multiplayer experience on any console game.
    To approach the third in this series thinking the campaign was going to be anything other than a follow on from MW, & MW2 is naive.
    The introduction and expansion of Spec Ops in the series has been impressive and the inclusion of Survival Mode a natural progression.
    The multiplayer is even deeper than ever and the maps are well crafted to keep you gripped for a long time – or at least until the DLC is released 🙂

  • I know I am a little late to the game here but could somebody explain to me what ’emergence’ is in a gaming context? Did he mean ‘immersion’, or am I missing something?

    I think the interesting point to either side of this argument is the idea of player agency; we know we are going where the videogame tells us, but we like to think it is a choice, not an order. When you are told where to go you lose the sense of agency, which can break immersion…

    • Emergent play is the kind of gameplay that supposedly ’emerges’ out of the player’s playing of the game as opposed to ‘progression’ play that where the gameplay remains essentially the same every time.

      So something like Minecraft or Just Case 2 would be more emergent where it is more about having a series of interlocking systems that can be used in different ways to create numerous different events. Wherea something like MW3 or Heavy Rain or essentially any linear story-driven game is progressive where the same-ish thing will happen every time.

      THough, of course, the VAST majority of games sit somewhere in the middle. MW3 has some emergent gameplay (that time something crazy happened to you that didn’t happen last time) and Just Cause 2 and Skyrim have progressive play in their quests.

      So that is the difference. My issue is that one isn’t inherently better than the other 🙂

  • I’ve only gotten into gaming recently since now, after years and years of hard work, I’m able to afford the time and resources to play these modern titles on enthusiast-PC hardware that’s absolutely to-die-for. SO, I have to say, for me, MW3 was completely forgettable. John Walter’s review seems dead on (I think) and Brendan Keogh’s response has missed the point entirely.


    Here’s a great example showing exactly how COD is an Un-game. The only way the context of the game makes sense is if you play it thinking you are some badass navy seal. Out of that context the game actually looks incredibly silly. Without any choice in how you approach things it hardly makes it a game at all.

  • ”ou, sir, played the game wrong.”
    Stopped reading there, since it’s obvious that I would only waste my time. Oh, my dear Flying Spaghetti Monster, you COD fanboys are ridiculous. Hated Twilight? You watched it wrong! Hurr Durrr. .

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