Still modern. Still warfare.
In the midst of what's purportedly the largest entertainment launch in history yet again—the Call of Duty series has set and shattered the climbing record for three consecutive years—Activision and Treyarch have quietly released a Wii version of the modern military juggernaut for those who, ostensibly, have no other system to play the game on. And yet again, this joke-butt of a port is deceptively great.
Wii games of this kind carry a certain amount of stigma, and in the interest of talking about Modern Warfare 3 in a way that doesn't hinge its appeal entirely upon the system, these issues will be addressed now. Graphically, Modern Warfare 3 on Wii is not what you'll find on any other console. In fact, it looks a like what probably pops into your mind when you hear "Modern Warfare 3 on Wii." Textures are blurrier, the frame rate is noticeably dodgier, and the level of detail is several notches below what you'll see on PS3, Xbox 360, or even the most modest of PCs.
Fortunately, none of that carries a great deal of significance when it comes down to what Modern Warfare 3 is at the core. If you're an unflinching stickler for graphical fidelity, MW3 will likely get under your skin. If you come to a game like this for the mechanics, the moments, and the multiplayer, however, then you'll be in great shape.
The other prominent area of complaint with first-person shooters on the Wii lies with the controls. Like Black Ops last year, Treyarch implemented support for the system's Classic Controller and Zapper peripheral in addition to the default Wii Remote and Nunchuk configuration. Though I half expected to end up cruising through with the Classic Controller, using the motion controls was equally as effective. Shooters that end up working well on the system have taken care to make customization a priority; Modern Warfare 3 follows this trend well.
In addition to five different controller presets (varying in terms of speed and sensitivity) and six tweakable button layouts, the menu sports myriad sensitivity and adjustment items to facilitate the best point-and-shoot experience. After I upped the sensitivity a bit, I was able to pull in on enemies for quick bursts or pinpoint headshots, even on moving targets and in hairy situations. The default Wii Remote and Nunchuk configuration smartly relegates a few of the lesser-used functions (jumping, melee, the switching of gun sight attachments, and the basic two-slot gun swapping) to the D-Pad, which is a little less hand-friendly in hot situations than the rest of the controller. The Classic Controller provided a bit more stability during basic movement, but it comes down to personal choice; the two options are equally effective in combat.
Combat, obviously, is still the most important part of the game, and the structure of it has not altered much from the template set down by the first Modern Warfare four years ago. The staples of the series charge on into the final part of the trilogy, which is both a good and bad thing. The all-action global conflict escalates its what-ifs to create a peak-chaos situation in a handful of the world's major cities, which makes for some thoroughly impressive large-scale firefights and trademark moments. Battles are intense, explosions are frequent, and the experience is never without a certain level of excitement. That said, MW3's campaign hits the noted beats of the series pretty directly (even going as far as to poorly recycle first-person snapshots and cheap character deaths for depth it hardly reaches), and though the conditioned stimulus of mowing through entire platoons more or less on your lonesome is still fairly strong, it's a grinder players have been run through many times before. It's the kind of perfunctory presentation that's easy to go along with, even if it's telegraphed a bit and much of the time whatever character you posses at the moment is still being led by the nose by a comrade with a large white icon atop his head. It's blockbuster dumb and blockbuster fun, deafening with explosions and dense with military jargon, but nothing we've not seen before.
The same can be said of the multiplayer component, though as the extremely popular constant of the series this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The new individual weapon leveling system makes it easy to get attached to and improve a certain gun at any one time, and the system of pointstreaks and strike packages streamlines player progression in a new, though not entirely innovative, way.
A recent patch to the multiplayer aimed to fix a pair of problems: difficulty with properly recording hits associated with network lag, and the corruption of player data. I downloaded the patch before entering multiplayer for the first time, and have had none of the problems listed. Matches started quickly and ran smoothly, and scant few instances of lag appeared.
While the base multiplayer experience is as solid as any iteration, a few unfortunate exclusions and quirks mar package as a whole. The new private match modes (Infection, Drop Zone, Team Juggernaut) are absent, as are the Gun Game and One in the Chamber modes from Black Ops.
The Spec Ops mode lacks the structured missions of the other versions, providing only the new Survival component. While the wave-based game is playable alone, cooperation is frankly a necessity for making meaningful progress. A majority of the dozen or so online matches I was placed into were rendered nearly unplayable by lag, however, even though the standard multiplayer performed swimmingly in game after game. Considering that Spec Ops exists more or less as a third of the game's content, the dismal state it's in is a shame.
Modern Warfare 3 on Wii won't ever astound with its graphics or win over anyone already intent on playing it on another console. It is by no means the definitive version. Despite its various limitations, however, it is a solid approximation of the kind of content that continues to deliver year after year, even if the ride is getting a little predictable.