- The Washington Times - Monday, November 14, 2011

This latest sequel to the chart-breaking Call of Duty first-person shooting franchise returns players to the violent and explosive world of international terrorism melded with modern combat.

You’re already primed by the clever (and I bet expensive) commercial starring Sam Worthington and Jonah Hill, who are seen embedded in the game.

Now pop in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Activision, Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games, reviewed for Xbox 360, rated M for mature, $59.99) and take on the role of various members of the global special operations unit Task Force 141 in a virtual adventure that, according to Activision, is the highest-grossest entertainment property launch ever  for any medium.

Loaded with as much fan anticipation and marketing might to rival Halo: Reach and “Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace” combined, can it possibly live up to the hype?

Of course it can’t, but it combines a very features-rich and familiar multiplayer mode with a solo campaign that delivers in the grandest traditions of a movie blockbuster.

Get ready for gritty, in-your-face combat in the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
Get ready for gritty, in-your-face combat in the video game Call of ... more >

The story picks up from the last game and co-stars scene-munching villain Vladmir Makarov, who has orchestrated and continues fueling a world war between the U.S. and Russia.

Through three acts and 16 chapters (clocking in around eight hours) a player finds himself in a gritty, Hollywood-style war production, firefighting across continents and stuck on a white-knuckle roller-coaster ride, his controller shaking through equal parts forced feedback and tension.

As with pretty much all of the seven previous Call of Duty titles, the eye-popping action will have a player flash back to the history of popcorn-munching cinema.

For example, I’m sure watching the collapse of one of the most popular man-made structures in the world will bring back an “Independence Day” chill. Or how about a pinch of “Die Hard” with a stunning below- and above-ground subway train chase involving pickups and trains?

Now, let’s take a page out of the chaotic “Saving Private Ryan” when tackling a beach assault in Germany and then fighting from building to building in Berlin. And being stuck in a sandstorm on the streets of Bosaso, Somalia, trying to escape from ever-mounting forces, surely will trigger a “Black Hawk Down” night sweat.

You’ll need a popcorn refill for the multiple James Bond moments, such as going underwater to infiltrate a Russian Oscar II submarine, using a minigun atop a tank while driving through city streets, and sliding down a mountain, off a cliff and into a river.

I’ll also mention “Matrix”-style dazzle, such as a steady diet of slow-motion attacks in key scenes or taking on the perspective of a missile striking the target and getting sucked back into the control of a character on the ground, watching just as the ordnance hits.

And the power is not just in the ground attacks. How about wielding the might of an AC-130 to rain fire down on enemy vehicles as potent as any Tom Clancy-inspired flick.

Yes, I was pretty impressed by the visual punch and it kept me riveted throughout the story that concludes with quite the payoff.

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