E3 2011: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 preview – The rail-gunning, train-wrecking excesses of New York and London

Is there any doubt Call of Duty is the hottest franchise in gaming? No, there is not. Is there any question the latest game in the series, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, is the gaming world’s most eagerly awaited game of 2011? No, there is not. Are we the type of mean bastards to spend hours at a special, swanky preview event, getting a good, long look at two single-player levels from this very game and then keep all the exquisite details to ourselves? No, we are not. We’re going to spill our guts and rant like mad men. Let’s roll…

To start off the event, two gentlemen from co-developers Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games prepped the crowd by discussing a few goals they were hoping to achieve with MW3’s single-player experience – chief among them being a focus on hardcore urban combat. In fact, US players will find themselves defending their home turf much of the time. Story-wise, MW3 picks up right where Modern Warfare 2 left off – namely, Russia has invaded America and everything has pretty much gone to hell.

The gamplay demonstration began with the player in control of an American soldier being transported via APC through the war-torn streets of New York. The mission was to destroy a radio tower on top of the New York Stock Exchange, which Russian forces were using to jam American communications. Before we could fully take in the grave surroundings, a Russian RPG smashed into the side of the vehicle, killing the driver and overturning the APC. Once the world stopped spinning, our soldier climbed from the wreckage and the game proper began.

It was at this moment that we could see the truly sad state of The Big Apple. Officers screamed out orders from behind abandoned cars and other makeshift cover while Marines traded fire with an advancing Russian force. Combat choppers patrolled the skies between burning skyscrapers. It was already intense. Our soldier grabbed a rifle, loaded his magazine and got to work.

As the soldier advanced through Wall Street, an armored tank rolled up a cross street and fired on an enemy chopper, causing the bird to spin into an opposing building and explode, raining fire and debris onto enemy and allied troops alike. It was at this point that the soldier switched to what we could only describe as some sort of prototype railgun to dispatch the tank. To be honest, we didn’t get a good look at the weapon itself – we were too busy staring slack-jawed at the havoc it wrought with each shot. This quick sequence illustrates what the Call of Duty games still do better than perhaps any other series – peppering in just the right amount of set-piece moments to make you feel like you’re simply a single man or woman playing your small part in a huge war and then turning around with an action sequence that makes you feel like a god.

The scene at the Big Board was a very somber sight. The trading floor lay abandoned and wrecked, with furniture shredded and nearly every screen shattered, with Russian forces having taken control of the bullet-ridden site’s upper floors. The soldier advanced with his squad, picking off enemy soldiers as they ascended to the rooftops. Resistance at the tower’s base was heavy, but the soldier managed to set charges while his unit laid down cover fire. Boom.

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