Modern Warfare 3: Three Devs Better Than One?

By Adam Ma on May 18, 2011, 3:44AM EDT

So Modern Warfare 3 has officially been announced and Activision have more or less started riots in the streets for more news regarding one of the most successful gaming franchises on the planet. Who will be in it, who will die, where will the engagements take place, and what will the plot will be all about? These are just a few of the questions that have been raised and tackled so far, which is a pretty fair chunk of information considering we've yet to see even a single bullet fired in gameplay yet. But the real question isn't so much what features the game will highlight, but rather what level of quality can we expect from the title. With three completely different development teams working on various portions, there's really no telling what the final product will be like, but it's safe to bet that somehow Activision thinks that these three developers will far surpass the success where one alone set records and standards across the industry. The confidence is pretty impressive, but how much faith should fans be placing in three relatively untested developers?

Activision would naturally have us believe that Infinity Ward is as strong as it ever was, and there's no doubt that some talent must still remain, but the fact of the matter is that creatively IW is a fraction of what it used to be. Although it's certainly worth noting that having some of the original skill aboard means a bit more for directorial guidance. Even more curious is the fact that Infinity Ward has had absolutely no role in any of the prior Modern Warfare 2 content after the first patch. It can only be assumed that IW and Sledgehammer games have been working together on the core game mechanics while Raven Software has been managing the multiplayer levels alone. Not a bad deal when you consider that multiple developers may mean a higher product quality on the individual portions of the game.

Sledgehammer Games has a relatively impressive resume running for them as well, being a brand new studio designed to help maintain the Call of Duty franchise as a AAA experience, one would generally have to wait until their first game to really judge them; but just sifting through the lead staff of Sledgehammer, it's pretty clear that at the very least, they have experience where it matters. Most of the staff hail from the Dead Space franchise as their most recent success, with all of the lead directors showing a pretty strong background in the FPS genre as a whole. Now granted, Dead Space and Call of Duty don't share too many similarities with one another from a multiplayer standpoint, but when crafting a single player title? Modern Warfare, for better or worse, has been a series that is known for its extremely high quality single player experience. The famous nuke sequence from the first game and No Russian from the second have both made respective marks when it comes to pushing controversial content in gaming, so having a team that understands how to tell a good story is crucial to pushing Modern Warfare 3's success.

That being said, the development teams working on this current game have a much easier task ahead of them than in some respects than they would have had trying to invent a whole new game. All the groundwork has already been laid out for them. The only major distinguished characteristics between Modern Warfare and the rest of the CoD series can be broken down into two aspects: Graphics and Story. Graphically Modern Warfare 2 still remains far ahead of it's 2010 followup, Black Ops, in just about every fashion and outside of an initial shock over the first mission in Cuba, very little remains memorable from Black Ops, save for some sensationalism. I'd even go as far to say as the presidents from Zombie mode are more interesting and memorable compared to the main character of the single player campaign.

The main concern here isn't if all of these individual developers can maintain a high standard of product quality, but rather if they can make a product that feels like a joint effort rather than individual products all packaged into a single box. One need only look as far as Medal of Honor to see what the effects of different development teams could have on a game, two very different final products that don't necessarily work hand in hand. On the flip side, Ubisoft seems to know what they're doing with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood was developed by multiple teams, not to mention they have as much as six different teams currently working on Revelations.

With so many eyes looking toward the quality of MW3's multiplayer features, the real question is if Raven Software will be able to design maps that compliment mechanics put into place by Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer. MW3's online isn't just simply shooting after all, it's the combination of Perks and Killstreaks that make each individual map either an absolute blast to play or a real headache to experience. There's no question as to how well detailed the maps from Resurgence were, but many expressed confusion over what the maps were expressly designed for in comparison to what the developers stated their intentions were. Two of the maps from the most recent pack were considered almost too large compared to the size range of MW2's other maps, while Trailer Park was the complete opposite. Alone, there's no doubt that these three maps add more range to general selection of maps, but was it done intentionally?

At the very least, all of these developers are familiar with the genre in one form or another, and two of the three have been working on the series for quite a while now. Even taking that into consideration, it's hard not to be a little nervous for the franchise, at least from a quality standpoint. Being such a popular benchmark for the FPS genre means that there is very little to worry about sales wise, but that's not to say that gamers won't still be expecting a particular level of quality. Even more important is that Modern Warfare, as a series, has some very serious competition coming around towards the end of the year. Battlefield 3 threatens to steal a large portion of the show, deliberately going head to head with the opposition to prove that Activision isn't the only publisher capable of managing a high quality FPS title, and considering what we've seen so far, Battlefield 3 looks extremely impressive.

Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games and Raven Software all have their work cut out for them over the next few months, and no doubt Activision will begin their advertising campaign soon in order to quell any thoughts of instability. But still, using three developers where previously only one was needed? Not exactly the most welcoming of thoughts if you're a fan of the series, but until we start seeing the pieces come together, it would be best to approach this latest installment with a bit of caution. It'd be nice if the publisher played a little more humble and took EA's approach, showcasing various portions of the title to display how well things are still holding up; but knowing Activision, they won't waste a second in laying down the hype. After everything the Modern Warfare franchise has been through lately, generic hype tactics may really just be the last thing it needs.

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