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How an exploding van made me lose faith in Modern Warfare 3
by Chris Hawke

I don't like this war. I don't like how the Battlefield 3 fans and the Modern Warfare fanatics will go as far as their hate-filled minds find it possible, to dig up as much dirt and sling as much shit at each other as their tiny, bigoted hands allow.

'BF3 sukcs, it just copys MW'. 'MW3 is crap lolol BF3 forever'. It's graffiti that adorns the walls of seemingly every YouTube video out there. It's facile, fruitless and frighteningly feckless. I'll probably stump up the crumbled cash for both, as I imagine a great deal of you will. At the end of the day, we're all adults, and there are - obviously - redeeming and disappointing qualities in each game.

Keep that in mind.

I feel I have to say the above, because you may think I'm nitpicking. This may look, perhaps, like a piece of propaganda which overflows from the legions of froth-faced fanboys around the internet. But do believe me when I say that I have a serious point, despite being a man who's taken several screenshots of a fictitious van. A van which drove a knife through my heart whilst I sat at my computer. A van that may have just killed my faith left in Modern Warfare 3.

That's the Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer trailer. It's exactly what everyone expected: lots of shooting, lots of things blowing up, and a hell of a lot of death. Despite a largely incomprehensible storyline of a sneaky sniper, Modern Warfare 3 looks to embody the reckless chaos which made Modern Warfare 2 a hit; you, a gun, and a confined space with explosives around every corner and a dozen enemies wanting to shoot your face off. But one thing in particular caught my eye.

It's a van. A van which can blow up if put under heavy fire. In fact, the same brand of van, Marley & Griffin, goes up in a ball of flame quite a few times in the trailer. For developers, it's a bog-standard replacement for a red barrel; bigger, more dangerous, less cliché than its iconic counterpart but still a destructible asset in a game which thrives on gratuitous chaos, whilst also providing tactical opportunity for each team. So, why is this important?

The first picture is a Marley & Griffin van, blown up in Modern Warfare 3, a game which released on 8th November, 2011. The second is a Marley & Griffin van, blown up in Modern Warfare 2, which released on 10th November, 2009. There's a two year gap between those two games, yet it's the same van.

Yes, I'm being pedantic. But it's not so much the van that annoys me - there aren't many players who stand and look at the branding of transportation vehicles in video games; those who do are described as 'easy kills'. What bugs me is what the van represents. It represents laziness. It represents copy-and-paste design. It represents a lack of ambition and, perhaps most irritatingly, a lack of pride.

Assets are reused in video games all the time; it saves a bit of money and means developers can focus on other stuff. But Modern Warfare hardly needs to save money; we're talking about possibly the biggest, highest-grossing, most cashed-up videogame series in existence. It would take a designer half a second (exaggeration, but still) to come up with a new logo or brand for a van, or even a whole new van. This is particularly true given that he has two whole years to do so. That van peppers every single multiplayer map numerous times, and players are bound to cast eyes over it on thousands of occasions. So why the hell is it exactly the same as Modern Warfare 2?

And it's not just the van; I reeled off a whole list of exact replicas in this article here. The heavy physics, the boring blood effects, the invisible line triggering the next wave of enemies in single-player, the reload animations, the vehicle controls - all these aged conventions seem just lifted from older games and lumped into Modern Warfare 3. We all know the reason for these similarities is due to the ageing, stumbling and predictable IW Engine that has been used since 2007, and - to an extent - that can be used to justify the physics or the graphics. It's a silly and a lazy choice by the developers, but at least it gives an explanation. The design of a goddamn van, though? Very little excuse. I knocked one out in 30 seconds:

There you go. It's utterly disgusting and I feel sick just looking at bit, but at least it's something new. That's why a tiny, stupid van was the final straw for me. Of all the things they could have done with two years and hundreds of millions of dollars, you would have thought one single bored guy would have noticed one day that: "oh, hang on, these vans are from Modern Warfare 2, and since they're seen so regularly it would probably be a good idea to change them so the game's design doesn't look so blatantly lazy". When Battlefield 3 launches weeks before with an entirely new engine, and Skyrim steals sales just a few days later with its massive scale and unestimatable ambition, Modern Warfare 3 should surely be pulling out all the stops to make sure that as much of the game as possible seems fresh and exciting.

But, alas, no. You'll take your van and you'll like it, say our lords and masters. Screw you, say our lords and masters. I'm having whatever is in your fridge then I'm punching your kids in the eyeballs, say our lords and masters. They don't care.

I'll end up buying Modern Warfare 3. The reality is that it's unavoidable, in the same sort of way that death is unavoidable. And if I must, I'll avert my eyes whenever I see a Marley & Griffin van, in the same way I approached the bits with the spider in Limbo. It is, after all, a van; a very small part of a very big game. But, even still, it's attention to those details which makes the best games. It's that extra will to polish everything, that unbounded passion to make the best experience humanly possible, that desire to go the extra mile and have pride in every aspect of your game which has brought us classics like Half-Life 2, or GTA IV. Or, dare I say it, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare.

Modern Warfare 3 shows none of that ambition. And that's why I've lost faith in the game.

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- Chris Hawke

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