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CoD: Modern Warfare 3: Hardened Edition (360) Review

Modern Warfare 3 is a fun and enjoyable game, but the Hardened Edition is strictly for the super fans.

Say what you want about the Call of Duty series, especially the Modern Warfare titles, but Activision has found a franchise that has delivered year after year after year. It has consistently sold millions of copies, and is usually the most-played game on Xbox 360 every week.

What began as a video game franchise based on true historical battles and events from World War II, even going to far as to pay homage to scenes from war movies like Steve Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, the Call of Duty franchise has become the video game equivalent of the summer blockbuster movie.

Long gone are the days when the Call of Duty series had any historical relevance or fact, and instead trades in the recreations of real-life skirmishes to the entertaining “what if?” doomsday scenarios of the not-to-distant future.

And entertaining it is. Usually at least one or twice during a campaign level, Modern Warfare 3 attempts to throw some epic “wow moments” at you. These moments are very Jerry Bruckheimer-esque and you’ll either buy into them enjoying, the action for what it is, or you’ll be rolling your eyes. It all likely depends on your preexisting feelings on the Call of Duty series. Some of these monumental moments feel forced and a little too cliched, while others fit in nicely and do a rather impressive job.

Modern Warfare 3’s storyline is grim (not surprisingly), taking place shortly after the conclusion of Modern Warfare 2. MW3 brings the devastation of war to iconic cities like the Manhattan skyline in New York City and chemical attacks in London.

Like Modern Warfare 2’s “No Russian” scenario (the disturbing scene where you witness, and can choose to participate in, the slaughtering of innocent civilians), Modern Warfare 3 offers a similar warning of disturbing content at the beginning of the game that players can choose to watch or skip. At the start of the level in question, you’ll be presented with the warning of offensive and/or disturbing content. For the record, the moment wasn’t quite as impactful as Modern Warfare 2’s.

For the most part, you’ll spend your time moving from point to point while shooting a lot of enemies, but MW3 does a good job of keeping each level feeling unique and interesting. They do so by not only changing the locale and environment, but by introducing and switching up the gameplay mechanics and introducing some interesting moments of narrative that help keep the action from feeling too repetitive.

Of course, there’s the whole multiplayer element where you can go online and play with your friends. To be quite honest, it feels a lot like Call of Duty: Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2.

Perhaps the most interesting multiplayer modes, outside of the traditional modes, is the Special Ops, where you can play through special moments from the game with a friend. Some of the scenarios approach scenes from the campaign from a different perspective.

There is also a survival mode where you will compete against wave after wave of enemies, ranging from standard enemies, attack dogs, heavily-armored juggernauts, helicopters, suicide bombers and more. Each kill will earn you more money which can be spent at stations to purchase ammo, new weapons, weapon upgrades, grenade-type weapons, and aerial assault perks.

All in all, Modern Warfare 3 feels a lot like the other titles in the franchise — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing — unless you didn’t like the previous games. While the campaign may be short, and can be completed in about 5 hours, the ride was a lot of fun, and the folks at Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games did a great job keeping the campaign action fast, furious, and enjoyable. As the video game equivalent of the summer blockbuster movie, I really enjoyed playing Modern Warfare 3.

But this isn’t just a review of Modern Warfare 3, this is also a look at the value of one of Modern Warfare 3’s premium editions: the Hardened Edition.

The Hardened Edition retails for $99.99, which is $40 more than what the standard $59.99 retail release costs.

Of course, you’ll get a copy of the game. The biggest difference is that with the Hardened Edition, the game comes in a special steel case, rather than the traditional plastic Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 one.

One of the things that has bothered me with some other collector’s editions is that they sometimes don’t fit well (or at all) alongside the other games in your video game library. While the box for the Hardened Edition is rather massive, the game’s special game case is the same size as your other titles, and has a label for Modern Warfare 3 so that you can easily identify in your library (that is, if the special casing wasn’t special enough to easily give it away).

The Hardened Edition also comes with a journal, and it’s designed to look like it has be subjected to some pretty rough conditions. It feels worn and crinkled, as if it’s been jammed in a backpack or a pocket and been on one helluva ride.

When thumbing through it, I couldn’t help but feel like I was holding Henry Jones’ journal from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in my hands. The journal belongs to the FNG (or the Fucking New Guy), who turns out to be Soap Mactavish himself. At first, I thought the journal was a bit tacky, but as I read through it, I was actually impressed with its artistic value. For example, as you’re reading through the journal, there are small paper clippings, folded-up photographs, a fake matchbook, and some other interesting “scraps” of paper, hidden within various pages, that feed into the whole Modern Warfare canon. Fans of the series will likely enjoy reading through the journal, reading about the events that span the three Modern Warfare titles. Be aware, though, that reading the journal before you complete the game might ruin (or cheapen) the experience with the game.

The Hardened Edition, for the Xbox 360 version, also has a download code for the juggernaut outfit for your Xbox Live avatar (there is one code for female characters and one for males).

But perhaps the biggest selling point of the Hardened Edition is the Premium Call of Duty Elite membership that you’ll also get. Call of Duty Elite is an enhanced multiplayer experience, and is available as both a free and premium membership. Some of the biggest differences between the free and premium versions of Elite are the automatic inclusion of new downloadable content during the 9-month subscription period, additional perks and experience boosts for clans, more online space to share your in-game bragging rights, and year-round competitions and prizes. The current membership fee for the premium Call of Duty Elite is $49.99.

Not only do you get the free Call of Duty Elite membership with the Hardened Edition, you also earn the Founder status, if your membership is activated by the end of November. A founder status earns you an extra weapon skin, XP boost for your clan, a special Founder emblem and title.

So, is the Hardened Edition worth the money?

Come over here, and pull up a seat, and let’s talk honestly. $99.99 is a lot of money, and it’s definitely a lot of money when we’re talking about a single game.

But… Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 isn’t your usual game. Statistically, the franchise has had some of the most-played titles on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for the last 5-6 years. They offer fun and enjoyable single player campaigns, and the competitive multiplayer has influenced the development of innumerable games. That’s pretty significant.

Some gamers will buy a handful of titles a year and play them for months on end. The Call of Duty series is that type of game. When you include the retail cost of the regular game ($60) and add in the price of the premium Elite membership ($50), you’re already saving yourself $10 by buying the Hardened Edition. You also will have automatic access to new downloadable content as soon as it becomes available (for a nine-month period), but seeing as most of Black Ops’ downloadable packs were sold for $15 each, and 4 DLC pack were released in a 9-month period, I can imply that you’re looking at another $45-$60 in value, if you were to purchase these DLC packs alone.

Nothing has been confirmed with exactly what’s kind of downloadable content we’ll see for Modern Warfare 3, and how much they’ll cost, but for fans of the series, the Hardened Edition is a no brainer: get it! It’s going to save you money down the road.

For casual fans of the game, those who don’t care about the competitive multiplayer, or may only play in occasionally, the standard version is for you, or maybe you’ll just want to rent it a couple of days through Redbox, at $2 a day, and save yourself an even bigger amount of money, and still get to see the game.

This the Hardened Edition of Modern Warfare 3 is for the Call of Duty enthusiasts, and offers them the best value in the end — especially if you can find it for less than the $99.99 retail price.

Final Thoughts:

The Call of Duty franchise, and the Modern Warfare series is sort of like a pop star, like Britney Spears or Lady Gaga. It’s a huge success with millions of fans, but the popularity of the series also brings about some very polarizing opinions. Some gamers love it, especially the multiplayer, while others despise everything that Call of Duty stands for.

Personally, I really enjoyed Modern Warfare 3. I’m not the most diehard fan, I’ve never even come close to prestiging, and I liked the over-the-top narrative, but don’t dig too deeply into the series’ storline. I enjoy it the same way I enjoy one a summer action film, I’m not looking for something that will work my brain too hard, but something that will bring a smile to my face from the beginning to the end.

Modern Warfare 3 looks and feels a lot like the other games in the Modern Warfare series, and you can take statement however you personally feel about the series. If you’ve never been a fan of the Modern Warfare or Call of Duty titles, MW3 won’t win you over. However, if you have liked the other titles, you’ll feel right at home with this one.

Modern Warfare 3 comes in a variety of different retails flavors, one of which is the Hardened Edition for $99.99. While it might seem like a lot — and it is — if you’re one of those people (see: “super fan”) who will be buy every piece of Modern Warfare 3 content, including the premium membership of the Call of Duty Elite enhancement to the game’s online experience, the Hardened Edition will save you a lot of money in the end. If you’re not, go with the standard retail edition, or rent it.


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About Troy

Troy is the Features Editor at Brutal Gamer. When he's not writing about or playing video games, he's enjoying life with his wife and children. He also loves coffee. And lots of it.

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