Welcome to the latest instalment of the biggest entertainment franchise on the planet. The first Modern Warfare did more to legitimise gaming as a mainstream pastime than any title before it, smashing records for both game and ticket sales alike and cementing the brand as a pop culture icon. The third in the series looks set to break the bank once again, but it appears the weight of these expectations may have actually hindered the game this time around.
Modern Warfare 3 is functionally identical to the first two - there are none of the gameplay tweaks or refinements that we've come to expect from game sequels. It feels as if the developers are too scared to mess with the mystical money-making recipe they stumbled upon with the first Modern Warfare. Even the technology powering the play remains relatively unchanged, though it's still one of the best looking console games around. It might be set in entirely new environments, but shooting Russians in Paris looks remarkably like shooting Russians in Berlin, which also looks remarkably like shooting Russians in New York.
For many gamers this won't be a problem; they'll be content to once again jump aboard the Call of Duty rollercoaster, taking a ride through an expertly scripted adventure lined with exploding helicopters, crumbling cities and today's sexiest weaponry. Once they're done with the six hour campaign they'll be happy to spend another hundred or so checking out the new multiplayer maps, using the same skills they've honed over the last couple of years to blast their friends into the ground. But for those of us who like to see our games evolve and grow over time, Modern Warfare 3 is starting to feel a bit crusty and old. Here's hoping the next Call Of Duty sees the developers return to the drawing board to inject some new life into this hyper successful series.