Nov. 12, 2011 -- Modern Warfare 3 takes occupying Wall Street to the extreme.
At the start of the latest in the blockbuster Call of Duty series (***½ out of four, $60, out this week for PS3, Xbox 360 and PCs; $50 for Wii; ages 17-up), your Delta Force team is trying to take back New York City from Russian invaders. An RPG upends your vehicle, and as your character, Sgt. Derek "Frost" Westbrook, an Army Ranger, scrambles from the wreckage, he looks up to see fighter jets bombing skyscrapers.
The single-player story mode of Modern Warfare 3 wastes no time getting you into the action.
The bigger-than-life plot, which touches down in Europe, Siberia and Somalia, also reconnects players with Task Force 141 members John Price and John "Soap" MacTavish. At the end of MW2, Soap was wounded while dispatching a bad guy, renegade Gen. Hershel von Shepherd.
There's still work for Price and Soap to do; the ultra-nationalist Russian force remains on U.S. soil. The game, which involves tracking down the force's leader, Vladimir Makarov, plays out over six to 10 hours of adrenaline-fueled action.
The game's developers —Infinity Ward has teamed with newcomer Sledgehammer Games— continually change up the combat. After finishing the first mission on foot, Frost mans a gun on a Black Hawk helicopter in an aerial cat-and-mouse game around the Manhattan skyline.
Next, an underwater detail aimed at scuttling a Russian submarine turns into a frenetic boat escape in a war-torn New York harbor. The area is full of seacraft, and missiles are battering the coast.
The battles take place on bigger stages with more combatants than in past games. Missions in London and Paris are stocked with a larger invading force to take down. Fighting Russians in the streets of Hamburg feels like a World War III scenario, rather than a vignette within a greater conflict.
Other new twists include a bullet-time sequence in zero gravity and a firefight in a blinding sandstorm.
As in MW2, there's a pregame warning that content in one of the missions might be disturbing or offensive. The scene plays out through the eyes of a man videotaping his wife and young daughter. It's not a major spoiler — here's your alert — that the vacationers become collateral damage during the invasion attacks. Some players may feel emotionally manipulated, but the plot device has a long history in TV and film.
On the whole, Modern Warfare 3's single-player campaign brings the current story line to a satisfying conclusion. As the Call of Duty franchise's following grows, so do the stakes. And with MW3, the developers have met the challenge.