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E3 2011: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 preview - The rail-gunning, train-wrecking excesses of New York and London

The bomb gave off a deafening explosion, accompanied by the sound of twisting metal and snapping steel cables. Hearing the blast (well, and seeing the three-story radio tower crashing over into a heap), enemy forces on adjacent rooftops began firing down on the squad. Under fire from an elevated position, our soldier gets tossed a laptop from a squad member and uses it to order down two Predator missile strikes on the opposing rooftops.

It was at this point that we stupidly believed the mission was over, as a friendly chopper hovered next to the rooftop to pick up the soldier and his squad. Instead, a Russian helicopter gunship opened fire, initiating an on-rails action sequence where our soldier had to man a chaingun and take out the enemy helicopter in an aerial dogfight that twisted and turned through the skyscrapers in the burning city of New York.

This was only the first demonstration.

To counter-balance the hectic, balls-out in-your-face action of the New York level, the second stage we saw focused upon a British SAS unit running spec-ops in London. With the aid of an American AC-130 gunship acting as your giant machine gun in the sky, the squad is tasked with eliminating an enemy cell that’s taken a foothold in a train yard just inside of the city. Armed with a silenced sub-machine gun and night-vision goggles, our operative moves with his unit quickly through a collection of warehouses, quietly taking down enemy soldiers before they can raise an alarm; however, it isn’t long before things go straight to Hell and the squad is forced to go hot against the remainder of the Russian forces.

Leaving the warehouses to engage the enemy in an open parking lot, the SAS squad cut through the opposing forces with relative ease as the AC-130 rained death from above. Unfortunately, a fairly large contingent of enemy soldiers managed to board one of the trains and attempt to escape the battlefield via the subway. Our operative and a handful of squad mates commandeer a truck and pursue the enemy forces through the subway tunnel.

Driving parallel to the stolen train, the operative opens fire on the conductor’s cabin while his companions swerve and maneuver the truck, barely avoiding the oncoming passenger trains. After long, tense moments trading fire with the enemy as the train and truck weave through tunnels and train station platforms, the enemy soldier driving the train finally goes down – but not before he shifts the passenger train to full speed. Sparks flying, the metal behemoth screams off the rails and begins tumbling sideways, bulldozing everything in its path and swooping directly in front of our squad’s truck. The driver swerves out of the way just in the nick of time, but the momentum is too great and sends the truck flying as well. Just before our operative hits the ground, the screen smashed to black.

There’s been a lot of whispered concern about Modern Warfare 3 in gaming circles – can the current staff of Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games deliver the kind of experience Modern Warfare fans expect? After all, this is the most rabidly beloved shooter franchise of the current era, so measuring up is a monumental task. We’ll have to wait until November to be certain, but this first glimpse has us thinking it could be right on target.

May 26, 2011