On any other platform, Modern Warfare 3 unleashes World War III and gives players the best seat in the house from which to watch it.
The tale is told from hospital stretchers, crashing aeroplanes, Predator drones and - in a controversial moment - a family camcorder. It is the very definition of blockbuster gaming: in a slim six hours we take in (and blow up) Paris, Berlin, London, Sierra Leone, Hamburg and New York. It's around the world in 80 slays, with Captain Price as a cigar-chomping Phileas Fogg.
On the other platforms, that is. Wii's take, ported by Treyarch from Infinity Ward's 360/PS3 game, is a feeble impersonation. A sluggish frame rate and crude textures undermine events designed to send jaws southwards, instead clamping lips into a tight grimace.
At times it's like watching an infant school production of Modern Warfare: gleaming skylines are rendered as jagged cereal boxes, explosions are downscaled to resemble glorified party poppers, and bodies of water - swaying and swishing on 360 - are static acres of nondescript green. War is hell, sure, but does it have to be ugly as hell?
A tiny part of us wants to applaud Treyarch for valiantly sticking to Infinity Ward's breathless script. The missions unfold as restless adventures, blending the fast and slow beats other games (and earlier CODs) would siphon into consecutive missions.
A dip in the Hudson River becomes a claustrophobic sub shoot-out before surfacing to a rollicking speedboat chase. In another standout mission we're whipped from a minigun rampage to a race against time to a trippy sandstorm excursion, all in ten minutes. So vigorous is the rug-pulling it's amazing we don't get carpet burns.
Treyarch keep up, but at what cost? Modern Warfare 3 relies heavily on graphical smoke and mirrors - many levels are little more than corridors surrounded by incredible spectacle. Watching the Eiffel Tower fall over, you forget that you're actually in a confined 10m by 10m arena watching a picture of the Eiffel Tower falling over. Well, you do on Xbox 360 anyway. Wii struggles to produce the required smoke and mirrors - it parps out a bit of dry ice.
It's a real shame, as MW3 addresses COD quibbles of old. Focusing on set-pieces disguises COD's notoriously linear target gallery shooting. Enemies still spawn behind boxes until you push past invisible markers, but there's less filler than before, especially compared to Black Ops' messy Vietnam slogs.
The best levels - a Parisian car chase or tense infiltration through a lightning-lit Prague - strike an uncanny balance of empowering us while keeping us on a short cinematic leash. A few extraordinary moments - such as an outstanding zero-g shootout in a plummeting airliner - make us forget about the leash entirely.
Things fare better online. MW3's multiplayer innovation is the addition of point streaks, granting strike packages through co-operative behaviour as well as the traditional murdering. Soldiers also opt in to different packages: deadly assault packages, perk packages that upgrade player abilities, and support packages favouring recon and defence.
Vitally, support players maintain point streaks through death, giving cack-handed bullet sponges a chance to earn decent kit. It's an 'in' to a series otherwise infamous for alienating people in its first few hectic hours of multiplayer. Combine this with Wii's reduced five-on-five numbers, and MW3 is a great starting point for newcomers.
LAG'S A DRAG
With Wii's online scene being what it is, Modern Warfare 3 wins bonus points for simply existing. Shame then, that it's blighted by lag and graphical issues. For all the added advantage of remote pointer accuracy - far preferable to the Classic Controller Pro - no amount of responsiveness can overcome Treyarch's stuttering service.
Played on the same connection as a lag-free Black Ops and GoldenEye, the poor quality is inexplicable. Such is the pull of COD's patented XP system that you'll want to advance in ranks, but whether the game lets you is down to luck.
Less competitive players can team up with an online friend to try their hand at Spec Ops Survival. It plants you in a multiplayer map and throws waves of AI soldiers at you, with kills earning currency to invest in better weapons and perks. On paper it's a potentially infinite score attack game. When later rounds throw nippy C4-strapped dogs into the equation, our lumbering network connection hangs us out to dry. How long before Treyarch can sort it out?
With Wii about to enter a vicious game drought, it seems churlish to look a gift horse in the mouth. But when said horse is rendered in blocky polygons, and flits miraculously from one side of the room to the other in a moment of lag, you don't have much choice.
The screens used in this review are from the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC version
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Still a substantial package - especially on the online-starved Wii - but messy with it. Try GoldenEye instead - it was built for Wii and is all the better for it.
- Rock solid shooting
- Stirring music and enough rat-a-tat-tat to drive neighbours mad
- Emphasis on wow moments jars with a lack of wow looks
- Macho military chatter
- Blockbuster scale severely hampered by B-movie textures and silent movie frame rate