Call of Duty’s Modern Warfare is the best-selling shooter series of all time and for good reason. Infinity Ward’s prized shooter caters to all aspects of society, transcending class, age, sex and geography, bringing us all together to kill each other in the most entertaining ways imaginable.

There are some out there that hate it for its long-standing, clich?d popularity, but far more love it for what it is: a consistently well-made and addictive game that guarantees months of glorious, competitive carnage. Tuesday saw the release of the series’ most recent installment, Modern Warfare 3, one of the most hyped games of the past year.

But, with strong anticipation comes high expectation. Does Modern Warfare 3 eclipse the precedent set by its predecessors? You bet it does. By sticking to its principles and making change where change was needed, Modern Warfare 3 has not only met expectations, but exceeded them.

The Modern Warfare series is as famed as its spectacular single-player campaign, and Modern Warfare 3 is no different. Although MW3’s overall storyline has been confusing from the start, the non-stop, heart-pounding action is more than enough to make up for its convoluted plot. Essentially, it’s World War III, and the Russians are responsible – of course.

You need to do everything in your power to stop the prospect of giant fur hats and cheap vodka from spreading to the rest of the world. The sheer variety of settings in which players are able to dish out punishment throughout the campaign is astounding. One moment you’ll be covertly sabotaging subs in the Hudson and the next you’ll be fighting biological warfare in Paris. One noteworthy campaign moment actually has you taking out angry commies on a falling airplane without the luxury of gravity. Infinity Ward put a great deal of time and effort into creating immersive environments and clever battle scenarios, and it shows.

As usual, Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer game play is nothing short of perfection. The addition of new features, including new unlocks and game modes, makes what was once addicting now the virtual crack cocaine of video games. Past Modern Warfare games have been revered for their ability to keep players “wanting more,” and Infinity Ward was smart enough to change just enough to revitalize the gameplay without compromising playability.

The first thing you’ll notice when entering Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer is the new game modes. “Kill Confirmed Mode” is a great new twist to team death match and requires you to kill an enemy, plus recover a dog tag from his body in order to get the point for your team. It requires a totally new strategic approach to win, not to mention it’s one hell of a time.

MW3’s new “Survival Mode” has wave after wave of enemies, including rabid dogs, suicide bombers and attack helicopters repeatedly attempting to end your life. You earn cash for kills and can use it to upgrade weapons and buy various forms of defenses. It’s certainly not an original idea, but who’s complaining? It’s about time we get to this game type in a Modern Warfare game.

The one problem with survival mode is if your partner dies, everything is over. It would have been nice if the game allowed you to continue on even if just one of you survives – in case your teammate isn’t quite so skilled with the controller.

The new kill-streak rewards feature for players also adds a new twist to online play. When creating your class in Modern Warfare 3, you now can choose from three different “strike packages,” which determine which kill-streaks you may use, including Osprey gunships and remote-controlled, armored mini-tanks.

Thankfully, Infinity Ward has done away with the game-ending nuke awarded for 25 kills in a row. Now, you get the MOAB (Mother of all Bombs), and though it kills the entire other team, it doesn’t end the game like its radioactive counterpart. While the changes to multiplayer are definitely a step up from that of Modern Warfare 2, players won’t find anything radically different. Infinity Ward stuck with a definite, Modern Warfare blueprint, and was no doubt cautious not to stray too far from it.

Modern Warfare 3 had the potential to push the boundaries of the series if its creators had wanted, but it didn’t. Whether for lack of creativity or fear of public outcry, Modern Warfare 3 won’t blow you away with new content. That being said, those who love Modern Warfare for what it is will have no problem with this game. In fact, they might just be in love.

It’s an excellently crafted game, full of the perfect blend of addicting multiplayer and a captivating campaign that is sure to have staying power. I don’t doubt that the title will shatter every sales record in history, just as its predecessors have.

3.5 out of 4 stars – for sheer brilliance in the absence of significant change.

Andrew Lahr is a creative writing major by day, gamer by night. Email questions, comments and column ideas to [email protected]