Price: £44.99-£54.99
Format: Xbox 360 (tested), PS3, PC
Developer: Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games
Publisher: Activision

Modern Warfare 3, the very epitome of the phrase ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it’. Aside from the almost superfluous story, some graphical fine tuning and a decent array of online additions, this is essentially MW2 all over again, and, as it turns out, that’s no bad thing.

From controversial moments made seemingly to create headlines – a scene inside the London Underground rivalling MW2s now infamous mission where innocents were targeted in an airport springing to mind – to endless shoot outs against innumerable enemies, there’s not a whole lot going on here you’ve not seen before.

Infinity Ward’s trick however is to make us not care, so white knuckle a ride is their creation; ever relentless in providing us with yet another blockbusting moment. Famous monuments will be levelled, cities annihilated and a world torn asunder, all in a bid to keep us hooked and, much in the way Jack Bauer’s implausible exploits in 24 keep us coming back for more, it only goes and works.

Such tactics would be for nought if the underlying engine was lacking, however, simply picking off the enemy is itself rendered compelling by the ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ approach which leaves no time to question any implausibilities. Every mission is a cacophony of bullets, missiles, screams and explosions – a direct assault on the senses as well as the player’s hapless digital avatar.

Even Battlefield 3, that other massively hyped FPS of Q4 2011, can’t compete, largely because – on console at least – DICE’s shooter suffers in the special effects stakes; BF3′s undeniably superior engine too advanced for anything but a ninja PC. MW3 on the other hand feels ‘just right’ to borrow a phrase from Goldilocks; pushing the current generation to their limits but never exceeding them.

Online play receives a similar refinement, the developers clearly keen to add, without taking anything away. ‘Spec Ops’ mode returns having been shunned by last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops, and again becomes the mode of choice for two-players playing locally while remaining a bundle of fun to take online too. Its range of bespoke coop missions perhaps even more engaging that the single player campaign.

Meanwhile, the freshly added ‘Survival’ mode – which pits wave after wave of ever tougher enemies against players – swiftly becomes one of MW3′s most addictive variations, equalling Halo’s ‘Fire Fight’ mode in terms of challenge.

Deathmatch arenas remain the place where men are sorted from boys however, and while not substantially different from MW2 the new map list is adept as funnelling players into furious engagements; while those who prefer to get up-close-and-personal to their quarry will enjoy the new ‘Confirmed Kill’ option, which awards the picking up of your victim’s dog tags over the kill itself.

In our opinion MW3 just about pips FPS rival, Battlefield 3, in the entertainment stakes, not only suggesting Activision were right to resist scrapping Infinity Ward entirely – when so many of its staff controversially jumped ship following the release of its predecessor – but vindicated in releasing yet another refinement of a series whose yearly remake is becoming harder and harder to justify. Do we really need another Call of Duty next year? Probably not. But no doubt we’ll enjoy it regardless.