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CoD: MW3's mundane recreation of London's south bank makes me want an entire game of that

Hyper-realistic scenes of ordinary urban afternoons are wasted on Call of Duty.

MW3 article header featuring a postcard of London.
Image credit: Activision

Let me just say from the outset that I love a good COD campaign. At their best, they’re the video game equivalent of a Jerry Bruckheimer production: visceral, over-the-top extravaganzas where half the joy is in simply grinning as an infinite budget gets blasted onto your retinas from a Hollywood money cannon. Just, uh, just don’t think too hard about the wretched politics of the thing.

MWIII's campaign is a bit slapdash.Watch on YouTube

Although Modern Warfare 3's campaign definitely lets the side down on numerous fronts, there is one area where it holds up. Call of Duty’s real-world recreations are legendary. Not quite peerless: there are plenty of other franchises that give it a good run for its money on that front. Assassin’s Creed, of course. Yakuza slash Like a Dragon. GTA, if we’re talking about nailing a vibe. But the sheer polish, the incredible resources they’re able to expend on, say, recreating that bit of London’s South Bank near Giraffe, is impressive in and of itself.

Screenshot of Modern Warfare 3 showing London's south bank.
Cor, look at it. You can almost smell the soggy burritos. | Image credit: Activision

Just like with MW2’s Amsterdam, I desperately wish there were more to do in these hyper-realistic spaces than simply listen to a bit of exposition before the shooting starts. In fact, I kinda think they’re wasted on games where their only real purpose is to provide a little breather before the action kicks off again. A gentle aperitif before a main course of carnage.

Modern Warfare 3 screenshot showing a human statue
Sadly there's no option to kick the human statue into the river, exposing Call of Duty's limitations as an interactive simulation. | Image credit: Activision

Imagine a simulation of the South Bank with this level of fidelity, right, where you just cut about being a Normal Guy. Get off at Waterloo and grab a gyros wrap from the food market, scoff at people queueing for the the Eye, lament that the Namco Funscape isn’t there any more and have a conversation with an NPC companion where you’re both talking about how cool the arcade was here but it becomes awkwardly apparent that while you’re talking about the Namco Funscape, they’re actually remembering the Trocadero. Queue for a frozen yoghurt. Get the tube back to Wimbledon Park and sit in a tiny but ludicrously expensive flat that you share with three other adults and that you suspect is giving you long term lung damage with all of its uncontrollable black mould.

MW3 screenshot showing a pub called "A pint of Thames"
This is where the illusion breaks a little. No London pub would call itself "Pint of Thames", as savvy Londoners have generally learned to avoid getting dysentery. | Image credit: Activision

Rather than merely providing a backdrop for bombast, an intense, hyperreal simulation of the mundanities and petty dramas of being Some Asshole From London could be more engaging than a string of shootouts. As a former Some Asshole From London, I can attest to that. I once saw a rat eating a cheeseburger with both hands. You just don’t get that kind of experience anywhere else. And with the correct application of the incredible technology driving this dogshit 6/10 shooter, people who live in crap places like, I dunno, Bolton or Falkirk could experience it too.

MW3 screenshot showing the player getting their cigarette lit by an NPC
Experience the visceral thrill of Cadging a Light off a Dodgy Geezer. | Image credit: Activision

Modern Warfare III is out now on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4 and PS5 (version captured).

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