While we analyse Modern Warfare 3's recycling of old ideas, though, it's also important to look at the few areas where new mechanics have been introduced. Such aspects are certainly sparse, but they're nonetheless important.
This is an attitude which forces us to focus mainly on the Spec Ops game we played, by the way, as there was nothing new to be seen in the singleplayer missions. There was plenty of spectacle in the campaign sampler, but nothing of any substance - just turret sequences, boat driving and the inch-by-inch combat of old.
It was only in Spec Ops that we got a chance to see something new, and even then it was only novel by the standards of Call of Duty. The map in which we fought was wide and varied, encompassing demolished buildings, underground bunkers and stretches of building site between. Squads of enemies would abseil in from helicopters or slink from the edges of the maps, with 20 seconds to cool down between each victory, giving you a chance to restock your supplies.
'The SAS are a very different fighting force, you say? What, because they wear black?'
Infinity Ward is clearly relying on this need to resupply in order to keep the games interesting, rather than Treyarch's use of unlockable areas in the comparable Zombies mode of Black Ops and World at War. Resupply crates come in three flavours; Guns, Equipment and Support. The first is handy for upgrading and buying weapons and ammo, while the second contains grenades and turrets. The latter is for the more extravagant devices, such as Predator missiles or AI support squads.
'Or, if you need ammo fast, then you restock by grabbing guns off dead enemies,' said our Activision assistant. 'Which is pretty cool, right?'
Anyway, each wave of enemies brings a new challenge, from powerful juggernauts to suicidal pups, so while it's possible to back into a corner with an eye on every entry point, you'll always need to change up at some point. Pushing through the early stages may only be as difficult as walking through a light mist, but later levels are more like trying to carry away some of that fog in your pocket; impossible. We eventually died somewhere around Wave 10 at which point, while it was clear that Spec Ops will be addictive for some people, we stood up and walked away.
It's that last bit of the story which conveys the most about our thoughts on Modern Warfare 3. It's not that we had to be somewhere more pressing, or that we were being hurried out of the way so the next sweaty-palmed journalist could get their paws on the gamepad. In fact, Infinity Ward mouthpiece Robert Bowling was there, ready to give us an interview and let us play more Spec Ops, if we wanted.
My way or the subway
'No thanks,' we said.
Call of Duty is supposed to be massive, we thought. Playing it ahead of release is supposed to be an enviable experience, just as writing about it could supposedly bring us in thousands of extra hits if we allowed ourselves to froth to either end of the emotional spectrum. Instead, though, we opted to wander ambivalently back to the office. Why would we do such a thing?
Maybe we felt we'd already seen everything we needed to see, or we just weren't in the mood; maybe we're pretentious game-snobs who demand more innovation than what's offered by MW3. Or, maybe it's a mix of all these reasons and more. Maybe we've finally realised that, while you can reliably depend on Modern Warfare to occupy boring winter evenings, it's not going to be worth pining for it through the traditionally short English summer.
There are games we're honestly excited about on the way. Modern Warfare 3, while it will be fun, isn't one of them.
Modern Warfare 3 is due for release on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on 8 November, 2011.