Infinity Ward are masters of perspective. Whether rifling through history or conjuring fictional futures they have a gift for putting us in the best seat in the house at any particular time.
Often this is the wrongest of times - just ask Modern Warfare's Sergeant Paul Jackson, last seen melting into some Middle Eastern tarmac. MW3 takes the tradition to a ludicrous extreme, telling its tale from hospital stretchers, crashing airplanes, predator drones and - in a moment sure to raise some heckles - a family camcorder. You have been warned.
Part of this is a desire to give COD's global audience a global canvas. Why shouldn't the biggest game on the planet have said planet at its disposal? Multiple points of view handily jump from hotspot to hotspot in a yarn that resembles the doodles in Michael Bay's schoolbook margins. We're on a whistle-stop tour of World War 3, taking in (and blowing up) Paris, Berlin, London, Sierra Leone, Hamburg and New York. It's around the world in eighty slays, with Price as a cigar-chomping Phileas Fogg.
Restlessness permeates Modern Warfare 3. As in MW2's excellent Cliffhanger, levels unfold as fidgety 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. Elsewhere we're whipped from minigun, to race against time, to a trippy sandstorm excursion, all in ten minutes. So vigorous is IW's rug-pulling it's amazing we don't get carpet burns.
A lot of fun is had with perspective within levels, too. Slogging through Paris in 'Iron Lady' the mission constantly cuts between ground soldiers and their AC-130 support. Many missions rely on air support, so it's nice to see a stage finally pay tribute to the finger on the trigger.
Out of body experiences are commonplace as MW3 wrenches us from the battlefield and into shiny military tech: remote turrets, predator drones and an RPG-spewing UGV. The latter wouldn't look out of place on Robot Wars and delivers three minutes of awesome, explosive fun.
If the game can't sit still in one place it's also fidgety on a temporal level. One later stage paints the aftermath of a mission gone wrong before cleverly flipping back to reveal how quickly an operation can go south.
In another standout sequence Infinity Ward employ flashbacks to weave the entire Modern Warfare trilogy into a coherent whole. Seeing key series moments from the other side's perspective is a brilliant homage to some of the most iconic FPS scenes of the last ten years. Talk about a wild ride.
Emphasising the setpiece mentality disguises COD's notorious target gallery shooting. Enemies will still spawn behind boxes until you push past invisible markers, but there is less filler than before. Especially compared to Black Ops' heinous Vietnam slogs.
If anything, MW3 is too busy, losing quieter moments beneath the digitised rubble. Of course, by quiet moment we mean 'driving a tank through a multi-storey car park'. People remember All Ghillied Up for its stark moment of calm, a fact Infinity Ward would do well to remember.
Modern Warfare has always relied on smoke and mirrors. What surprises us is how ably the conjurers perform despite the much publicised Infinity Ward departures. After many months of doom-mongering it's great to find a game as confident and capable as those that preceded it.
The remarkable stuff - a Parisian car chase and tense infiltration through lightning-lit Prague - strikes that same uncanny balance of empowering players while holding them on a short cinematic leash. Some extraordinary stuff - a fight inside a crashing airliner - makes you forget about the leash entirely.