MODERN WARFARE 3 Like Modern Warfare 2, but with a different number after it!

MODERN WARFARE 3, the latest entry in Activision's eight-year-old Call of Duty series, is a quality game. Aesthetically, it ranks among the most beautiful, detailed virtual worlds in existence. Aurally, the explosions are bombastic and the percussive rat-a-tat of automatic weapons fire is equal parts exhilarating and frightening. If you're looking for a way to gun down a load of ambiguously ethnic bad guys, MW3 is one of the best options on shelves today.

So why am I not raving? Honestly, I was wondering that myself. After a dozen hours burning through the game's single-player component, and more time in the online multiplayer than I want to admit, it dawned on me: Activision and developer Infinity Ward are simply running out of ways to impress gamers.

On a micro level, MW3 is an impressive reworking of the series. The multiplayer is far more balanced than it was in Modern Warfare 2 and the single-player campaign is as gripping as any Hollywood film, yet the game lacks the big emotional beats that set its predecessors apart from the dozens of other shooters on the market.

Remember the atomic blast from the first Modern Warfare? Or the "No Russian" mission in MW2? Those were shocking moments. They genuinely deserved praise for jolting players out of the tedium of gunning down waves of foes. Modern Warfare 3 attempts to recapture this kind of gravitas, but at this point it almost feels tedious.

Don't get me wrong: If you adore its predecessors, you should definitely drop $60 on a copy of Modern Warfare 3. It's easily the best game in the series, and outside of a multiplayer component that is slightly bested by EA's recent Battlefield 3, it's the best shooter of its kind. That said, this holiday season is just too jam-packed with excellent, novel games for yet another shooter—even a fantastic one like this—to earn my adulation.