The latest installment in the popular Call of Duty video game franchise hit store shelves Tuesday.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, a first-person shooter set in modern times, was released at midnight launch parties at 13,000 retailers around the world, its Santa Monica, Calif.-based publisher Activision Publishing Inc. announced in a news release Tuesday.

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The latest game is a direct sequel to the 2009 release Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which took in a record $310 million US in North America and the U.K. alone during the first day of its November release. The newest game picks up where the previous game ends and "escalates into World War 3," Activision says, touting "gameplay innovations" and other new features.

The company also announced that it was launching a new social gaming network called Call of Duty Elite alongside the game.

Activision reported that pre-orders for Modern Warfare 3 were higher than for Call of Duty: Black Ops, last year's release, which was set during the Cold War and Vietnam War.

Some analysts predict that the newest game will break sales records. Michael Pachter, an industry analyst at Wedbush Securities, told the Boston Globe, that if Activision markets the game as well as it normally does, the game will be "the biggest seller of all time" until next year.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has been rated "M" (Mature) by the Entertainment Software Rating Board for intense violence, blood and gore, strong language and reference to drugs. It is available for Microsoft's Xbox 360, Sony's PlayStation 3, Windows PC and Nintendo Wii. A version called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3: Defiance is also available for the Nintendo DS.