Hands On with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Multiplayer
I’d seen Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 in action a total of three different times by the time I rolled into Call of Duty XP last weekend. I’d seen more than one demo of the single-player campaign; I’d played the new Zombies-replacing Spec Ops Survival mode. But I still hadn’t shotgunned any other players in the face as they came through a doorway, or buried a throwing knife in the back of the skull of an enemy flanking my teammates.
Let’s get this out of the way before I get into the further analysis of MW3′s deathmatch potential: I had fun. I had a great deal of fun. I know Call of Duty is a polarizing force among gamers, but it’s hard to deny that the games aren’t well-made fragfests. MW3 maintains this level of quality through and through, and the updates that Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer have worked into the multiplayer mode are smart. They’ve been well-thought out. These guys have looked to their games and determined what they could improve in the existing formula of the Modern Warfare games, and they’ve worked toward improving it. The results add new depth to the game while maintaining what works about it — fast-paced shooter fun.
I intend to give an analysis of just how different Modern Warfare 3 is from its predecessor games in a later post, but for now, we’ll stick with impressions of what I played and how it felt.
Much of what was available in the Modern Warfare 3 hands-on was the familiar stable of CoD features. We played games of Capture the Flag, Domination and Team Deathmatch, as well as the two new modes, Kill Confirmed and Team Defender. But before we even got into games, though, many of the changes to Modern Warfare 3 were already apparent.
Those are the Strike Packages, which are a set of three different killstreak packs that players can choose dependent on their play style. There’s the Assault pack, which is more or less a standard set of Modern Warfare killstreaks like air strikes and which is based on kills; the Support pack, which is based more on earning points for objectives and which is packed with team-supporting bonuses like recon drones; and the Specialist pack, which benefits lone-wolf players by allowing them to pick additional perks for as long as they maintain a kill stream, up to three (with the three assigned to your character class regularly). Those choices immediately influence how you play and also give you the opportunity to think about your game: are you better off believing in yourself alone, or the guys you’re playing with?
One of the biggest troubles with online Call of Duty as it stands today, at least in my view, is the troubling lack of teamwork in a lot of games. Developers at Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer and Beachhead Studios (the guys behind Call of Duty: Elite) have echoed this sentiment, and much of the Modern Warfare 3 changes seem geared toward pushing the team-play aspect of the game. Obviously there’s Elite, which is all about social features, but the Support package is also aimed toward players who favor support roles and working together.
The two new additions to MW3′s game modes also echo a heavier team focus. Kill Confirmed, the first new mode, is basically similar to standard Team Deathmatch, except in order to score points, you need to collect dog tags off the enemies you take out. This fundamentally changes the way players approach situations: you might snipe a guy (or five) from a high perch, for example, but your efforts are wasted if there’s no one around to go snag the tags off the ground. Even worse, if enemies wander up and take the dog tags, the kills are denied. The whole thing adds a new layer of strategy, because dog tags are both a necessity and a liability because they attract so much attention from both sides.
Team Defender, another new mode, is a hybrid capture the flag mode. Players snag the flag but they don’t have anywhere in particularly to take it — instead, it’s up to the rest of the team to protect the flag carrier to rack up points based on time. It leaves players constantly tracking down flag carriers, killing them and returning flags, and it leaves a lot of players working to play defense. The team with that works together the best emerges victorious.
I played several rounds of MW3, on game types new and old and with several different loadouts and strike packages. There are quite a few solid, smart improvements, like a new weapon leveling system that rewards proficiency in your favorite guns. Rather than encouraging knocking down achievements on a gun and then moving on to another, much more about MW3 is geared toward players finding their strengths and playing to them. Get great with a gun and couple it with a Strike Package and perk set and you can fashion a character with a high degree of customization.
MW3 has lots to offer. The territory remains well-worn, but if you have fun with other Modern Warfare titles, you’ll certainly have fun with this one. Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer have added quite a bit to make the game a better experience, both for individual players and for people who aren’t lone-wolf shotgun-toting massacre-artists. The game seems like it’ll have more to offer more players, and of the gajillion Call of Duty fans out there, more should be finding the game providing them with a better experience.
I can’t definitely say that MW3 is perfect or even substantially different or better than its predecessors until I’ve had more time with it, but the new changes are very promising. Facing off against a room full of excited CoD XP goers and journalists, I enjoyed having a controller in my hands as I sprinted to pick up enemy dog tags and gun down reinforcements.