The first two Call of Duty: Modern Warfare titles have been two of the most innovative and cherished multiplayer games of recent years.
Introducing gamers to killstreak rewards along with the ability to level up and unlock increasingly better rewards took the console shooter multiplayer experience to the next level.
Simply having a slightly updated version of Modern Warfare would’ve pleased me a lot. But the developers have instead dramatically changed the COD multiplayer experience, taking on a lot of fan feedback and implementing changes to their hugely successful gaming system that look set to provide us with the best Modern Warfare yet.
The biggest difference is replacing the killstreak reward system with a ‘Strike Package’ system. You can unlock the rewards based on many different in-game actions instead of simply kills alone. Destroying aircraft, capturing flags/positions, assisting in kills and more - it all counts towards earning your Strike Package rewards.
There's three types of Strike Packages you can use – ‘Assault’ (which is what most people at Call of Duty XP were using and is most like the killstreak systems everyone is used to), ‘Support’ and ‘Specialist’.
The Assault package is all just focused on mass kills while Support has rewards with team advantages such as advanced UAV. Specialist provides the most interesting and innovative rewards - perk unlocks. The more kills you get in a row, the more perks you can apply to yourself. If you rack up eight points you will have all of the 14 available perks in the Specialist Package (only until your next death), which are the pro version of each perk too.
There's also a new weapon ranking system which allows you to level up each weapon in the game. You can improve your weapon through both proficiencies (eg: reduced recoil) and unlockable attachments (eg: silencer). This means even more customisation than ever before and more specialisation with your favourite weapon(s).
Prestige options have also been widened with a 'Prestige Shop' option, allowing you to choose a reward each time you level up, not just getting a cosmetic bonus. These include things such as an extra custom class and earning double XP for the whole next level of Prestige. This is much more enticing than simply getting a slightly cooler looking badge.
There don't seem to be any new notable weapons, which makes sense as the setting of the game is the same as that of MW and MW2. From watching some of the advanced tournament matches, the pros seemed to mainly favour the UMP 45, SCAR-L and G36 C. And, of course, the occasional Barrett .50cal quick-scoper. Being able to level up each of these individual weapons and fine-tune them exactly how you want is such a cool concept, something like all the changes you can make to your vehicle in a racing game.
The new game mode ‘Kill Confirmed’ provided a lot of fun and quite a new experience, nicely different to all other modes thus far. It's basically a team deathmatch, but after someone is killed they drop their dogtags. In order to confirm the kill (and get the point), a member of the opposing team must pick up those dogtags. If a player on the same team as the killed guy gets the dogtags, the kill (and point) is denied.
I played it a few times and each time it was on the same African map. Somewhere around the centre of this map was a fairly long stretch of open ground. In every game I played, on at least one occasion, a small collection of dogtags would amass in this area as more players tried to rush through and collect them only to themselves get shot down and add to the collection.
The new set of tactics and strategy that this gameplay mode introduces are very interesting, but it is particularly frustrating when you pull off a kill in a hard-fought gun battle, only to not get the dogtags and be denied. That was mighty annoying, just as it is when you get killed in Capture the Flag when you're metres from scoring, or in Domination right before you secure the position. It's a good form of frustration that drives you on to dish it out on others and Kill Confirmed is going to be a nice, consistently rewarding new style of play.
I did not play the other new mode, Team Defender, although it seems to be basically what happens in Capture the Flag without the actual returning of the flag to your base.
The new killstreaks are, as always, very exciting. The sensation I felt when I was able to rain AC130 terror down on my opponents in MW2 was a gaming high I haven't quite reached since, but there are some very interesting new goodies in MW3. The Assault Drone is one of the more promising looking options.
It's a very kick-ass looking little robot tank thing with a machinegun and a rocket launcher on it, based on very real world models, and I can't wait to cause some carnage with it. It's going to take 10 kills in a row to unlock it - which is more than I could manage in my hands-on session at Call of Duty XP. Plus you had to actually unlock it first. The Little Bird Guard also looks like an extremely fun new toy, but alas, I was unable to play with that one during my time with the game too.
One new killstreak reward I did manage to unleash was the Strafe Run. It was quite an experience hearing this bad boy roar into action for the first time along with a collection of other fans at Call of Duty XP. "What the f**k is that?" one exclaimed through my headset as the sound of five choppers ominously approached.
It's not quite as powerful as that may make it sound though. Five choppers do indeed fly back and forth across the map, and they do indeed lay down some firepower, but their run is pretty quickly over and you can hide from it under a solid roof. It's a nice addition to the killstreak repertoire and I'm thankful that it's not overly powerful.
The juggernaut additions to the Stike Packages is something else I didn't get to see take place in my preview session. Fans of previous COD titles should be familiar with juggernauts from various zombie and Spec Ops levels, but basically it's a huge set of bulletproof body armour that allows you to take way more hits than you normally could. It must have been a feature that fans gave really good feedback on as not only is there the addition of it as a killstreak, but there’s also new juggernaut options for special private multiplayer matches and there was even a juggernaut sumo activity set up at Call of Duty XP. Anyway, I am hugely looking forward to chucking on a juggernaut suit and advancing like a Terminator on my enemies, mowing them down and yelling "Raaaaaargh!", Rambo style, as I do so.
With the last few Call of Duty titles, one element of multiplayer gameplay that has grown and grown in importance is care package strategy. Often, as soon as an airdrop is announced, multiple enemies will rush the position and try and kill the recipient and steal his treasure. This has led to using crates as bait and various other new tactics, which create a whole bunch of other complications when used in conjunction with a gameplay mode objective such as the Search and Destroy bomb target.
So it seems like a very smart move to introduce a booby trap drop crate. Although this was possible to do in Black Ops with the advanced Hacker Pro perk, it wasn't done often enough to be a very important feature. Having pre-booby trapped crates is a very cool idea and should provide some very satisfying 'gotcha!' moments.
There's a few new perk and deathstreak options thrown into the mix too.
The developers have reigned in some of the sillier, more extreme aspects of MW2 such as the ability to unleash a game-ending nuke and the much maligned Commando perk. They’ve focussed on providing a much more balanced multiplayer experience that centred more on the classic COD gun-on-gun play than evading endless air strikes.
It's safe to say that I'll spend more than 100 hours on MW3 multiplayer, especially when I take into consideration all the additional stuff that Elite is bringing to the game. The three or so hours I got to play on MW3 at Call of Duty XP was little more than a tiny taste of the enormous banquets that are to come, but it tasted so, so good.
The Spec Ops modes look better than ever and the single-player campaign is bound to be as crazily epic as a Michael Bay film on steroids. But come November 8, like the majority of COD players, I'm most pumped about the multiplayer action.
I can't wait.
- Daniel Rutledge, 3 News
The Good: A much more balanced multiplayer experience
The Bad: Simply the wait
The Ugly: Blowing the crap outta people