Year after year, how can Call of Duty's massive online shooter remain fresh? With Modern Warfare 3, the game's developers have focused on what works—player progression, extensive customization, tons of maps and game modes—and are blowing it out.
Activision offered a first look at Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 the night before Call of Duty XP officially kicks off. I liked what I saw, even if I'm not the kind of Call of Duty player capable of a 15 kill-long killstreak.
It's still the same hyperfast, 60 frames per second kill or be killed war game at its core: lots of guns, plenty of carnage, tons of explosive action. But developers Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer games are experimenting with a few new gameplay innovations that are designed to both deepen the experience and make playing multiplayer a little bit easier on the casual Call of Duty fan.
Infinity Ward's Robert Bowling promised "more changes to the core experience than we ever have before" and "the most balanced multiplayer experience we've ever done" at a preview of the game at Call of Duty XP. He and Sledgehammer's Michael Condrey blazed through a long list of new additions and tweaks to the very successful multiplayer formula of Call of Duty.
They even dove deeply into the waters of Call of Duty Elite, which you can read about right here. On the multiplayer side, here's what's new in Modern Warfare 3.
Before I get into the meat of what Strike Packages mean for Modern Warfare 3, say goodbye to the killstreak. And say hello to pointstreaks, all 28 of them. No longer will player kills be the only way to build up streaks. Sure, kills still count, but in MW3, completing objectives in gametypes like Capture the Flag and Seek and Destroy will reward players with points they can cash in to call in recon drones, attack helicopters, sentries and other power-ups. Kill assists count toward pointstreak numbers too, letting supporting players, not just the dominant virtual marksman have all the fun.
Infinity Ward's Robert Bowling explained the change at Call of Duty XP, saying "the killstreak system was optimized for one game type: Team Deathmatch." Now, players will be rewarded more handsomely for actually completing each gametype's objectives.
Modern Warfare 3's pointstreaks come in three groups, dubbed Strike Packages. Players can customize their classes with one of three Strike Packages, adding a new layer of personalization to COD multiplayer. The three types are Assault, Support and Specialist. Each has its own list of 'streaks. Here they are.
If you like "big body counts, the Assault package is for you. With Assault, you can call in UAVs and care package drops, naturally, but this is also where the big guns live: assault helicopters, AC130, Predator missiles, mortar strikes, Juggernaut suits. Assault brings the pain. Your streak count will reset every time you die, if you go for the Assault Strike Package.
Support is about "helping the team win," not just stacking your body count. Sounds nice, doesn't it? For the less aggressive team player, Support deals in 'streaks that lean more defensive. This includes the option to drop a remote gun turret, call in a hacked airdrop, deploy ballistic vests to your team, drop an EMP or, ultimately, call in an Osprey gunship that also delivers five airdrop packages (one of them hacked). With Support, your streak count will not reset upon death.
Finally, Specialist is all about perks. Become a super soldier with Specialist, which lets players stack on additional perks. You'll get up to six perks—including Sleight of Hand, Hardline, Recon, et al—as the 'streaks pile up. After your eighth kill, however, you get every perk available to you. You become a monster.
Here are a few of the new perks coming in Modern Warfare 3.
- Recon – Explosive damage paints the target on the mini map
- Blind Eye – Undetectable by air support/sentries
- Assassin – Undetectable by UAV, portable radar, thermal, heartbeat
- Quickdraw – Faster aim down sight
- Stalker – Move faster while aiming
- Marksman – Identify targets at longer range
Some perks you wont see return in MW3. "No One Man Army, no Nuke, no Commando and no Last Stand," Infinity Ward promises.
Another big change to Modern Warfare multiplayer is Weapon Proficiencies, a new leveling system for firearms. Basically, the more often you use a weapon in MW3, whether it's an assault rifle, handgun, shotgun or sniper rifle, the better that weapon gets. In real terms, this means players can reduce gun sway, decrease recoil and add more attachments over time—among other things.
Oh, and if you really just adore player progression and experience points, know that the leveling up of Modern Warfare's multiplayer has been adapted for the Modern Warfare 3's version of Spec-Ops mode. You can read more about that mode right here.
Competitive multiplayer in Modern Warfare 3 will be expanded with at least two new prominent gameplay modes, Kill Confirmed and Team Defender.
You may have seen a snippet of Kill Confirmed in the leaked-early multiplayer trailer. That's the one with the big glowing dog tags that drop from corpses. Those dog tags are how players confirm kills in this Team Deathmatch variant. Kills don't count as a point for your team until you or one of you allies grabs a dead man's dropped dog tags. That adds an intriguing layer of strategy to Team Deathmatch, as opposing players can grab the dog tags of their fallen teammates before you do. And if they see one of their comrades lying dead, dog tags floating above their body, they'll know where your headed if you want to score.
Team Defender, which I didn't get to preview, is a Capture The Flag variant, just without the flag return. Hold onto an enemy flag for as long as possible, sticking together as a team to survive.
There will also be new Private Match game types added to MW3, each of which has been "significantly enhanced to allow players to create new, customizable game modes" that they can share with friends. "Through [Call of Duty Elite], subscribers can vote on favorite new modes and those modes could make their way into public playlists," Activision says. Here are those new Private Match modes.
- Infection – The infected kills enemies to recruit them for the infected team.
- Drop Zone – Hold the Drop Zone for Team Points and Care Packages.
- Team Juggernaut – With the support of a juggernaut, kill players on the opposing team. The first team to reach the score limit wins.
- Juggernaut – Kill the Juggernaut to become the new Juggernaut.
- Gun Game – Be the first to dominate with every gun.
- One in the Chamber – Gain ammo by eliminating enemies. Be the last to survive.
We'll have hands-on time with Modern Warfare 3 (and much more) from the Call of Duty XP convention this weekend.
Call of Duty Elite, Activision's new social network and stat-tracking service that will launch alongside Modern Warfare 3-and work with last year's Call of Duty: More »
The record, they tell me, is level 28. We're nowhere close to that when death comes quickly to both of us. That's the way you die in Modern Warfare 3's Spec Ops Survival Mode: More »