Review: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 MultiplayerBy Kyle Mann | November 15, 2011 | Reviews | 1 comment | Share
Lurking just beneath Modern Warfare 3‘s shiny surface is a fun, solid, competitive FPS for multiplay. Yet the experience is marred from time to time by shaky netcode and some odd design decisions. I’m confident that with some time, tweaking, and a strong modding community it will rise to true greatness. As of now, if you can look past a few implementation issues and skewed balancing, Modern Warfare 3 is a worthwhile update for the series and a solid shooter in its own right. Note: I played the PC version, testing various competitive game types and co-operative missions.
There are two sides to the multiplayer component of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3: Spec Ops co-operative play, and the competitive mode. Each contains its own unlocks, rewards, and experience systems through which players must progress in order to enjoy all the toys the game has to offer. Personally, I’m not a big fan of experience-based unlockables in online shooters, and Modern Warfare 3 does little to change my mind. I don’t like the Megadeth riff that plays every time I “rank up”; I don’t care to customize the camouflage on my guns, and I especially don’t care to face off against players who are 80 levels higher than I am and as such hold a massive advantage in every match. That said, the system is fine for what it is. At the very least, the game supports dedicated servers without experience points, and these offer a purer, more balanced competitive experience.
Within the Spec Ops gametype, Modern Warfare 3 has two distinct modes. The first is Survival. True to its name, the game sees two doomed soldiers holding out in a desperate last stand for as long as possible. I loved this mode when I played it back at Call of Duty XP, and it’s only better in the final release. It supports all the game’s multiplayer maps, each ranked at different difficulties that throw varied enemy types and densities at the squad. Earning both experience points to access better gear and hard cash to spend at laptops scattered around the level, players will face grunts, special ops forces, attack dogs, suicide dogs, attack choppers, juggernauts, and more. It’s well-balanced and a real blast to play.
The economy component encourages smart timing as to when the team will spend and when they will save. It’s Counter-Strike-inspired and injects lots of depth into an otherwise straightforward game mode. Intense last-ditch efforts to stay alive, daring rescues, careful setup and planning: Survival mode is an absolute treat. The only real downside is the 2-player limit, a restriction that could hopefully be addressed with a patch or community mod. As popular as the game is, it’s hard to pick just one Steam friend to play with.
Then there are the co-operative missions, five-to-six minute challenges that dovetail with the singleplayer campaign. They vary from standard two-player scenarios to more creative objective-based missions. One level has an outmatched team member tasked with a race against the clock to get through the map, while the other team member guns down everyone in his path via hacked security cameras and turrets. These can even be played in singleplayer, with the exception of the maps that depend on the second player to provide AC-130 or turret cover for the man on the ground. It’s pitch-perfect, and a real highlight of the game.
Call of Duty Cut-Throat
The other side of the multiplayer coin is the adversarial mode, hosting the usual handful of staples: Free-for-All, Team Deathmatch, Capture-the-Flag, and more. The biggest and best addition this time around comes in the form of Kill Confirmed, a simple but brilliant twist on the usual Team Deathmatch offering. Teams have to grab the dog tags of each enemy they kill, or no points are awarded. Conversely, teammates can rush forward and pick up the tags of downed allies to deny the enemy the kill. It’s a subtle change but makes for some big multiplayer moments as you weave in and out of obstacles snagging tags of friend and foe alike. It also allows less-skilled players to contribute in ways other than mowing down hostiles.
Aside from this excellent new addition to the series, there are a variation of standard and re-mixed multiplayer modes, all of which play pretty much as you’d expect them to. The big changes this time around come in the form of tweaks to the killstreaks, allowing players to accumulate streaks by completing objectives rather than simply stringing up kills lone-wolf style. It was high time for such a change, and it works well. The other big news is the separation of strike packages into different packages: Assault, Specialist, and Support. Also a welcome change, the system creates both advantages and disadvantages for each playstyle. Personally, slowly building up a big Support Reward like a remote turret or a stealth bomber felt like a real accomplishment, and even the smaller ways to help the team like dropping ballistic vests can turn the tide of the battle.
Let’s talk maps: there aren’t a ton of highly memorable levels, at least not right away. Often these types of games have a few favorites that are immediately obvious, but that’s not the case with Modern Warfare 3. Dome is nice, as is Outpost, but it seems it’s going to take some time before the cream of the crop will rise to the top. That said, map design is by and large extremely solid: lots of flow, not an overabundance of exploitable sniper windows or corners to hunker down in. It seems every spot has at least two entrances, forcing players to keep moving in keeping with the pace of the gameplay.
A few words of warning, perhaps applicable only to the PC build: the FOV is locked at a dismal 60-65 it seems, and I haven’t found a reliable way to change it yet. It’s enough to get more sensitive eyes sick, and it really feels unfair to get mowed down when you never had a chance to see the guy because of such a low field of view. Infinity Ward hasn’t addressed the issue publicly at time of writing, either. No mod tools or developer console have been made available for power users, either. I also experienced odd lag issues that I haven’t seen in other games on my same connection, though the friends I play with claim they don’t have these problems, so that one may just be on me.
While Modern Warfare 3‘s singleplayer knocked it out of the park with a campaign close to the best in the whole series, the multiplayer is more of a subtle update to last year’s entry. The features we’ve come to expect are back, there’s more content than ever, and there are some shining moments of brilliance. But if you’re not already enraptured by the franchise’s blend of an RPG metagame and fast-paced arcade mechanics, Modern Warfare 3 isn’t going to convince you otherwise.
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