If Call of
Duty looks like an unstoppable, inevitable juggernaut of success at this point,
it’s for one very good reason: Multiplayer. While the series has taken lumps
from critics for its short campaigns, its multiplayer action has become a huge,
mainstream cultural phenomenon, and if what we’ve seen at the Call of Duty XP
event is any indication, Modern Warfare 3’s new modes and maps look poised to
continue that trend for some time.
First, the modes…
New mode: Kill Confirmed
Confirmed isn’t that much different from the standard team deathmatch, although
there is one important difference: defeated players leave behind dog tags. If
you can grab said dog tags, you’ll net an extra 50 points for “confirming” the
kill. Conversely, you can also grab a fallen teammate’s tags, and net another
50 for denying confirmation to the opposing team. It might seem like a small
bonus, but in fact it poses an additional danger for all but the most reckless
players. Grabbing the tags might be a quick score boost, but is it worth
risking exposure where a guy was just gunned down? We’re betting some players
will also be able to turn tags to their advantage, laying in wait for enemies
to storm in blindly and try to grab them.
In any case,
those things are fun to grab. Especially if you can manage to gun down an enemy
who was just about to snag your dead teammate’s tags, in which case you’ll score
both the denial and the confirmation
bonus. That dog tags add an element of strategy and risk is just the icing on
Spec Ops Survival
We also played Spec Ops Survival, MW3’s answer to Gears of War’s Horde mode (or
World at War’s/Black Ops’ Zombies mode, if you want to keep it in the series).Here,
one or two players are given full run of one of the six multiplayer maps, and
are then tasked with defending the area against ever-tougher waves of enemies.
The baddies start as low-end militia armed with crappy weapons, but soon
graduate to better-armed soldiers, dogs, attack choppers, suicide soldiers
strapped with C4, armored juggernauts, dogs strapped with C4 and more juggernauts.
To fend them
off, you’ll start with nothing but a basic pistol. Survive the first wave,
however, and you’ll unlock a weapons store, where you can buy new guns or
upgrade/refill your existing ones using money you’ve earned by killing enemies.
Living through the second wave, meanwhile, unlocks an equipment store with
items that range from grenades to sentry turrets that can be carried, moved and
placed just about anywhere.
surviving the third wave unlocks an airstrike store, giving players the chance
to buy a cruise missile, an attack chopper or – and these guys came in
surprisingly useful – a visit from Delta Squad, who rappel in from a helicopter
and will follow you around, watching your back until they’re all dead. After
that, the new unlocks stop, but the enemies don’t – and ultimately, we were
only able to stay alive until the eleventh wave, when the swarming soldiers and
dogs ultimately proved too much to handle.
tasted defeat, though, SOS was absurdly fun, and didn’t seem to suffer at all
from allowing only two players – although to be fair, that was partly because
the game’s settings made us insanely tough, and death wasn’t instant. Instead,
getting gunned down in SOS means you’ll be crawling around and bleeding out for
a while, until your partner finds you, in which case they’ll be able to revive
you pretty quickly.
Special Ops will be the only multiplayer mode that you’ll be able to level up
in during offline play – and any emblems or titles you earn can be carried over
into normal multiplayer. If nothing else, this should give newcomers a way to
practice and improve a bit before they take their game online.
New maps: Dome, Arkaden, Resistance, Village, Underground
As for the
maps we played on, they consisted of Dome, a desert outpost dominated by a
large geodesic dome; Arkaden, a ruined German mall designed for Search &
Destroy games; Resistance, a slice of urban Paris with beautiful staircases
and sloping roads, ideal for domination and Kill Confirmed; Village, a
sprawling African shantytown; and Underground, set inside a bomb-ravaged London
tube station. The maps are meant to reflect the game’s World War III storyline,
and while they have some familiar elements – there’s a cave with a small
waterfall in Village, for example, that’s a dead ringer for a similar feature
in MW2’s Afghan map – they all felt unique. Especially Underground, whose
shattering glass, underground passageways and wrecked trains quickly made it a
favorite of the XP crowd.
In spite of
all the cool new stuff, however, what we’ve seen of MW3’s multiplayer so far
doesn’t seem to be too radical a departure from what we’re used to – although
that’s probably a good thing, as far as its fans are concerned. The important
thing is that it’s still a lot of fun (or at least, what we played was), and the
things we’ve seen so far show the level of polish and promise we’ve come to
expect from the series. Assuming it holds up as well after it’s released into
the wild as it did during the few controlled hours we played it (and assuming
the Call of Duty Elite content is as good as it sounds), Call of Duty fans
should have a lot to be excited about this November.
Sep 2, 2011