More, more (and more) multiplayer
Reviewing Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer is simple. Not a fan of the online in Call of Duty? This is more of the same. Enjoy the online in Call of Duty? This is a lot more of the same. Rather than risk a reinvention – or even a major evolution – of the most popular competitive gaming of the current generation, Modern Warfare 3 wisely stays with what’s working, then adds and adds and adds. We won’t say this is the absolute best the multiplayer has ever been, as the maps left us slightly underwhelmed and many of the features are carried over from previous entries, but this is by far the most.
All the weapons, modes, perks and packages made classic by Modern Warfare 1? Check. The superb cooperative play introduced by Spec Ops in Modern Warfare 2? Yes, and with missions that cast you as an evil plane hijacker or an artificially intelligent camera turret, particularly inspired this time around. Everything worth copying from Treyarch and Black Ops? No Zombies or currency system, but Gun Game (every kill earns you a new weapon), One in the Chamber (a single bullet, three lives) and Theater Mode are back.
Truly new additions include modes like Kill Confirmed, in which a downed enemy’s dog tag must be collected before the kill counts (encouraging domination through scavenging as well as shooting); Team Defender, in which the side holding a flag earns double points per kill (combining the rules of Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Assassination into one); and most significantly, Spec Ops Survival, a wave-based co-op siege battle that clearly takes cues from Gears of War’s Horde, but throws in airstrikes and suicide bomber dogs. If none of those sound appealing, create your own mode with Private Matches – of the custom brews we sampled, a zombie infection with Juggernaut suits and a Gun Game with ever-worsening weapons stand out.
Leveling the field
Don’t mistake the size and scope of Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer, however, for some kind of bloated, overstuffed “everything and the kitchen sink” approach. This is refined, with developers keeping what fans loved and losing what fans loathed. Gone are game-ending nukes, gone are dual-wielded shotguns and gone are overpowered ninja perks.
Replacing these imbalances is clear support and appreciation for those of us who suffer from such winner’s cheats – the 99% who play Call of Duty casually and occasionally, but eventually lose interest as the competition becomes harder and harder to keep up with. For us, Modern Warfare 3 provides “pointstreaks” instead of “killstreaks” so that we can earn rewards even if we die. For us, the game offers “support” packages like deployable turrets instead of “assault” packages like predator drones. For us, there’s Call of Duty Elite, the new social service full of interactive maps, match statistics, weapon suggestions and overall strategy – while hardcore players will surely use it to get better, we can use it to overcome the learning curve and become hardcore someday ourselves.
Is it better than…?
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare? No. While Modern Warfare 3 features double to triple the amount of multiplayer that Modern Warfare 1 did, it’s still adding bricks to the groundbreaking foundation laid by the original. And while the campaign is a wilder adventure, it’s also way, way wackier – we miss the quiet and restrained mastery of “Ghillies in the Mist.”
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2? Maybe. The missions are bigger and slightly better in Modern Warfare 2, but more memorable and cohesive in Modern Warfare 3. We prefer the multiplayer map design in Modern Warfare 2, but the variety of modes and features is clearly superior in Modern Warfare 3. A tie, then… which considering the development bumps this entry faced, is really a victory.
Call of Duty: Black Ops? Yes. Fightin’ around the world with Price and Soap trumps slogging through the clichéd jungles of Vietnam with Reznov any day – the setpieces made possible by the fictional, futuristic World War III of the former blow away what’s allowed by the historical constraints of the latter. And unless you’re obsessed with Zombies or tomahawks, the multiplayer in Modern Warfare 3 offers more.
For those who skipped straight to the end
If you’re looking for a new kind of shooter, look elsewhere. Modern Warfare 3 succeeds by doing more – much, much, much more – of what’s always worked spectacularly for the series. We still can’t get enough.
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