No more nuke! How Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer is fixing kill streaks, perks, weapons and matches

What’s new, and what’s better, about Call of Duty’s latest online offering

Taking the stage at Call of Duty XP last night, Infinity Ward’s Robert Bowling let the crowd know that big changes are in the works for the Modern Warfare franchise, most of them relating to the games’ balance. Some of the biggest complaints from fans, he said, came from the cheesier perks and kill-streak rewards, which tipped the scales hugely in the favor of experienced players. So the worst offenders – like the infamous, match-ending nuke – are gone, and in their place is a new kill-streak system designed to even the odds a bit and reward different kinds of play.

Referred to as “strike packages,” the new kill streaks are divided into three categories: Assault, Support and Specialist. Pick the Assault path, and you’ll unlock the same rewards kill streaks usually unlock, all designed to punish the enemy (i.e. airstrikes). Support, meanwhile, gives bonuses designed to help your entire team – anti-helicopter SAM turrets, for example, or countermeasures against ally-revealing UAVs – and picking it means that your kill-streak counter won’t reset when you die. Meanwhile, the third option, Specialist, grants bonus perks, with streaks steadily unlocking even more perks until players eventually have every available perk activated at once.

MW3 will also introduce a “weapon proficiency” feature, which means your weapons will level up with use, enabling players to earn enhancements for their favorites. And finally, it’ll put enough match variables at players’ disposal - including map, team and gameplay options – that customizing matches can produce what the game’s creators call “user-generated game modes,” which can apparently be saved for later use.

And, of course, there’s Call of Duty Elite to consider. Once a controversial idea, MW3’s companion subscription service will actually offer a bunch of free features for those who choose not to subscribe, including things like the ability to join groups based on your interests and/or affiliations, access to apps that show heat maps and player lists of your games, and assorted other tools designed to keep you interested. Invest in the premium membership, however – which costs $49.99 a year, and is included in the Hardened Edition of MW3 – and you’ll get access to every piece of DLC released for MW3 first and more often, with monthly content drops planned.

Premium subscriptions will also enable clans to level up together, grant entry into online competitions, and grant players eight times more video-replay capacity than non-paying players. Strategy and analysis videos from the world’s best players will be made available as well, and subscriptions will also open up access to Elite TV, which features CoD-themed videos made by Hollywood talent. Two shows were announced, the first being Friday Night Fights. Created by Ridley and Tony Scott, the show pits real-world rivals against each other in CoD. Also announced was Noobtube, in which Will Arnett and Jason Bateman apparently go online to smack-talk players.

That's all very impressive, but the most noticeable changes are the ones the casual players are just going to jump straight into, which is to say the new modes and maps. For details and impressions of those, read our hands-on multiplayer preview.

Sep 2, 2011

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
We recommend