This is a brief article, in part because my 24 hours of multiplayer play is a short period compared with what will go into this game over the next year. We’ll be covering three aspects of MW3 in this article: survival mode, Special Ops and the online multiplayer. Survival is brand new for the Modern Warfare franchise and the multiplayer has plenty of new flavor as well.
It’s not new to gaming or to first-person shooters, or even to Call of Duty, but the horde/survival gametype has finally hit a Modern Warfare title. It wasn’t a vital addition and I wasn’t a huge fan of zombies in World at War or Black Ops. In fact, for a while I figured this would take away time better spent on more maps, balance and polished UI. There was something special about the “oh shit they came through the wall!” moment that must have happened to all of us in the original zombies mode of World at War, but after a few hours, the strategy was absolute and each round identical. I know plenty of people love zombies, but it wasn’t my thing.
Survival, so far, looks like it might hold me for quite a bit longer. It doesn’t have the scare value of zombies, (except maybe when the Juggernaut drops in) but it does have enemies firing back at you right from the start. There are also 16 different maps to play on, with four different sets of enemies that will be thrown at you for the duration. The maps feel a lot more challenging as you go down the list and I’ve been very eager to get someone in a game with me whenever we don’t have a group going into multiplayer.
I have mixed feelings about the leveling system for Spec Ops. On one hand I think I’m getting some replay value for survival because I’ve unlocked Delta Squad and the riot shield squad and now I can replay maps with some extra firepower. It’s definitely a new experience each time I play – so far. On the other hand, this is only adding a little more experience than I would have gotten out of it otherwise and I don’t honestly feel like I would have missed out by being forced to play without the stronger upgrades right from the start. If you’re a zombie fanatic and think this will be what you spend most of your time on, perhaps it will feel all the more rewarding and maybe for the brand new kids it will ease them in. Survival really isn’t the game’s money maker though, so it seems odd to me that it would try to draw the same level of devotion and prestige with a level system.
I can’t say I’m ready to give a verdict on Survival just yet. It’s not going to be thrown to the side right away, but that’s likely because I’m getting it in small doses – only seeing activity on the rare occasion that it’s just me and one friend online at the time. It’s definitely adding to the game and it’s exciting that it can be played on each multiplayer map, (I actually used that fact to learn the map layouts) so I won’t condemn it. It hasn’t quite earned an applause though, so we’ll give it a golf clap for the time being.
Making a return from Modern Warfare 2 are the Spec Op missions. This set of 16 missions is somewhat an extension onto the story of the campaign, but despite the developer’s advice to play the story first, they can certainly stand alone. These missions add a new set of challenges and most of them can be played solo or cooperatively. While these challenges play similarly to the campaign mode, there’s a different replay value to Spec Ops missions that separate them from the story since you can play through with your friends (or complete strangers).
I can’t say much about Spec Ops to anyone who played MW2, because they haven’t changed much except the location. For anyone who didn’t play MW2, I’ll make this comparison in order to describe the experience – if Call of Duty’s campaign were a movie, Spec Ops would be the episodes of a spin-off series, but with no continuity between episodes. That’s a crappy metaphor, but if you’re reading this and don’t already know about Spec Ops you’re probably just awake at 2 a.m. with nothing to do.
The best way I can relate the experience of Spec Ops missions is to relive an early moment of playing them with another TBGSE staff member, Dan Hoyt:
John: OK. Don’t go anywhere yet. I said don’t go anywhere!!
Dan dies very quickly
Dan: Holy cow! There were like 10 of them around that corner!
John: Yes … So this time let’s not go anywhere until I say. See the camera in on the wall above you? That’s me. I’m going to guide you through here when they turn their backs.
Dan: Do you have a gun? It looks like you have a gun.
Opens fire, obliterating the previous 10 enemies.
John: Holy shit! No, “gun” is not the word for what I have, what I have is a damn apocalypse machine.
That is but one precious little moment experienced while playing Spec Ops. This mode will adds meaningful minutes to your Call of Duty experience, and there’s not much to complain about in this mode except that it’s only 16 missions. It’s not worthy of its own DLC in my opinion, but could certainly be packaged in to make a DLC pack worthwhile. I don’t know if there are plans to do such a thing, but I certainly hope so.
Was anyone else afraid to load this portion up like me? There was so much going on with the development of this game that I didn’t know what to expect here. Infinity Ward and Activision’s feud had torn apart the family that I had started to trust. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare set a new bar for the FPS genre in my eyes and Modern Warfare 2, for all of its balance quirks was fast, exciting and a big step forward in terms of its graphics and the changes to perks and kill streaks. Would the fractured Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer be able to move forward or would they scramble to produce a subpar mod of MW2? Early videos and screens certainly appeared to be just that.
The game definitely isn’t the same giant leap that MW2 made from CoD4, but I cannot stress enough that you shouldn’t be fooled by the nearly identical graphics and HUD. For any FPS or Call of Duty enthusiast, this game definitely doesn’t play the same as its predecessor. The pace, spacing, and level of awareness do not feel like MW2. This actually made the first several hours in the game quite frustrating. I’ve transitioned between each new CoD title fairly smoothly up until now, but several factors have required me to change the way I play this game.
Map design seems to have an entirely different philosophy from previous titles. There are no large maps in this game. If I were to compare it with other Modern Warfare maps, I’d say they get as big as a “medium.” The general theme seems to be that maps are made to feel larger by taking away infinite sprinting and by adding a lot of walls and corners to make traveling across the map take longer. There also seems to be a major emphasis on sight lines for each map. Standing in any one spot of the map will probably give you about three to eight different angles to be shot from. At first these layouts seem chaotic, and without knowing how to control a map you’ll take a lot of bullets in the side of your head.
What I would say is the biggest change to the game, which in turn has changed how people play, is the kill streak system. Going after objectives, shooting down air support and (sometimes) assists will all contribute to the point streak and allow you to call in your support. This means more players are actually doing these things, something I used to generally rely on the majority of people avoiding. Sure, some people still just care about their kill-to-death ratio, but enough people are actively working to build up their point steak that they have become an actual threat. Combine this with the support package that will build up regardless of death, and you have what I think changes how I play the most; my team can no longer reliably control the air support. This used to be done by hogging the air space with harriers and choppers and also by calling out any player who had a kill streak going and converging on him to stop it.
But rather than talk about what I think wins games, I believe the biggest point to stress about this game is the change. Change is about more than adding different weapons and equipment, switching around perks, or taking out what people complain about (that is important, but again there’s more to it). Change is about getting players to look at and approach the game in a way they never thought to, or maybe just never had to before. For all my apprehension, this game has absolutely delivered on that front. I cannot play this game the way I played Black Ops, Modern Warfare 2 or Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Whether I prefer the mindset I settle into over other titles remains to be seen, but we need this kind of change. We need this change because really, who just wants a $60 patch/graphics update every year?
The Good: New Kill streak system, more opportunity for the guys who don’t rack up the kills every game.
The Bad: There’s a good reason some of these maps aren’t being voted for between rounds – they’re not as fun.
The Ugly: I’m contemplating murdering my friends because they don’t cover me as well as I’d like them to. That is why I die so much, what other reason could there be?