Renovating the Killstreaks
One of the biggest complaints people had about MW2 was the killstreaks. They were ridiculous. More than that, they became a defining factor of each game as they overpowered the gameplay. But the idea of choose-your-own killstreaks was a good one, and those return, but with a twist. As part of your loadout, you now have three options on what type of killstreaks to use.
The first is the assault class, which is similar to the previous games—you select your killstreaks from a list, and as you rack up consecutive kills without dying you are rewarded with a killstreak once you hit the specific number of kills. There are a few new options, but it is the same in theory.
The second choice is support, which is where things change. If you have ever played a game of domination and had a killstreak going, but were then forced to try to take a flag only to have a random grenade kill you, this setup is for you. The more you help your team, the more you build to your rewards, regardless of deaths. If you have a few kills but die after taking a flag, your points will carry over and you will be rewarded for the flag capture. The more you do in a game, the faster you build up your killstreak regardless of how long it takes. Once you have a killstreak available (you choose them from a list before the game begins) and activate it, it is then is used to help your team. You can’t save up and call an airstrike, but you can earn UAVs, ballistic vests for your teammates and a slew of other support elements that are not specifically offensive in nature. It seems like a minor change, but for hardcore fans, it is a brilliant addition.
The third setup is the specialist, which is all about the perks. As you earn killstreaks, you unlock multiple perks like those you select with each custom class. When you hit eight consecutive kills, you unlock every perk in the game for your character. It is more of a solo thing that may appeal to the lone wolf approach, but it is interesting.
Back to Basics
One of the biggest issues with Modern Warfare 2 was the layouts of the maps. Some were too big for this style of controlled chaos, but a bigger issue was the dimensions. Getting shot from behind, to the side and above was simply not fun, and the maps just didn’t necessitate a good flow. It was too easy to die randomly from angles you couldn’t always check.
Infinity Ward heard those complaints, and went back to what made Modern Warfare (and earlier CoD games) a success. The game currently offers 16 maps, and more will be coming eventually in the form of DLC. While there haven’t been any huge advancements in the game, there have been significant improvements in the map design.
With so many maps, there will always be favorites–and there are a few that feel a bit out of place–but in general they all move very well and offer fast-paced games. The maps feel much closer to Modern Warfare than MW2. There is even a map that seems to be based on “Crash” from MW, which has received several accolades for its design.
Adding to the Mix
Along with the new loadouts, two new gamemodes have been added to the competitive side, while the Spec Ops mode returns with a new mode called “survival.”
Now, adding two new game modes to a multiplayer may not seem like a major deal, but when you consider that the CoD offerings have remained mostly unchanged for years, it’s worth mentioning.
The first is “kill confirmed.” It plays out like team deathmatch, but there is a major difference. When you kill an enemy, they drop their dog tags. To score for your team, you must then collect those dogtags. Alternatively, when you or a teammate die they also drop tags, and you can collect those to stop the opposing team from scoring. Individual kills are still counted and earn the gamer points, but you need to collect the tags to win. It is wildly addictive. The dropped tags can be left as bait, or a frantic rush towards them can ensue. There are a lot of options, and while it is still essentially deathmatch, it makes an old concept feel fresh.
The other new game mode is “team defender,” which is a twist on capture the flag. At the start of each game, there is a single flag located in the center of the map. Anyone can grab it, and when they do, they begin to earn points for their team. If they die, the flag becomes neutral, and another player—friend or foe—can grab it to start earning points. If you play solo, this mode will be an interesting diversion, but not much more. But for people into teamwork, this could quickly become a favored mode. Once you have the flag, you can run anywhere, which means your team can set up a defensive perimeter around you. The possibilities are awesome, and will be determined entirely on how you choose to play.
The Spec Ops mode returns with a selection of two player challenges that range from killing all enemies to capturing select targets. Each mission has three difficulty options, and you earn up to three stars based on the selection. With 16 missions, there is a lot to try out, but this mode probably won’t be much more than a fun distraction—just like the last Spec Ops. The survival mode is a different animal.
Survival mode is essentially MW3’s take on horde mode. You and a friend, either via splitscreen or online, face wave after wave of enemies. With each kill you earn cash, which can then be used to buy new weapons and killstreaks. In both the standard Spec Ops and the survival, you level up separately from your multiplayer character. As you level, you unlock more options to use in the survival mode, like airstrikes or my personal favorite—a Delta Team to come help you out. It is a blast to play. It is a bit of a shame that it is limited to two players, but it is still fun and could develop a huge following.
Wager matches from Black Ops are mostly gone, but they do still exist as private matches, which also include a handful of other modes like a juggernaut game to try out. The changes aren’t massive, but they are well-planned, and they will keep the game feeling fresh until next year’s edition.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is a safe game. Activision knows that it has a product that people like, and they also know that changing it would be risky. The modified IW Engine is starting to show its age, and while the 60 frames per second keep it looking good, there are other games that look better. Having destructible environments is also noticeably absent.
If you aren’t a fan of the series, or if you are tired of the gameplay, than MW3 probably won’t convince you otherwise. But for fans of the franchise, the changes will come in answer to complaints from fans that go back years. The changes aren’t massive, but they will go a long way for devotees.
The campaign is a brief affair that is worth playing, but the multiplayer is the key. Infinity Ward (and friends) haven’t changed a whole lot, but the changes it made were spot on. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 may not revolutionize the series, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and this game does more than enough to honor the series and keep fans coming back for more.
Score: 9 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 on a copy provided by Activision)